Reliable, fast, secure, and easy-to-access email is vital to the success of any business. What is the best option for your small business? Today’s article will explore your different options for email usage.
I would like to start by saying that having an email associated with your domain is the very first thing you need to do to create your professional business brand image. @gmail.com or @outlook.com are easy, common, and free in most cases, but they don’t strike any potential customers with confidence that your new small business is a real business. There are several very inexpensive options you can use, even if you don’t already have your own webpage.
Here is a summary of the three options for your own, personalized email address with your own domain:
- Add an Alias-forward through your domain control panel to a free gmail account (Cheapest option, least recommended)
- Purchase an email package through your domain and/or web host (still inexpensive, not the best for small business)
- Use a third-party company for your email such as Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365 (easiest and best option for small business)
The very first thing you need to do before pursuing any of these options is to purchase a domain through a registrar (such as GoDaddy), which usually cost around $10-$15 per year.
For option #1, this is by far the cheapest route to go, but we have found that email spam scores can many times be negatively impacted by using a forward address for both send and receive. This is fairly reliable but depending on a variety of factors, email can be very delayed. In the event of email loss, spam or any other issue, customer support is also fairly limited with this option. Although many times this can be setup for free (besides the cost of your domain), we don’t recommend this option due to less reliability and security.
For option #2, many businesses have this sort of setup because most domain and hosting companies try to sell packages that include a web-builder, email hosting, and web-hosting together. We have found that a lot of these packages don’t give very much space or do not provide adequate anti-spam measures for reliable email send and deliver. Many of my clients, and even my company included, had to switch away from using a host-owned and managed email plan because our spam scores were high enough that our email was not being delivered, and the customer support we experienced was marginal at best since email is not the core competence for most hosting companies. These plans can be very inexpensive, but we have seen a huge variance of what is available in the market.
The final option, #3, I recommend the most, but do proceed with caution. Besides the hundreds of companies that provide fully managed email solutions, you can use a third-party email solution such as Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365. Both of these companies provide far more email storage, related helpful apps (such as Google Apps or Office Online), customer service that are specific to email services, reliability, and access to well-built programs such as the Gmail app or Office apps.
These services, depending on what you buy, cost $5 per user per month. The reason why I said that a company should use this option, but with caution, is because a rapidly growing business could very quickly rack-up a large bill with Google apps. But, we believe that the reliability, access to customer service and access to apps and cloud storage make this option the best for small businesses. Another big plus is that your company can switch hosting plans, web pages, or companies, and your email won’t be lost. Backing up years of email and porting it to a new host is zero fun. Option 3 avoids this issue.
One of the most frustrating things about business is when email goes down. Using the “big-guns” solutions like Google Apps for business or Office 365 takes the guess-work out of trouble shooting. We have had plenty of experience with using these services both internally and with our clients.