General overview of email platforms
In small business, there is often a lack of knowledge when it comes to what email setup is best for the organization. The usual scenario is that the business owner will sign up to a web hosting company that will host their website, and they will also use the same web hosting company for emails, which usually comes free as part of the website hosting package. Another scenario is that the business owner will receive free email hosting with their ISP (Internet Service Provider), however, this is very similar to the web hosting scenario. The problem with these scenarios is that most of the time that web hosting company or ISP will give you basic email functionality like POP3, which is less than ideal for a business, especially if you rely heavily on emails to generate revenue. The reason web hosting companies and ISP’s provide only a POP3 service is that it takes far less server load than providing full exchange connectivity such as Office365. Less server load means less infrastructure costs for the company providing the service.
POP3 in an email protocol which was used when emails were first becoming a mainstream way of communicating. Over the years, as technology advanced, so did email protocols. The best commercial email platform today is Office365, which offers many advantages over POP3 email which are listed below.
Differences between POP3 and Office365
- Cannot automatically push emails to your devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, PC’s. You can set the devices to automatically check for new emails at certain time intervals, however this isnt the same as pushing emails to your device.
- Doesnt store emails on the server, unless you turn that function on. This means if your device is stolen, damaged beyond repair, you lose the emails that were stored on it, which could sometimes contain important business contracts or agreements.
- Doesnt sync emails / contacts / calendars between all devices. If you have 2 devices using POP3, such as a Tablet and a Phone, and if you receive an email to your phone, that same email will not appear on your tablet, which means you will never have the same emails on your phone and tablet. This makes work difficult as you dont want to be looking for emails on multiple devices, you want them all to be in sync.
- Cannot share the mailbox with a co-worker if you are going on holidays.
- Usually only has local servers to your region.
- Usually has no spam / virus filtering on emails.
- Will push emails to your devices. Pushing emails to your device means that as soon as the mail server receives your email, it will push it to your device and alert you instantly that you have a new email.
- Stores all emails / calendars / contacts on the server, so if your devices are stolen or damaged, you will be able to sync your emails again to your new device and all your emails will be available.
- Syncs all contacts / calendars and emails on all devices. For example, if you send an email from your phone, it will show up in the sent items on all of your devices. This means you can seamlessly use email on any one of your devices without having to worry about losing any emails.
- Has the ability to easily share mailboxes with co-workers and set different permissions, such as read only or read and write.
- Has servers located all around the world, so where ever you are, you will always get a fast connection to your emails.
- Has in-built spam / virus filtering technologies to eliminate most of the spam that would usually make it to your inbox.
Real world business problems with using POP3
Although it may not seem like it, there are many examples where POP3 could affect your business in a negative way. Imagine if there was an email enquiry that came through from your website, and you had downloaded the email to your phone while you were at home. The following day, you are working on your desktop PC, which doesnt have emails synced with your phone, so you dont remember to action the enquiry. Another thing that could happen is that you download the email to your computer, and then the computer crashes and you lose all the emails in your inbox forever as they are not stored on the server. These situations can easily impact your revenue.
The main reason a lot of new businesses use POP3 for email is that it comes free with your web hosting package, and free is always good right? Well, not always. If you were to amount the time you spent fixing email issues and trying to find emails which werent synced correctly because you are using POP3, you might be surprised at the figure. Even if you spent 30 minutes per week fixing problems with emails for yourself or your staff, this amounts to 26 hours per year. Lets say you charge $130.00 per hour for your business services, you have just lost $3,380 in potential revenue which you could have been charging your clients, instead of fixing email problems. For a tenth of that lost revenue, you can purchase Office365 for a handful of users, and you will almost never have any problems with emails.
The cost of Office365
Office 365 costs somewhere between $5-20 per user per month, depending if you require the Microsoft Office suite of software or if you just need the Exchange email connectivity on its own. If you purchase the plan that includes Microsoft Office, you will get the latest software supplied to you as part of the cost. This saves you having to purchase the software from a retail store for the full retail price. This is a small cost to pay for a really good and reliable email platform.
The benefit of an easy to use email system that sync’s emails on all devices and provides data redundancy far outweighs the additional costs involved with Office365 over a free POP3 email provider. Even if you are a small startup business, a good email platform is crucial, not just because it works much better on a technical level, but because you will be spending more time working and generating income for your business rather than fixing email problems. Although Office365 is a well known and trusted solution by Microsoft, there are many other Exchange Online providers available that have competitive pricing and features.