As bulging inboxes around the world indicate, email is an essential tool for every company. It is often the communication method of choice, because it's easy and versatile.
What's your company email system for?
Because there are several ways to get a business email system, it's important to establish your requirements first, then work out the best way to meet them.
Start by asking yourself some key questions. What email address do you want? Are you happy with a free email address or do you want to use your company or domain name in your email address? How many email addresses do you need? How you want to access your email? Will you want to log in when you're away from the office, or to receive emails on your mobile devices?
Most email services limit the size of attachments and the number of messages you can store, so you also need to consider the volume and nature of messages you will be handling. If you want to send automated or marketing messages (like a company newsletter), you should consider investing in email marketing software or outsourcing your email marketing campaigns to a specialist provider.
How to get business email
Once you've settled on your requirements, there are three main ways to get business email:
- Use a free email service. Free email services like Outlook or Gmail are designed for simplicity. Although they tend to offer fewer options for businesses, they may be adequate – and some offer paid versions with extra business features. However, you should consider whether using a free email service will create the right impression.
- Buy an email service. Web hosting firms offer a vast range of email packages. They are a good way to get an email system without worrying about the technical side of things and typically cost about £10 per email address per month.
- Host it yourself. If you operate a network server, you can run a company email system from it. This gives you flexibility - for instance, you can create as many addresses as you like, at no extra cost. However, you may need help from your IT supplier to set it up and it is probably more cost effective to outsource to a third-party provider.
You'll also need to give people in your business some way of accessing their email. This is usually done by installing email software onto each device. If you already use an office suite, it may well include email software. The most common business email software is Microsoft Outlook.
You'll probably want email addresses which end in your company's domain name (like yourcompany.com). Check this is possible with your chosen email system. Some suppliers restrict how domain names can be used or require you to transfer your domain to them.
Don't ignore the potential of mobile email access either. Most email services have mobile features built in, so you can send and receive messages from mobile devices and employees will probably expect this functionality.
For all but the simplest business email systems, it's worth consulting an expert - like your IT supplier - to ensure your email system fits your needs.
Using company email
Once your company email system is up and running, there are some key issues to consider:
- Security. Email is a common source of computer viruses. Ransomware and spam (junk email) can easily bring your system to a grinding halt. Make sure you take key security precautions and put spam prevention in place.
- Data protection rules. Make sure you comply with relevant data protection rules if you use your business email system to send out marketing messages.
- Staff use of email. It's hard to stop staff using company email to send personal messages, so you may wish to set rules about what's acceptable. Create a clear email policy explaining what is and isn't allowed.
Ongoing business email management needn't take too much effort, but you need clear procedures for certain situations. For instance, when an employee leaves, you may need to ensure their emails get forwarded on to an alternative member of staff.