Choosing the right email software - checklist

person writting an email

Your business email system handles the messages coming in and going out of your business. Email software is installed on devices and is used by staff to send and receive emails. We explain how to choose the right software for your employees.

  • Think about your overall email requirements. The type of business email system you have will influence your software options - so start off by considering who will use your email system and how they will be using it.
  • Do you want an in-house email server? Running your email in-house gives you most control, but also means you have to invest in a server (£300+) and have the expertise to set up, manage it, run backups and fix problems when they occur.
  • A hosted email system is best for most smaller companies. Instead of building your own email system, you pay to access an email service provided by a supplier. This might be your usual IT supplier or another company. Sometimes these services are called 'cloud email'.
  • Consider how many email addresses you need. Hosted services tend to charge extra for each email address, but if you set up your own email server then you can create as many as you like at no extra cost.
  • Look for desktop, web and mobile email. For maximum flexibility, look for an email service that lets you access email in three key ways: through software (like Microsoft Outlook), by signing in through a web browser (from any device), and through your mobile phone.
  • Consider extra features. Some email systems provide a central company address book, shared calendars (so you can see when people are free for meetings), intergration with the third party software and customer relationship management functions. To take advantage of these, you need an email system offering them, plus email software that supports them.
  • Check what your staff are used to. Many businesses use Microsoft Outlook as their email software. Because it's very popular, your staff may require minimal training. Outlook works with most email systems, but to use all its features you need an email service that's based on Microsoft Exchange, like Microsoft 365.
  • Think about reliability and support. With email crucial to your business, make sure you have good support for your email software. If you are relying on a third party, get a service level agreement (SLA) as part of your contract. This provides a guaranteed response in the event of problems.
  • Check data protection and security. If you use a hosted email service, your emails will be kept on a server outside of your business. Make sure the supplier is trustworthy, complies with GDPR rules and takes regular backups.
  • Don't dismiss free or cheaper software. While Microsoft Outlook may be virtually industry-standard, much cheaper packages are available offering similar functions.
  • Make sure your software keeps up with the growth of your business. Any license for server-based email should include upgrades and allow for increased data storage over time. Avoid being tied into long-term service agreements that prevent you changing providers. With cloud-based services you have the advantage of near unlimited capacity and no contract commitments.
  • Consider your marketing requirements separately. If you're planning to do email marketing, use a separate, specialist email system. Online services like MailChimp and HubSpot are designed to help you create successful email marketing campaigns.

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