More than 120 billion business emails are sent and received every day. Email remains one of the most important tools your business has to communicate with your customers. So you want to make sure you have a reliable email service with a professional email address.
There are a ton of options out there for business email. You’ve probably heard a lot of terms like POP3, IMAP, Exchange, webmail, and more. We’ll help you sort through the technical jargon to understand your choices and figure out what type of email is best for your business.
Here are some common email solutions:
- Personal email addresses
- Basic business email
- Cloud collaboration tools like Office 365
Let’s break these down one at a time.
Personal Email Addresses
Many small businesses still use personal, un-branded email accounts for their business – things like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Outlook.com. While it’s super easy to get a free email address that way, they’re probably not the best choice for your business.
A generic email address with @gmail.com, or @yahoo.com isn’t going to look as professional as a professional branded address. It may make your customers question whether your business is trustworthy. If you’re still using a personal email address for business, definitely look at branded options.
Basic Business Email
The first step for a business is to get their own custom, branded email address – one that ends in @yourcompanyname.com. Many of the same companies that provide personal email addresses also offer business options (like Gmail, Outlook.com). Web hosting companies like HostGator or GoDaddy also often bundle simple business email along with your website hosting service for free, or an extremely low charge.
What’s the difference between basic email providers, and how do you choose? It comes down to where and how you want to access your email.
Let’s look at the main differences you may encounter.
Webmail vs. Email Client
How do you want to access your email?
Some email services like Gmail operate exclusively through webmail, where you access your email by logging in to a specific website through your web browser.
- Pros: easy access from anywhere with an internet connection, no software to install, and everything is backed up on the cloud
- Cons: You need a constant internet connection, and it’s not good if you have multiple email addresses that you want to manage separately
Other services use an email client like Outlook or Apple Mail – a piece of software installed on your device that sends and receives your emails.
- Pros: You can download and access your email offline. Email clients also tend to have more robust email management features
- Cons: You need to install a separate piece of software or an app to access your mail, and some types of mail are not backed up automatically
POP3 vs IMAP
POP3 and IMAP are different protocols that affect how email is delivered.
POP, or Post Office Protocol, is the oldest email protocol. It was originally built in 1984 at a time when computers rarely had constant internet access (remember dial-up?). The latest version, POP3, connects to the email server, downloads your email messages, and then deletes the original messages from the server. This means that your email is only stored on whatever device and email client you used to read that email – you can’t access those messages from anywhere else.
IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, is a more modern method that focuses on being able to access and sync mail across multiple devices. IMAP stores all your email messages on a remote server. You can send and receive mail from any device, but all the actual changes happen on the server, which keeps it consistent no matter how you’re accessing your email. So if you delete an email on your phone, it will sync and automatically delete from your PC as well. The downside is that remote email servers often have limited storage space.
For more information on the difference between POP and IMAP, check out this explainer video from GoDaddy:
For many businesses, email is just one piece of the communication puzzle. You probably also want shared email folders, contacts, calendars. That’s where Exchange comes in.
Microsoft developed Exchange with businesses in mind. It’s a proprietary software that only runs on Windows, but if you’re using Outlook to check your email, it’s likely you’re using Exchange. If you have your own server equipment in your office, you can set up your own Exchange server, but most businesses use external servers to host Exchange.
Like IMAP, Exchange lets you access your mail from multiple devices, but it adds many sharing capabilities:
- Shared Calendars –see what’s on your team’s schedule
- Shared Resources –book conference rooms in your office
- Shared Contacts –share your contacts with your entire company
- Shared Tasks –assign tasks or track progress on a shared project
- Public folders – centralize information across your business
What’s more, because the information is centralized, it’s easy to back up. Many people never back up their POP3 email accounts, which puts their business data at risk. Exchange is an ideal option for businesses looking for better tools to share and communicate across the organization vs. bare bones email.
Speaking of advanced collaboration tools, if you’re using Windows and want even more capabilities than Exchange, you may want to look at Office 365.
Office 365 is cloud service from that gives you the power of Microsoft Office (like Word, Excel and Powerpoint) whenever and wherever you need it. That makes it easy to share not only emails, contacts, and calendars, but collaborate and share documents too.
The advantages of cloud-based software like Office 365 are that it’s simple to setup, provides flexible access, and it’s always up-to-date with the latest versions. Not to mention, it can be very cost-effective as well.
RE: Your Email
So how are you handling your business email? And is the solution you’re using providing the right kind of tools and access that your business needs?
If you need help implementing a professional business email solution, let us know. Our team can provide basic email, Hosted Exchange or get your business on Office 365.