Email isn't going away any time soon. Despite a rise in adoption of collaboration-based communication platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Slack, 86 percent of professionals prefer to use email for business purposes. How companies host, store, and distribute their email—that's the area that has undergone a massive transformation. Businesses are veering away from costly onsite email servers running products such as Microsoft Small Business Server and looking instead to the cloud with hosted email solutions. Businesses of all sizes have realized the wisdom of going with a scalable and secure hosted Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution with guaranteed uptime that breaks down pricing into flexible, per-user charges.
Ultimately, it boils down to a balance between cost, features, and risk. It's always tempting to simply jump on the lowest-cost solution, but the fact that email is ubiquitous keeps this from being the smart play. It's nearly impossible to escape using it, which means your users, your customers, and the guts of your business have all come to depend on it in different ways. You need to discover those ways, evaluate them, and then choose a service that either meets or improves on them. This takes time, discussion with your IT staff, and some investigation; these are steps you don't want to skip. Otherwise, you'll pay for it later.
Running in-house email servers does provide more control and wider customization as well as tracking and compliance for small to midsize businesses (SMB). But they require specialized on-site IT staff as well as the need to manually manage and support both hardware and software. A third-party hosted email service matches many of the advantages of in-house email without the expensive initial investment. The ability to manage the number of users, access the latest security protocols, and enjoy ease of connectivity and deployment of hosted solutions makes it a viable and competitive option.
What about the time you clicked on that PayPal link that wasn't really a PayPal link? "Phishing" is a term applied to either websites or emails that pretend to be something they're not in hopes of getting a user to click on something they should have ignored. This tactis is done in hopes of then getting users to provide confidential information they would have otherwise kept to themselves, typically like passwords, financial information, or other personal data. While there are security measure that fight this, the mechanics behind phishing are, unfortunately, also consistently becoming more sophisticated. Even some dedicated antivirus and business-class hosted endpoint protection suites are having trouble keeping up.
While Office 365 is a terrific option for teams and businesses that are already familiar with tools like Word and Excel, it does integrate with as many newer business tools emerging in the market designed to help automate business processes as G Suite does. For this reason, it’s best for teams whose primary businesses needs are met with Microsoft products alone.
Post initial setup, a primary concern will be the log-on issue. If your organization is fine with a separate log-on for your email provider, then this step will be quick. However, that's not typically what businesses want or users expect. In general, users expect to sign onto their desktops and have their email and file sharing sign-ons happen as part of that one-step process. Not surprisingly, this is called Single Sign-On (SSO) and it's enabled in one of three ways: through the use of a back-end directory service like Microsoft Active Directory (AD); an identity management service, like Okta (one of our Editors' Choice winners in that category); or several compatible web services that include SSO along with other apps and email services, like Google G Suite Business and Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium (two of the top providers reviewed here). Which method you choose depends on how your business is configured today and your long-term cloud services strategy. It's definitely a conversation you'll need to have either with your in-house IT staff or your outside IT consultant.
Office 365 includes data loss prevention and multi-factor authentication, similar to G Suite. It also features message encryption that allows users to send encrypted email to anyone regardless of what email service recipients use. Email is accessible online through a browser on a desktop computer, phone, and tablet, and offline via the included Outlook app. Like Bluehost, Microsoft comes with a 99.9% uptime guarantee.
If you’re a startup or a small- to medium-sized business, iPage offers low-cost options that are great for small or growing companies on a budget. With your free domain name registration, you get hosting for unlimited domains and emails, plus $150 in free advertising credits, should you need to market a new website as well. The host’s email tools include webmail, autoresponders, email forwarding, and security features like SPAM filters and virus protection.
One of the most important compatibility factors to consider with email is the mobility question. How often do your employees need to access email via mobile devices? That's an important issue because most email hosting providers deliver some kind of web client usable as a default inbox. Almost all of these can be accessed via a mobile device, so if your employees don't need to access their emails on the road that much, then such mediocre clients are probably fine.
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