E-mail and other forms of electronic communication are the lifeblood of small businesses. For this reason, you are going to want nothing but the best program for hosting your small business’e-mail – but the best program currently available for your office might surprise you!
Most businesses currently employ an Exchange e-mail servers for hosting their information. Because Exchange is a local server, this gives you complete control over the management of all aspects of your business’information. The security and customizability of this system made it the default choice for businesses until recent technological advances began to challenge its position.
Despite the many benefits that an Exchange server offers, there are several drawbacks too – especially for small businesses. Having full control over your e-mail server requires a significant amount of IT work, and as Exchange servers are very complex they often require a full-time IT professional to be on-site. If you do not have an IT department, any difficulties with the system can take a very long time to solve, greatly disrupting productivity. Additionally, the cost of an exchange server can be very expensive for a small business, even without considering the cost of on-site IT professionals.
What are my other options?
Cloud hosting your e-mail has evolved from being an experimental concept into a legitimate choice for your small business. These hosting solutions tend to be more cost-effective and less labour-intensive while still providing you with all of the functionality of an exchange server. If your company’s data is incredibly sensitive in nature, it is possible that trusting an off-site server will not be the best choice for you. However, for all other industries this choice will free you of responsibility when it comes to server troubleshooting and repairs.
There are currently two primary contenders for the best online e-mail hosting service – Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365. These two programs, despite trying to fill a very similar niche, have vast differences that we will explore briefly in this article. When trying to decide what is best for your small business, it is always best to get the opinion of an IT professional who knows your specific needs and how best to address them.
Google has taken a very unique approach to hosting with its development of Google Apps. This program provides an entirely web-based hosting environment that includes only the highlights of what you may need in your business – a word processor, calendar, e-mail, website builder, spam filter, and video-sharing. While these apps are currently not available off-line, there is plans to change that in the near future.
Google is known for its user-friendly interface, but in this situation not all of the apps are cohesive with regards to their design. Additionally, employees who are used to Microsoft’s interface may struggle with a sudden switch to Google, especially with regards to using Gmail instead of Outlook.
For small-businesses that have been using an Exchange server, a switch to Office 365 should be a very easy transition. While the initial transfer of information to the cloud can be time-consuming, there should be no interruptions to daily work while it is occurring. Office 365 builds off of Microsoft Office 2010 that most small businesses use to include the features and functionalities of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync.
Office 365 is nearly limitless in the capabilities that it offers, and allows for all of the customization of Exchange without the responsibility for IT concerns. The pricing scheme for Office 365 is complex, so your business will require an individualized quote when it comes to considering whether or not a cloud e-mail server will fit your annual budget.
Making the switch to a cloud-based e-mail hosting server is a big one, but the transition is easier than you may expect – especially given how similar the functionality of Office 365 is to Exchange. Even better, the freedom from being responsible from the technological aspect of your email server allows you to focus more of your time and resources on running your business. Discussing your options for e-mail hosting with an IT professional is the best way to decide on the product that will be the most effective for your small business.