Business Email Hosting

Outside vendors often provide corporate email hosting services to large businesses. Outsourcing this communication function may be more efficient and cost-effective than employing the necessary staff to keep a large emailing system functioning properly. In today's competitive environment, a corporation's employees depend heavily on the ability to communicate with each other and with the employer's customers via emailing. Many of these hosting vendors also offer additional services, such as domain registration, web design and web hosting, and ecommerce applications. Smaller companies often utilize shared hosting services as an economical, one-stop shopping solution to establishing and maintaining an online presence. But larger companies need more powerful resources and larger storage capacity to handle website traffic and manage communication between hundreds (if not thousands or tens of thousands) employees and customers. Before a business grows to this level, company management wisely sets up an in-house information technology (IT) team or contracts with outside vendors to provide the needed services. Outsourcing some needed functions to a business email hosting vendor can be a cost-effective way for a company board to free up the IT team to perform other tasks while maintaining some control over corporate communications.

Though it can be difficult to narrow down the volume of choices to just the right corporate email hosting provider, the time will be well-spent when email functions so reliably that downtime is practically nonexistent. In fact, this may be one of the most important criteria for selecting a business email hosting vendor. A reputation for reliability and stability, for an uptime as close to one hundred percent as possible, and for immediate access to customer service on those rare occasions when something goes amiss -- these are important factors to consider when selecting a corporate email hosting vendor. A corporate employee with experience in internet technology, or perhaps a team of such employees, can research the hardware and software utilized by each vendor that is being considered for this important task. A vendor that has redundant systems in place should get high marks. Redundant routers or servers mean that the vendor has backups in place. If the vendor's hardware is all connected to the same provider, then that network will fail if the provider does. But with redundant systems in place, the network can continue to operate even if one part of the system breaks down. The writer of Proverbs said: "The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want" (Proverbs 21:5). In other words, diligent planning is worth a person's time and effort.

Many corporate email hosting vendors offer similar services. Emailing applications are almost always bundled with calendar, note or task, and folder features. Public file sharing increases employee efficiency and should be part of a basic package. With the increased popularity of personal digital assistants (PDAs), the ability to synchronize information from an administrative assistant's calendar and contacts directory to her boss's PDA is essential. Of course, both the boss and the administrative assistant want to be able to access corporate emails from their PDAs or other preferred wireless devices whenever they are away from the office. Web-based administration is another important aspect of any business email hosting program. Through a control panel, the designated corporate employees can create or delete emailing addresses as employees are hired or leave the company. They can also create and manage individual user settings and distribution lists. Consider, for example, the vast network of employees of a state legislature. Not only are there employees in the state capital, but in district offices throughout the state. In addition to the usual coming and going of employees, an election occurs every two years bringing in new officeholders and new staff. The state's IT team is responsible for keeping all these employees connected to the state's intranet system in addition to keeping the offices connected to the internet. Distribution lists enable staff to quickly access emailing addresses for specific districts or House or Senate committees without having to look up each one separately. But every time the staff or members change, these records need to be updated. With a web-based control panel, the state IT staff can take care of these functions even though an outside vendor provides the email hosting service. Corporations with regional offices and national chains with multiple retail locations require the same type of control over the emailing communications systems they utilize.

Of course, security is of prime importance when selecting a business email hosting vendor. The selection team will want to carefully consider what protections various providers offer as part of their services. Virus filters should be a part of every package, but many vendors charge an extra monthly fee for spam blockers; this fee may be based on the number of email addresses being protected. Some vendors also offer email encryption for those businesses that must communicate over the internet about highly sensitive matters, perhaps involving company trade secrets, proprietary information, or financial information. The selection team will definitely want to choose a corporate email hosting vendor that allows an upgrade, at any time during the contract, to a package with additional or more powerful features. Many vendors cater to a broad market and are eager to recommend the appropriate package of services based on a company's unique requirements. A skilled business email hosting firm can make educated recommendations by analyzing such obvious factors as the number of employees, the number and geographical locations of the corporate headquarters and branches, and the amount of generated traffic to and from the company internet systems. With appropriate research, planning, and asking the right questions, the selection team can have confidence in the short list of potential vendors they submit to the decision-makers. And the decision-makers can be confident that the final choice of vendor will result in an agreeable and long-lasting partnership.

Email Hosting Companies

Email hosting companies provide more advanced email services to businesses that are ready to take the next step beyond basic Yahoo, Google, or Hotmail webmail accounts. These service providers enable companies to communicate with electronic mail addresses that include their own personalized domain name, allowing them to establish a more professional brand for their organization. Plus, outsourcing hosting services free up invaluable and expensive IT time and resources that managing an internal system would consume. Unlike larger companies, who can support a staff and in house communications system, small and medium businesses can benefit greatly from utilizing email hosting services at a lower cost.

Small to medium businesses need all the help they can get. Hosting companies provide consistency by offering multiple email addresses with the same domain name. Customers can purchase as few as 5 or 25 email addresses or as many as 500 or 600 addresses depending on their needs. Since these communication systems usually operate with basic POP3 access, they are easily integrated into Microsoft Outlook or can be opened using web-based applications such as Squirrelmail or Horde. Because these companies specialize in electronic communication software, they keep up with the latest technology and upgrades so smaller businesses don't have to. Email hosting services also maintain current virus and spam protection software that is constantly changing to keep up with the latest threats to computers around the world.

By outsourcing to external companies, customers get more than just personalized accounts. Most email hosting services can store large quantities of data, backing them up frequently on large servers that small or medium businesses simply cannot afford. These providers also offer other useful tools such as search options, contact lists, calendars, and group forwarding features. Some even include other advanced features such as mobile access, instant messaging, Blackberry syncing, and multiple language capabilities. In order to provide all these services in house, smaller business owners would not only have to purchase thousands of dollars in software, but hire a team of experienced technicians to operate and maintain the system so that no precious business hours were lost. The cost would quickly overrun the cost of outsourcing these systems, decreasing not only valuable finances, but time as well. "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10).

But choosing among email hosting companies may not be as easy as it seems. Hundreds of companies offer plans that are various as the number of companies and differ in cost and options. The task for a small business owner may seem daunting, but there are a few key factors to keep in mind before deciding on a plan. Not all businesses are the same, so not all plans will work for all businesses. Sometimes, less is better depending on the needs of the company. Keep in mind this rule of thumb: if it's not needed, don't buy it. Another factor to always look at is customer support. Of course, the best company is one that is reliable, performs well, and has minimal down time, but problems will occur no matter how good the company is. No business can afford to have valuable communication systems down for an extended amount of time. Thus, it is important to ask key questions: Does the service company offer live support with people knowledgeable to fix unforeseen problems? Or do they simply provide a help desk with someone who reads from a pre-determined script? What hours is support provided? Customer support is not helpful if it is not available during hours needed. Many providers offer 24/7 live customer support. Although a business may not need support around the clock, but consider the possibility of communication systems going down during an important after-hours project or during a working weekend. Who will help then?

Cost is usually a crucial deciding factor for small and medium businesses. Today, most email hosting companies are quite affordable -- ranging from less than $5 per month for up to 25 emails to $30-40 per month that include 500 email accounts. Some smaller services limit the number of email addresses or aliases (addresses that automatically forward to active email accounts) available to customers while others offer unlimited storage capabilities with even their lowest cost packages. Several extend monthly as well as yearly plan options to fit a business's individual needs. Most web hosting companies also offer some form of email hosting services for businesses that would rather package the two plans together. However, email hosting companies often will offer more advanced services and don't always include web hosting.

Small and medium businesses will likely have multiple choices of email hosting companies from which to choose. Customers should make a list of needs and cost limitations before shopping among the options. That list will help narrow down the choices and help owners and managers decide the best option for their company. But be careful not to eliminate the importance of research. Get recommendations from other trusted companies or request testimonies from each provider. If possible, talk to their current customers personally to find out the reliability of the company and the accessibility of their customer support. Compare them with other companies to make the best possible decision. And once the best decision has been made, businesses can focus on what they do best - a product or service.

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