It constantly amazes me how much people have to put up with when it comes to email.
Now I am not talking about spam and viruses which we all know are the bane of our existence but what about the simple basic functionality that we have to live with just to stay in touch. The reality is that we have gotten so used to having to deal with spam, we have not looked at improving the service that underlies what must be our biggest communication channel and business tool.
The Nightmare of Travel
If you have ever had to travel, be it for work or for pleasure, it becomes a nightmare trying to send emails when we are plugged in to a network that is not our own. Sure you can receive email but what about sending it. If you use a standard email account then the security systems in these hotels and resorts will actively block your outgoing mail.
Now you can’t really blame them. They block you because they want to stop somebody form high jacking their connection and using it to send Spam. So we get on the phone and speak to the tech support people who tell us that we need to change our outgoing mail server (SMTP) settings. And just before they put the phone down they say “and don’t forget to put the old settings back again once you get home” – what were they again???.
What they also don’t tell you is that every place you go to will have a connection that will most likely only authorise specific mail servers, so your next itinerary stop and you get to go through this all over again. You can even have this problem going from work to home with your laptop. It really is a nightmare.
I Just Want My Mail Everywhere
Call me greedy but I hate the idea of not having the ability to get my mail wherever I am. I mean aren’t we supposed to be living in a connected world. Well if you use a POP3 type of mailbox you will know that if you download email to your computer at home than the only place you will be able to find your email is on that one home computer. You cannot download it again on to another computer. If that computer is a laptop and you lose it then your email is gone forever.
Sure you could use another service called IMAP4 to get your mail on both your home and work computers but what about the mail that you send. If you send an email from your home computer, that “sent item” does not appear on your work computer and vice versa. You end up with your sent items being stored half on one computer and half on another.
It is the same with webmail. Unless you are prepared to use it exclusively then depending on what other clients you use, you may only have some of your mail available and you certainly will only have a very small proportion of your sent items – that is those items that you send using webmail.
What about Multiple Mailboxes and Multiple Domains?
These issues only compound further when you have multiple domains and multiple mailboxes. Sometimes I want my mail to be redirected to the one account whilst other times I want each mailbox to be separated but lets face it, I want to manage all my accounts from the one mail client without having to log in to each account individually each time. Using POP3 or IMAP4 makes for a very fragmented and complicated system.
Calendars, Appointments, Tasks and Contact Lists
It goes without saying that your Appointments, your Tasks and your list of Contacts should be in the same place as your email. When you receive an email from a colleague asking you to meet her somewhere it is just logical that you should be able to instantly schedule that meeting and have the system remind you when the allotted time arrives.
Lets take this further, what about group calendars or even the ability to view one of your workmates calendars? Really this is the lifeblood of business. It enables you to effectively collaborate with one another. Big business and some switched on smaller businesses have been doing this for years. In fact they have overcome all the issues I have spoken about in this email and they have done this by installing a server.
But Is Installing a Server Really the Answer?
You may know that as well as my many other hats, I am a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. For years I have been installing Servers with Microsoft Exchange Server at my client’s premises. These have worked very well for those workers in that organisation. Sure the configuration was difficult when came to supporting external clients but essentially a correctly installed Exchange Server will resolve all of the issues I have spoken about.
When you are overseas, at home or at the office, your email will be synchronised wherever you are and what’s more you will never have to change any of those pesky SMTP server settings. It is handled for you automatically. In addition your sent items are also synchronised everywhere as well.
To give you an example, with an exchange server you can have a PC in the office, a Netbook you take away with you and a Mac at home and have all of these devices synchronised with your email at the same time. In addition you would also have access to a webmail client that you can access with Internet Explorer which is almost a full replica of Microsoft Outlook 2010 with all your mail, contacts, calendar and tasks fully synchronised.
If you think about it installing an Exchange Server is a total no brainer except….. Yes you guessed it. An Exchange server can be expensive to buy and install. In addition you also need to install your own anti-virus solution and anti-spam facility. All these systems need regular maintenance so by the time you buy the machine, install it and maintain it, you end up paying a fair amount of change per user. And when things go wrong or a new upgrade comes out you are responsible for ensuring that the work gets done.
The cheapest server with Microsoft Exchange with Anti-Spam and Anti-Virus fully set up will cost about $8000. If you amortise this fee over the useful life of three years you get a monthly fee of about $222. In addition you would have to spend at least the same again for a support consultant to maintain the server. In short you would not get much change from about $500 per month and that is not counting the loss of utility of your money.
With these sort of figures you soon see that to make economic sense you need to have a minimum of ten but preferably 20 or more employees using the system. Even with twenty employees you are still looking at around $25 per user per month. With five it is a hundred dollars per user per month which makes no sense at all.
iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile
Now let us take this one step further, many of you like me run around with some sort of smart phone. I have a HTC Desire and have my mail fully synchronised on to it as well. I have turned off all the new mail notifications so I don’t get bothered and only have my meeting reminders make a sound. The thing is I don’t look at my mail on this device very often but it is so convenient when I have to. I remember being at the Sydney International Boat Show on a Friday during working hours and needed to get my staff to finish some of my projects. It allowed me to send off some instructions and review some work and enjoy the Boat Show all at the same time.
Those of you with iPhones, Android or Windows Mobile powered devices – well you can rest easy. A standard Exchange Server correctly configured will synchronise everything (email, calendar, tasks and contacts) to your device. The problem arises when you want to connect to a BlackBerry.
What about My BlackBerry?
Many people love these devices. They have been designed from the ground up as a business tool and work very effectively in that mode. The problem is that they are not natively supported by an Exchange Server. So to connect them you either need a plan from your telephone provider or you need to install another piece of expensive software to work with the Exchange server. The problem with the service provided by your service provider is that it will only synchronise your email. To synchronise everything you need a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). This is the software that costs thousands of dollars.
The BES connectivity provides you with real-time, two-way synchronization unlike the basic BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) provided by your wireless carrier that limits you to accessing your inbox via Internet. With a BlackBerry Enterprise Server you get:
- Everywhere emails
- Everywhere calendar
- Everywhere contacts
- Everywhere tasks
The addition of a BlackBerry Enterprise Server moves the equation even further towards larger and larger businesses. It is really not affordable for smaller organisations to get into the game.
A Solution for Small, Medium and Even Large Businesses
What if I told you that we had a service that where we would set up and run a fully hosted Exchange server for you, for as little as $11.97 per month? What if I told you that you could have this service even if you were just one person and only required just one mailbox?
The facility I am speaking about is a 100% fully certified Cloud hosted Microsoft Exchange Server. It is run by a team of Microsoft Certified System Engineers at a Microsoft Gold Certified partner. It is build in the Cloud on the Internet to be a global scalable facility. By its very nature it is designed to be accessible from anywhere and is as you would imagine designed to handle any load.
The twelve bucks a month also gets you the latest state of the art Anti-Virus and Anti-Spam facilities so you have one less thing you have to worry about. You can connect as many domains as you want to that one mailbox and pay no more. If you want to connect your BlackBerry with the full BlackBerry Enterprise Server features, well you can for a small additional fee. Just over four dollars extra will get you industrially strength archiving with unlimited storage and unlimited retention period. And if you don’t own a copy of Outlook 2010 (PC) or Outlook 2011 (Mac) well you can get that too for just $1.50 extra.
This is a solution that makes sense for anyone. It removes the headaches of having to look after your own servers and reduces the costs so companies of any size or individuals can have the advantages of large corporate facilities at a tiny fraction of the cost.
Naturally I use this facility for my own organisation and have used it for over a year now with no issues what so ever. If you are interested have a look at the information on this webpage.
Your own Exchange email facility could be up and running within the next 24 to 48 hours.
Let me know what you think.
Enjoy the Journey,