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Email’s New Generation

01 Jun 2010

These days we have the next generation of always-connected, high-speed internet. This technology is great in that it allows us to make video calls to the other side of the earth for next to nothing, and we can watch that YouTube video of the cat falling off a rubbish bin. Isn’t technology great?However, uptake of next-generation email is... well... a little behind the eight ball, some may say. Pop or ISP email is still very common. Back in the dial-up days you used to be charged for the amount of time that you were connected to the internet with the screechy dial-up modem. So you would want your email to connect, complete a send, a received, and then disconnect. Everyone happy.While I haven’t come across anyone who still uses dial-up in years, what I do come across all the time are business emails such as joesplumbers@xtra.co.nz or mikescleaning@ihug.co.nz This tells me a couple of things straight away. Firstly, the business owners can’t be bothered to purchase a domain name for their business that costs less than $30 a year and secondly, they are most likely using POP email, and if their business email data is not backed up, it is at risk from being lost.POP stands for ‘Post Office Protocol’ and it works very similarly to a post office. When someone sends you a letter, the only place where that letter exists is at the post office in your PO box, until of course you go to collect that letter. Once you get the letter, the only copy that exists is with you. This is a similar scenario to POP email. When someone sends you an email, the only place it exists is on your email server (generally your ISP’s), then once you do a ‘send and receive’ it only exists on your computer.This is not ideal, because computers have a nasty habit of failing for all sorts of reasons: hardware failure, virus attack, malware, software corruption, user error... and that is even before we get into the other risks such as theft, fire and water damage. If your POP email data is on your computer that croaks, for whatever reason, you can say goodbye to all that information. This generally includes business contacts, past email communications, sent and received, calendar and tasks.In the past this would not have had much impact on the business at all; however, email is becoming a vital communication portal with customers and suppliers. You could lose everything: HR records, reminders to follow up sales leads, that marketing brochure your designer sent you, and that stuff that your accountant wanted you to do. Of course, you could back up your email data, but it is my experience that just like most people don’t bother photocopying letters, a lot of businesses just don’t get around to doing backups, if it is a manual system, and generally they don’t know how to arrange automated backup system.Enter the next generation of emails – Microsoft Hosted Exchange and Gmail for Business. The main point of difference of the next generation of email systems is that your email data remains on the email server in a data centre, and your email device (PC, smartphone, laptop, etc.) synchronises with the server.   This also enables you to send and receive emails from multiple devices without emails disappearing into the ether, as can happen if you send POP emails from webmail accounts.Cost really should not be a barrier anymore to the next generation of emails, as domain names are only about $30 per year and Gmail for Business is free if you use under 7GB of email data and have under 50 emails on that domain name, which includes about 90% of New Zealand’s businesses.The only real downside to Gmail for Business is that your business email data is hosted somewhere in the world on Google’s servers. If you have a problem with that, you can pay approximately $22 per user per month and get Microsoft Hosted Exchange with a local hosted exchange provider right here in New Zealand.Also with Exchange and Gmail you can realise other productivity gains, such as sharing calendars, shared contacts and syncing to mobile devices, so there are real business productivity gains as well as protecting your business’s data.So, if you are still using POP email and your email data is important to you, you should certainly look at purchasing your own domain name and moving onto the next generation of email.   

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