Playing Mailman

Published Date
01 - Sep - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Sep - 2005
 
Playing Mailman

With the increase in Internet penetration in India, more and more businesses are using e-mail to communicate with their customers, and even their own employees and branch offices.

Whether it's complaints, feedback, placing orders with distributors, or even communicating amongst employees, e-mail has become the de facto form of communication today. Honestly, we don't even think much about it anymore-unless you are the systems administrator, or the one paying the bills!

The Dilemma 
Unfortunately, many smaller companies are still relying on their VSNL/BSNL, Rediffmail and GMail accounts to communicate with clients and colleagues. Some firms have their own domains, and have even set up Web sites, but are still using popular free e-mail services to conduct their business.

Today, when prices for all things online have fallen drastically, there's no excuse for not having a
"yourname@yourdomain.com" e-mail id.

For instance, doesn't it look very unprofessional when you visit a Web site, check out the products on offer, decide you like them, and then have to write to some free e-mail address in order to get more information?

It would be like logging on to
www.thinkdigit.com or reading a few articles in Digit, and then having to write to digitmagazine.editor@gmail.com or to thinkdigitwebsite@rediffmail.com to send in your feedback or contact our staff!

OK! Agreed, it's ridiculous for free e-mail addresses to appear in a business environment, especially to customers. So what can you do about it? You have two options available: set up an e-mail server at your office, or get
yourname@yourdomain.com hosting from one of the many online options.

E-mail Servers
Though this seems like a logical step to take, it is something that requires manpower and investment. It's not really advisable to set up an e-mail server on a regular machine for small companies, especially if e-mail is critical to the functioning of the company.

Also, this solution requires dedicated manpower that checks and maintains the e-mail server on a regular basis. Since most stable and free e-mail solutions are open source and built for Linux, you will need to find staff that is well versed with Linux.

Essentially, if you are buying a new domain, all you need to do is buy hosting and the business e-mail is provided at no extra cost

However, the salaries you will have to shell out for one or two such people will easily cross Rs 1 lakh per annum. Smaller firms might not be able to afford this.

Now comes the hardware part: a typical server, is at worst, a dedicated desktop running Linux and a mail server such as Qmail, along with anti-virus software.

Though there are plenty of Windows-based mail servers, hardly any of the good ones are free. Moreover, you will always run the risk of infection by spam and e-mail worms.

Of course, your business also needs to have a fat always-on broadband pipe with minimal downtimes. For instance, if your e-mail server goes offline for a few days due to problems with your ISPs, all your mails will begin to bounce back to their senders-something you definitely want to avoid when it comes to business e-mails!

While setting up an e-mail server may be a good option for businesses with over 300 employees, it's generally considered too much trouble and a significant amount of expenditure for smaller companies.

Here at Digit, we run our own e-mail server, primarily because our e-mail traffic is measured in terms of gigabytes per day for over 500 e-mail users, and also because we don't have trouble finding qualified personnel. However, smaller companies might not be able to meet this kind of expenditure.

Comparison Chart


Service Name
 
Rediff Business
E-mail
 
Indiatimes Meramail
Business E-mail
  
Godaddy.com
Premium  Plan
 
Number of E-mail IDs 5 6100
Space 1 GB 1200 MB Email/1GB Briefcase 2 GB 
POP3 Yes Yes Yes 
Web mail Yes Yes Yes 
Domain Registered in your name  Registered to Indiatimes Rs 400 Extra 
Terms & Conditions URLhttp://hosting.rediff.com/
hosting/scripts/terms.phtml
http://meramail.indiatimes.com/
meramail/help/
 
MeraMailTerms.jsp
http://www.godaddy.com/gdshop/
agreements.asp? 
Price per year Rs 1,695 Rs 1,499 Rs 1,320 400 
50 or more IDs Rs 10,200 for 49 IDs Rs 10,299 for 50 IDs Rs 1,320 for 100 

Hosted E-mail
This option is much better for the majority of smaller companies, as the hardware and software are all taken care of by the hosting provider. A company knows exactly how much it has to pay every month or every year when opting for this solution. The security is also taken care of by the hosting provider, as are all the licensing issues for software.

Setting up e-mail access for employees is then only a matter of configuring Outlook for POP3 access and creating user accounts via the hosting provider's Web interface. Here again, you can choose from a range of options.

For instance, you can either choose to go with an Indian e-mail hosting provider or opt for a cheaper US one. There is also a lot of legal jargon to sift through when you make your decision, and you should always remember to read the fine print in the terms and conditions.

Depending on the size of your business, and the number of employees, you can make the right choice for your e-mail solution. Now, let's look at providing a solution for companies that have between 25 and 100 employees.

Services
Mention the term 'business e-mail solution' and everyone thinks of Rediff's and Indiatimes' business e-mail models. Undoubtedly, these are very popular, but not necessarily the best solutions for companies with more than 25 employees. Let's find out why…

Both Rediff and Indiatimes offer very similar services, as you will see in the Comparison Chart. Unfortunately, what they offer is just plain e-mail addresses-no hosting, no domain, and in fact, sometimes even the domain is not registered in your name, though you pay for it.

Go Daddy's e-mail solutions are much cheaper for those with more than 50 employees

We compared them to GoDaddy.com's most basic offering to see whether it made any sense to opt for these popular e-mail hosts. As you can see, if your company has no more than five employees, GoDaddy works out to be a little more expensive. On the other hand, when you consider buying even a minimum of 50 e-mail addresses, the Indian solutions lose out completely.

If you opt for GoDaddy's services, remember that with the Premium e-mail option there is no domain name included, so that will be an additional cost.

The ideal solution seems to be to buy the domain name from GoDaddy.com, and then buy the Web site hosting as well. When you buy even the most basic Web site hosting package from Godaddy.com ($3.95 a month or about Rs 2,000 a year), you are given 100 e-mail IDs with 500 MB space absolutely free.

Essentially, if you are buying a new domain, all you need to do is buy hosting and the business e-mail is provided at no extra cost. The only difference is the smaller mailbox size of 5 MB per user! You still get all the features of the premium plans as well, such as spam filters, virus checks, POP3 access and even Web mail…

In Summation
As you have now seen in this article, getting personalised e-mail addresses can hardly be considered expensive anymore; and it doesn't require a Linux guru to set up. The Web interface means that anybody with just basic Internet experience can start setting up e-mail accounts for your employees.

The fact that the solutions mentioned here cost next to nothing should make you consider opting for an outsourced e-mail solution for your business. Remember, you can't make any more excuses now; it's time to  do away with that amateurish appearance by giving your business the professional look it deserves!

Team DigitTeam Digit  teamdigit@digit.in

All of us are better than one of us.