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Is it time to re-think free email?

There are many free email solutions on the market. They look very attractive for small businesses but are they really free and are they the correct tool for your business?

There are two popular sayings when it comes to free things. The first one is “there is no such thing as a free lunch” and the second one is “if it looks too good to be true, it usually is…” It’s worth keeping these sayings in mind when considering free email.

How can email be free?

Well, to start with it’s not free. As a customer you don’t have to pay for email but they do make money for those companies who supply them. Free email providers actually make their money through advertising.

You might find that a webmail client is cluttered with ad banners which can become distracting and annoying or you could be inundated with unsolicited emails, making it difficult to read emails from genuine contacts or customers.

There are ways to block this content using third party filters and blockers. Controversially some providers now prevent people from using ad-blockers to prevent further diminishing of advertising values. It’s worth noting that the security of some of these tools has also recently been questioned.

How secure are free tools?

What most consumers don’t realise is that when signing up for free email you often part with a lot of information. In fact, it’s enough for suppliers to create a detailed profile about you and your company which they can then sell this information to others who can then market your contacts via email and ad banners. If you check, this will all be spelled out in the T&Cs that you agreed to – because who reads those anyway!?

As a consumer, syncing details can be great for social networking but imagine how frustrating it would be if, as a business owner, you accidentally shared details of your customers and prospects who could then be vulnerable to approaches by your competition! As a business you MUST ensure that all data entrusted to you is secure at all times.

Not all free email solutions are compatible with every email or smartphone application. These can sometimes be unreliable, cause downtime or could even make you miss a valuable order.

Being credible

Free accounts can offer very limited choices for email addresses resulting in something that is hard to remember. For example, John.Smith14673@free-email.warmmail.com, is likely to be rife with typos and could mean some emails end up going astray. Wouldn’t info@<your-company-name>.com be a much better solution?

To cultivate a credible image, matching your email address and website’s address is really important and with new domain names available, you can be really creative at the same time. Most free solutions will let you set up a forwarder so there’s no risk of emails being lost.  Responding to any enquiries you receive using your new email address will prompt customers to start the new one in no time.

You could also consider an email-form, rather than a visible email address on your website. This stops your email address from being harvested by automated tools and should dramatically reduce spam too!

Being rejected

Some companies use free email addresses to send spam, changing the address they send from regularly, to avoid being traced or blocked. Consequently spam and malware filters can be hypersensitive and stop genuine emails from free email providers from being received. If this was to affect you, it could potentially be very damaging to your business.

Feeling supported

When it comes to business tools there is nothing more important than uptime, however things can go wrong from time to time. Ideally you need a supplier who cares, can provide easy to use guides and has a support team who are knowledgeable and available 24/7.

Is professional email affordable?

Yes! If you were to forgo a couple of cups of coffee each month, you’d be able to get a good business grade email solution. So, if the choice is between being able to communicate credibly and effectively or not then switching to instant coffee twice a month could be a better choice!

If you need any services other than email you may even be able to get your services as a bundle and get an additional discount!

But there is more…

In all honesty, basic email is a good introductory tool but when you have to manage a lot of contacts, relationships and appointments, Hosted Exchange is a better solution. The integration of email with calendars and address books makes it a very valuable tool.

Until recently, Exchange was only available to larger organisations with their own IT department and servers on site. The good news is that Exchange has now moved to the Cloud bringing it firmly within reach of SMEs.

So whether you are looking for a basic email solution or something more demanding, bypass the so called free email providers and look for a business strength and cost-effective paid solution instead.


Jan Wielenga

Worked in the IT and telecoms industry since 1986. An accomplished and experienced product management, product marketing and engineering professional who is intent on providing impartial, expert reviews, advice and opinions on all things related to Telecoms and IT.

Jan Wielenga

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