E-mail options for small businesses
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1999. First
published in Toronto Computes,
While the colour and multimedia glitz of the World
Wide Web gets
all the press, in a quiet way, e-mail has become the ?killer app? of
Internet-age?the must-have application that makes users sit up and
that all this Information Highway stuff might actually make sense for
home and at work.
Currently, over 100 million computer users are
over a billion messages per month. And both numbers are growing, fast.
If you?re an employee of a large organization, you
an e-mail system in place at work?either using a standard Internet
tool, or one of several enterprise-focused e-mail systems, like Lotus
or Microsoft?s Outlook Server.
But if you work out of home or for a smaller
organization, it?s just
as likely that you aren?t yet connected to the rest of the world via
How can you do it? What are your options?
A growing number of companies are offering ?free?
this service in exchange for showing you advertisements and collecting
personal information. Juno, (www.juno.com?not available in
offers a basic, free e-mail service to people who don?t even have an
with an Internet Service Provider (ISP). All you need is a computer and
a modem, some free software, and a local Juno access phone number.
Basic Juno e-mail lacks some features, such as file
though they provide attachments as part of an enhanced US$2.95 per
Juno Gold service.
Another sort of free mail service is provided by a
wide range of
Web sites, including the well-known Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) and HotMail
owned by Microsoft). These Web Mail services require that you already
Internet access, and are accessed using a standard Web browser.
Since you need to already be accessing the
Internet, and so probably
have an e-mail address via your ISP, what?s the attraction of getting
this way? They seem to be popular?Hotmail, for instance, claims an
10 million accounts-- a number inflated by people with multiple
and those who sign up but never actually use the service. They suggest
their service is useful for people in a number of categories:
- people who share a single address with several
family members or co-workers
can each get private addresses.
- People who access the Internet from work can
and receive e-mail
independent of the company?s e-mail system?handy if you want to slag
boss, or if you change jobs.
- Mobile professionals, or world travelers.
you can access the
Web, such as a Web café, you can check your mail.
- Students with Internet access from school or
a public library?places
where it may be difficult to access an ICP-based mail account.
teachers could use such as service to provide each student with their
Hotmail and similar do not intend to provide a cheap
small businesses to provide employees e-mail accounts for business
Hotmail?s FAQ, for example, suggests:
?Example of Prohibited Use:
You are an individual who runs a business. You and
want to use Hotmail accounts rather than registering and administering
your account through a paid ISP.?
Just the mail?
In some cases, you may want e-mail, but feel like
you don?t want
or need the rest of the Internet, particularly the Web. Some companies
may feel like every employee needs the e-mail connection, but don?t
them being able to surf the Web on company time. Many local ISPs offer
e-mail-only accounts for as little as a third the cost of a full-access
Internet account?check around.
Alternatively, the Vancouver-based Electric Mail
specializes in providing safe and reliable e-mail services for medium
All this and more?
Most people, however, continue to access the mail
as part of a full-service
Internet account. And in most cases, this means using dedicated e-mail
software. Much of this software is available for free in versions for
Windows PCs and Macs.
- Netscape Mail is part of the Netscape
and Communicator packages.
In fact, if you install this popular browser, you can?t choose not to
their e-mail client. Netscape Mail underwent a major upgrade as part of
the new Navigator/Communicator 4.5 package.
- Microsoft Outlook Express comes with the
versions of Internet
Explorer (and thus with Windows 98). You can install or remove it
from Microsoft?s browser.
- Qualcomm Eudora Lite (www.eudora.com), a free
version of the company?s
commercial Eudora Pro. Qualcomm claims over 18 million Eudora users,
due to this product widespread distribution by ISPs.
These free programs have become very similar, each
similar feature sets, and three-pane interfaces, with lists of folders,
lists of messages in a selected folder, and the text of a selected
The newest versions make it easier for users to move from one product
another, taking their mail, folders, and address books with them.
And the winner is?
Despite the range of free options, I?d recommend
taking a good look
at a commercial product such as Qualcomm?s Eudora Pro (about CDN$60).
provides features such as multiple profiles, allowing you to access
e-mail accounts at once, and filters, allowing automatic answering of
deletion of unwanted mail, and more. The newest version (4.1) is
allowing you to continue to work in the program while it takes care of
housekeeping chores like checking or sending your mail, all in the
If you?re not convinced, there?s a 30-day free trial version available
for downloading at the company?s Web site.