Email services: free email account or business email?
Email services are used for just about every online activity – from keeping in touch with clients and colleagues to setting up social media accounts and online shopping. And in virtually every country around the globe, people are connected to an email account that makes modern life possible. In fact, according to a study by The Radicati Group, Inc., in 2017 roughly half the global population used email, and "by the end of 2021, the number of worldwide email users will be over 4.1 billion." It's mind-blowing – and shows just how important email platforms have become.
But email is no longer just a way to send and receive simple messages. Through innovations made to help individuals and organizations communicate more efficiently and effectively, email has grown to encompass a wide range of tools that can truly improve the way you work. Of course, not every business needs access all the tools available, so below they're broken out into "basic" and "advanced" solutions – which can help you decide what type of email account is right for you. Let's take a look.
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Most free email services provide some basic features that allow you to manage and organize your email messages efficiently, like:
- Automatic Replies: By allowing you to create a message that's automatically sent to anyone who contacts you via email, this feature makes it easy to let others know that you're out of the office, when you'll be back, and who they should contact in your absence.
- Applying Rules: Rules are actions that you can automatically apply to incoming and/or outgoing messages. They give you the freedom to choose what triggers a rule – and which actions are taken once they're triggered. For instance, if you want all messages from your boss to go to a special folder, you can arrange that by setting a rule. Or, if you want to immediately delete messages with "enroll today" in the subject, you can create a rule that will make that happen.
- Folders: Most free email services offer some type of organizational feature, like folders, that allow you to manually sort and store messages based on whatever system works best for you. For instance, if you're working on "Project X," you can create a folder titled "Project X" and manually transfer all of the messages pertaining to the project over to the folder – which makes it easy to keep records of any communication related to the project. Or, if you're researching pricing on a product that your company needs, you can create a folder for all of the messages and estimates you've received to date – and have them in one convenient place.
Additional Features with Enterprise Email Services
Of course, when you need the power to do more than basic features will allow, business email may be the answer. And although every email account is different, some of the types of features you can expect to find in an enterprise solution include:
- Secure Email Communication and Storage: Using encryption and a wide range of advanced security features, many business email solutions have the power to keep all of your messages safe – in transit and in your inbox.
- Shared Calendars: With shared calendars, you can see when someone (or your entire team) is available for meetings, which makes it easy to schedule them, and other group events, at times that are convenient for everyone. Shared calendars can also be a great way to let people know you'll be out of the office. Just add a calendar item for your vacation and block the time accordingly, then everyone with access to the calendar can tell when you'll be gone.
- Message Several People Using a Single Email Alias: Some email services make it easy to message all of the people you work with on a certain project at once – using just one name. So, if you work with, say, 10 people on a project, you can place those 10 people into a group and call it "Team Project X," and message those 10 people any time you address an email to "Team Project X" – which makes it easy to share files and keep everyone informed.
- Email Retention: In order to comply with industry and government regulations, and your own corporate governance standards, archiving your company's email messages is critical. Fortunately, most business email solutions give you the power to set your own retention policies so you can archive what you need – for however long you need.
Free email services have their place – and if you're a one-person business, they may be just what you need to get started. But if you operate a company with dozens of employees, or you're subject to industry or government regulations, or need anything beyond the ability to send and receive messages, a business email solution will serve you well – and give you the tools to work, grow, and build your business the right way.