If you’re on a quest for high quality email hosting, you’ve probably got one of two motives: Either you’re a business owner in need of a professional means to communicate with clients and company contacts, or you’re an individual establishing your personal brand. In either case, you want a reliable email service, unlimited resources, and, ideally, a free domain at which to host your email accounts.
Examples of this include things such as instant messaging (IM) and team chat tools, video conferencing software, online meeting collaboration tools, shared team intranet sites, and more. Some even integrate with third-party tools such as Slack, a highly popular collaboration tool that combines customizable chat "channels" with file sharing and project management. For those who want to integrate with certain apps more deeply or integrate with custom-developed apps they have built in-house, many bigger-name email services will provide robust application programming interfaces (APIs) that will let your in-house developers or consultants deliver on those needs. They will need to be involved in the email service selection process, however, as this is an important consideration during your evaluation period. 

Well, depending on your email provider, you can often define several different email addresses that are all delivered into the same mailbox. For example, it’s not at all uncommon for various standard email addresses like “[email protected]”, “[email protected]”, “[email protected]” and so on, to all be delivered into the same mailbox – the mailbox of the administrator for that mail server. I actually go so far as to have many email addresses on my “askleo.com” domain, but only one account. All the email on that domain is delivered to that single account. (I then use rules and filters to sort the email, based on what address it was sent to.)
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Hosted email often comes as part of another service, such as web hosting or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). Since that means there will be many extras available with these services, it's inescapable that you'll be paying for those extras in some way. Purchasing them usually means a slight uptick in that per-user price. Many businesses find that, once they're done selecting all of their needed "optional extras," their end price can often reach as high as $10 or more per user. This can start to add up for larger teams. It's somewhat like buying cable service: sometimes you need to pay for the channels you don't want to get the couple of channels that you need. There is also the old adage that "you get what you pay for" when it comes to quality. This is almost always true when considering an email host.

For those unlucky enough to choose an email host that doesn't have built-in spam detection, it can often be an ordeal to route email correctly through a third-party filtering service. Some businesses actually prefer engaging with a third-party spam filterer, mostly for compliance or customization reasons. But, for the majority of SMBs, this is headache they would be best off trying to avoid.


Along with specialized uses for email, you should investigate how your users are emailing on a daily basis. Email has come a long way in 40 years and the way people use it has significantly evolved. That's important because it will impact the tools and features you need to look for in your hosted email provider's client software. Sure, Microsoft Outlook is still the most popular on-site email client, but a fast-increasing number of today's email users are opting for other email clients, such as Thunderbird, or all-web clients, such as Google's hugely popular Gmail. These clients can be very sophisticated and, depending on what your users are doing with email, they can have a big impact on your day-to-day business process.
When delivering email, an SMTP client, e.g., Mail User Agent (MUA), Mail Transfer Agent (MTA), uses the domain name system (DNS) to look up a Resource Record (RR) for the recipient's domain (the part of the email address to the right of the @); if there is a mail exchange Resource Record (MX record) then the returned MX record contains the name of the recipient's mailserver, otherwise the SMTP client uses an address record (A or AAAA). The MTA next connects to this server as an SMTP client. The local part of an email address has no significance for intermediate mail relay systems other than the final mailbox host. Email senders and intermediate relay systems must not assume it to be case-insensitive, since the final mailbox host may or may not treat it as such. A single mailbox may receive mail for multiple email addresses, if configured by the administrator. Conversely, a single email address may be the alias to a distribution list to many mailboxes. Email aliases, electronic mailing lists, sub-addressing, and catch-all addresses, the latter being mailboxes that receive messages regardless of the local part, are common patterns for achieving a variety of delivery goals.
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Your next major concern will be compatibility. It's not a shock that most businesses run on Microsoft Windows and use some form of Microsoft Office. Being able to use common third-party clients such as Microsoft Outlook can often be a concern, and even today, compatibility with Microsoft Outlook isn't necessarily guaranteed. This is especially true when sending and receiving meeting invites. It only takes one garbled meeting invite to realize how frustrating this can be in the real world. Even if using Microsoft Outlook isn't a concern, portability is. If the service is entirely web-based, then is there a means for me to take my email offline and send email when I connect?

For those unlucky enough to choose an email host that doesn't have built-in spam detection, it can often be an ordeal to route email correctly through a third-party filtering service. Some businesses actually prefer engaging with a third-party spam filterer, mostly for compliance or customization reasons. But, for the majority of SMBs, this is headache they would be best off trying to avoid.
One great way to protect data is by using email encryption. This feature can do wonders for protecting your organization's privacy and that of your employees, but it demands some investigation when you're selecting your provider. Is it built-in or do you require a third-party tool? Does it use common standards that the recipient can process? What about Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates? Are they included or do they need to be purchased separately? The best-in-class tools will not only make encryption easy for anybody to configure and use, buy they'll also make it easy for you to understand pre-purchase.
A survey conducted (see graphic above; click to enlarge) by email marketing software provider and consulting service ReachMail Media Services of over 1,000 respondents found that varying percentages of different worker generations attempted to adhere to "inbox zero," while other generations actually preferred using their inboxes as personal information managers.
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