Our Most Valued Internet Service Gets No Respect

You are probably among the millions of people who take for granted the one Internet-based service you value the most. It’s not your website. When a crisis occurs, and a website goes down, all the organizations we’ve ever served have managed to cope, at least for a few hours.

No, it’s not your website you can’t live without. It’s your email. Yet most of you probably don’t know who provides your email service, where the email server is, what you’re paying for it and what optional services are available to you.

Here’s the paradox. Email service is typically bundled in with website hosting and presented as “free.” “Free” tends to make email seem worthless, especially when you get a thousand email addresses at no extra charge. Perhaps that’s part of why people take email for granted.

What’s wrong with free? Plenty.

For starters, “free” email accounts use the same email server that hundreds of thousands of other people use every day. Unfortunately for you, often some of these people are spammers, so the same email server you use gets blacklisted. As a result, your email can get blacklisted at the same time. Getting blacklisted makes you look bad, even if it’s not your fault. Besides that, you confuse and inconvenience your customer by suddenly having to switch to, say, your personal email account.

Here’s another problem with “free” email. It may take a long time to reach the people you send it to. In our company, some time ago we noticed this slow delivery problem. We were guilty of using the “free” email bundled in with our website hosting, and this “email latency problem” (our term) became impossible to live with. Emails we sent to one another — to someone sitting 15 feet away — took hours to arrive. Despite several calls to tech support, the offending vendor, Network Solutions, never resolved the problem. As a result, we paid another company to provide us with first-class email services.

You will only care about this third reason to pay for email service if you are particular about security. Here’s why. When you separate your email from your web hosting, you protect yourself, to some extent, if a catastrophic event takes place at your website hosting company.

Unfortunately, Network Solutions once again provides the example. During a week in October of this year, Network Solutions experienced an event so catastrophic that thousands or websites went off line, perhaps millions of email accounts went offline, the company’s toll free number rang busy and even the company’s own website, www.networksolutions.com, crashed.

At our company, however, email service remained uninterrupted because we have a separate provider for email.

Here’s a fourth reason to pay for email service, also related to security. When you pay for email service, you can choose to upgrade to email archiving – to having your old email stored for you in the cloud. Technically you can use Internet Message Access Protocal (IMAP) to archive email indefinitely, but millions of people use Post Office Protocol (POP) email, which doesn’t really archive emails online.

Experienced IT people will have objections to this simplified explanation of IMAP and POP, but a formal backup system is better than either. More importantly, as the years go by, archiving or “backing up” received email will become a great issue for people. We have clients who have saved over 60,000 or even 100,000 emails to a computers. Those clients feel that email is extremely valuable to them. However, if that computer’s hard drive ever fails, or the computer is stolen, it’s likely the machine’s owner will have lost all that email permanently. Some people wisely include email backup in a computer backup they run, but computer consultants tell us many people just don’t back up their saved email.

Here’s one last consideration. Quality email service can be used to reduce spam received on both computers and smart phones. Getting less spam saves time and reduces stress.

After all this, you should be wondering just how much high-quality email service costs. It’s cheap when measured by the value received, just $2-$5 per month per email address. Given how absolutely vital email is, that’s a small price to pay for convenience, reliability and security.

Now, ask yourself a few questions. How valuable is it to always have your email working on your computer and smart phone? How much is all the email you’ve saved on your machine worth to you? Who is providing your email service? Is your email protected and backed up?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, get them. Send out an email or two to the appropriate people. As long as you haven’t been blacklisted and your email server hasn’t crashed, you may be surprised by the answers you get back – by email.

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About Dave

Dave Tedlock is the head of NetOutcomes, a digital marketing firm. For years he has written a marketing and technology column for various publications, including the Tucson Citizen’s Tucson Business Edge, Idaho Business Review, Inside Tucson Business, and The New Mexico Business Weekly. Tedlock taught writing and business communication for eight years in many universities, including the Harvard Business School and Iowa State University. For 13 years he worked in ad agencies as a copywriter, account manager or creative director. Tedlock has published short stories, scholarly articles and a writing textbook (with Paul Jarvie). He earned a Master’s degree in Fiction Writing from Brown University. He lives in Tucson and Santa Fe.

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