It’s less than 40 years since it was created, but email is the main way of communicating for many businesses. Here’s how to set up an email account for your business.
Can I use my existing personal email account for my business emails?
There’s nothing to stop you using your personal email for business purposes, but bear in mind the following:
Things could get confusing – your business emails might get mixed up with your personal ones in the same account
Your account may not have a large enough data allowance to accommodate the extra emails you need to send and receive for business use
Your contract with your email / internet service provider (ISP) will be for personal use and therefore might not cover the level of service and support you need for business use
Having the name of your business in your email address helps to brand your business and project a more professional image.
Should I use free business email?
Here’s some information to help you decide if a free business email account is right for you.
Free v Paid
If you’re a sole trader with a limited number of clients and you’re not aiming to significantly expand your business, for example by promoting it on the web, the free internet services offered by providers such as those above might be all you need. However, paid-for services tend to give you the ability to centrally control your email, which you probably need to do if you have employees. For example for administrative purposes, with free email, unless you know an employee’s password you can’t access their business emails.
Personalised email address
A key difference between a free service and one you need to pay for is the email address. If you choose a free service, your email address will contain the name of the provider, e.g firstname.lastname@example.org. If you pay for your service, you get a domain name that doesn’t include the provider’s name.
Having a domain name means you can have multiple business email addresses, e.g. for employees and colleagues, and also for different parts of your business. You can use your domain name in your website address, again helping to reinforce your brand. If you change provider, you can take your domain name with you, so you don’t have to change your stationery or inform customers of a new of address.
By using an email address that includes your brand creates a good impression: it shows your company is established and professional. It also builds trust and offers reassurance to your customers that you are a legitimate business. Free email services include Gmail and Outlook.
Costs tend to start at around £5 per month, although sometimes you may also need to pay a yearly charge for your business e-mailbox. There are also providers who offer a combined email, internet and telephone service.
It’s possible to set up your own in-house email system, but you need to invest in a server, and also have the technical expertise required to install and maintain it.
You probably don’t need know the fine details of how email works, but a basic understanding may be helpful when you’re talking to email service providers.
When someone sends an email it goes to the provider’s server. The email then goes to the server of the recipient’s provider. Here it’s stored in a mailbox – a space reserved for the recipient’s emails. Mailboxes will fill up but you can buy extra ones from the provider.
The email then goes from the mailbox to the recipient. There are different technologies for doing this, some of which have advantages over others.
With POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3) technology, once your emails are downloaded to your computer they get deleted from the server. This means that you can’t access those email from another computer. Also, if the emails on your computer get deleted – for instance, by accident or because your hard drive fails – you may have lost them. With IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) as well as being downloaded to your computer, your emails are kept on the server. This means that you don’t lose them if something goes wrong with your machine, and you can access your emails from other computers
Microsoft Exchange (or Hosted Exchange as your provider might call it) also keeps your emails on the server. It also has additional features, such as calendars and contacts, which can be shared with other people in your business. MS Exchange Online essentially works in the same way as MS Exchange, except that instead of having an on-site server, it uses a cloud (online) server hosted by Microsoft.
To access and manage your emails you need email client software, such as Microsoft Outlook, MacMail, Thunderbird, or Entourage. Some email service providers will supply this as part of their package.
How do I get a domain name?
The process is quick, easy and cheap.
Many email providers and website hosting companies offer a domain name search and registration service. This normally involves using their search facility to check if the name you want is available. If it is, you can purchase it by paying registration fee, which you need to renew each year.
There are many companies out there offering these services – here are two examples to help get you started:
There are many email providers, offering a wide range of packages for businesses of all sizes. When comparing different providers, you need to consider the following factors.
What server technology do they use, for example POP3 or IMAP, or both? (See the above section for why this is important.)
How much storage capacity will they give you? Typically, a small business will need a minimum of 5 gigabytes (GB). So check how many emails can be accommodated. Also, find out how much it is to buy extra mailboxes for additional storage.
Security and spam
Do they scan emails for viruses? Do they provide spam filtering? What is their security record?
Will you be able to use the email on the types of mobiles and tablets you have (Android, Windows, or iOS)? Will they help you to set up email on these devices?
Will you be able to set out of office messages?
Will you be able to create a catch-all email address so that you’ll get messages that are intended for you, even if the sender has misspelt your address?
Will they provide tools such as calendars, meeting invitations, tasks, shared folders and shared contacts? Will you get any additional software, such as the latest version of MS Word?
Does their service include webmail (which enables you to access your emails through any internet browser)?
E-mail could be the communication lifeblood of your businesses, so ask what type of support you’ll get from your prospective provider. For example, do they provide 24/7 support? Do they have a help line? Check out what service level agreement (SLA) they offer.
Archive and backup
Do they have effective procedures to backup your emails? For example, do they carry out multiple backups on different sites? Will they provide you with an archiving service so you don’t have to laboriously move older emails into an archive yourself?
Checklist: Finding a potential email service provider
Use this list when checking out a potential email service provider. Login to save this checklist to your profile for future use. (To register to join and enjoy the benefits of membership click on the link at the top right of the page. It will only take a few minutes to create your profile).