A lot of small business owners find that they need a corporate email address on their own work domain, but aren't entirely sure what is required to set things in motion, beyond needing a domain name.
And while using something like mycompany @ gmail.com might be sufficient for the first few weeks, you'll want something more professional going forward - because it promotes you better.
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Also, given how much spam arrives from the free email systems, it's unlikely anyone will take email from a hotmail address seriously.
But setting up an email account isn't necessarily the easiest thing in the world because there is a relationship between the Internet, domain names, mail servers, DNS servers, IP addresses, file systems, Web servers, and a few other things.
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Let's look at what goes into choosing an email system to best suit your business needs.
1. Secure a good company domain name
In order to have a company email account, you'll first need to secure a domain name. For example, smepals.com.
A domain name is not the same thing as a website. Think of it as the street address, not the whole house.
Finding a good domain name is not as easy as you think.
The Web is full of domain squatters - people who purchase domain names for no other reason than to extort higher prices out of companies that need them. What this means is that you may end up having to spend a bit more time searching for the right domain name at the right price - usually around $10 per year for a .com depending on what deal you go for.
Using a good, online domain name research tool can help save time and money - and you can check out how to find and buy domain names for more.
2. Decide on Web & email hosting facilities
As mentioned, a domain by itself is just an address - it doesn't do anything. You need to have a mail server with a file system that is linked to that domain via DNS in order for people to be able to send and receive emails via that domain.
This is where the waters can get a bit muddy because there are thousands upon thousands of different options - all offering slightly different services at different rates and costs.
There are two primary classes you will have to consider:
- Standalone email hosting
- Website & email hosting bundle
Essentially, standalone email hosting will give you email facilities that allow you to set up a bunch of email addresses on your company domain (i.e. support @ yourcompany.com, sales @ yourcompany.com, john @ yourcompany.com, etc). Standalone email hosting is generally cheaper than Web hosting, and of course you don't have to worry about creating a website along with it.
Any number of standalone email hosting services are available - the article mentioned above has recommendations. However, I think that focusing only on email hosting is a mistake (even if you don't have or need a website right at this moment).
If your business survives and grows you will need a website at some stage. And, with the advent of beautiful, easy-to-use, hosted website builders, the difference in monthly cost is virtually negligible.
If you're going to go to the trouble of purchasing a domain and setting up an email hosting account, then you may as well go for a leading hosted website builder because they are the same amount of work, with the same level of difficulty (neither require any Web experience or programming ability).
Doing things this way means that when it comes time to actually build your site, you are familiar with the system you are using, it will be high quality, fast and efficient and you won't have to learn about pointing domains and dealing with A records and DNS in order to move your domain to the Web server.
The leading website builder on the market today is Weebly, and you can learn how to get started for free in minutes by checking out how to build a website for free with Weebly.
Finally, if you are developing a custom website then a VPS or dedicated hosting plan will come with an email server and a Webmail interface. VPS and dedicated hosting plans tend to be a bit more expensive than the first two options, but you can learn more at is VPS Web hosting right for my business?
3. Questions to ask about your email hosting
For most small businesses, a basic email hosting package that comes with a website builder, or standalone email hosting is sufficient. But, it pays to understand a bit about what to look out for:
- How much email will you send? Remember that each email sent via your domain has to go through your email server. This means it needs resources, and these may be limited in low cost packages.
- What size attachments will you need? Some email accounts will not allow large emails, so if clients and colleagues need to send reports and documents containing images and video, you will need to ensure that your mail server won't simply reject large mails.
- How often will you access email accounts? As people send you emails, so they build up on the mail server. The longer you are away, the more storage they use up. Eventually, you might reach the limits of the account, and new emails will be rejected.
- Do you need Webmail, or will you use an email client? Are you planning on using something like Microsoft Outlook or Thunderbird, to receive emails on your PC, or do you need a Webmail interface to access them online? Not all email hosting services provide decent online email interfaces.
Hopefully, you won't have too much trouble setting things up. It's likely that the hardest part of your job will be finding a good, meaningful domain name that hasn't been snapped up by domain squatters. If you are setting up an email client on your home or office PC, then be sure to make use of your hosting services support to help you get set up. In general it's quite a simple process - but like many technical things, it seems impossible until you know how.
4. Setup & configuration
In general, you need only two things to connect an email client to your mail server:
- email address
If you are managing your own server then you will need to create these email addresses on the server first. Often, with quality VPS or dedicated hosting plans, you have access to an admin panel like cPanel that makes creating email accounts quick and painless.
Newer email client software can resolve your email address correctly without you having to provide the URls of the incoming and outgoing servers. If your email client is asking for the address of your SMTP or POP3 servers then consider a software update.
If an update is not possible then you will need to supply the address of your SMTP and POP3 servers to the email client. You can either get this from your service provider/support, or look for that information in the same place you created the email accounts.
Have you already set up corporate emailing for your business? What system did you use? Have you tried out any of the newer cloud based office services like Microsoft 365? Share your email tips and tricks in the comments, and feel free to ask questions if you're struggling.