Unless you are running a business from the dark ages of the internet, you undoubtedly have an email address for your small business. Many business owners sign up for an email address and don’t give it a second thought. But is that putting the right foot forward for your business?
Emails have become a required part of everyday life. Customers will reach out to you, emails will help you complete sales, and so much more. In this article, I will cover the different options you have for business email accounts and discuss if you should rely on a free email account to run your business.
Many businesses choose to start with a free email account. And one of the most common choices when it comes to free emails is Gmail. Each account comes with a lot of storage and reliable service. But there is a big catch.
Using a free email service could easily mean that your email will not seem as professional. Customers will judge your business based on the interactions they have with it. When you choose to use a free email service, people could construe that as you are cheap, or your business is not doing very well. This could result in the loss of future business.
Using a free email account could also be problematic for transactional emails, such as emails that come from your website. The emails your website sends could be considered spam because they cannot come from a trusted source.
You also never know when a free service will go away. A company could decide that your business email violates the services of a free account and shut your email off without warning.
Going free always has risks, so you will need to weigh those risks and be ok with them.
Basic email hosting
Probably the second most common email solution small businesses use is basic email hosting that is included with their website hosting. Often this option is bundled or included as part of a CPanel account from your service provider or similar.
Because this type of service uses your domain name, the email appears professional and instills trust. But there are a few problems you might encounter with this service.
First, because this service is hosted on your website host, if something happens to your hosting provider you will likely lose email services as well. Nothing is worse during an outage than compounding problems. As if having your website down is not enough, now you can’t communicate with anyone to explain or repair the issue.
Second, most hosting services are shared services. Because of this, if another site living on the same server as yours is sending spam, your emails might get blocked as well. This can make it hard for your customers and people you interact with, causing emails to be lost or end up in spam folders.
Lastly, these basic email accounts rarely have a robust user interface. If you have your email set up on a single device or phone this could be ignored decently easily. Yet should you need to access your email while away, it may be hard to do so. Or so clunky that frustration will quickly stall any useful work.
Paid email hosting
The best option for your small business is paid dedicated email hosting. These services are hosted and paid for apart from your website and are generally monitored to provide an optimal experience and reduced downtime.
For example, using a paid service will normally include special records that allow you to “sign” the emails you send without doing anything on your part. This signature can be verified by a receiving server helping your emails avoid the spam folder for anyone you send them to.
It is also far easier to move email services or web services when the two are not connected. You don’t need to try to move everything all at once and are likely to avoid outages that affect both services at the same time.
Our recommended email hosting solutions
Now that I have discussed the different types of business email, let’s look at who provides reliable paid email services. As a small business, the budget matters. There is not often a ton of money sitting around that you can throw at services. At the same time, you often get what you pay for, which is why I always recommend a paid service.
Choose the service that fits the needs you have. For example, if you need a shared calendar, you might want to choose a service such as Google, that integrates with almost everything when it comes to calendars.
This list is compiled from my experiences with each provider and how I feel they serve their customer base. There are plenty of other providers out there, but these are the ones I would trust with my business email.
NameCheap, which is our recommended domain provider, also has an email service called PrivateEmail.
This service is often my first recommendation for small businesses due to its low cost and decent reliability. The user interface for checking mail is easy to use and has many of the most common features, including a calendar and contacts. The calendar and contacts are not as strong as Google, but for a single user, this could be perfect for their needs.
For those who need more than one account, more users can be added to the first account for a relatively low cost. Email costs start around $10 per year for a single email.
Google is one of two big names in the email business. Their workspace solution is used by many thousands of companies both large and small. Very reliable, it is a strong platform to build your business around if you want a big name to back you.
Google charges per user, which relatively equals a single email address. You can add forwards and some other fancy things to allow you to send from more than one email, but it does take some knowledge to do so. The costs are not horrible per month, averaging around $6 per account.
The other benefit of Google Workspace is the robust calendar setup that integrates with many other services and Google Drive for sharing files.
Microsoft 365 Business
The other big name in email services is of course Microsoft. Having been in the email game since the beginning they have a stable platform that integrates well with just about any service you want to throw at it. I would even bet most people reading this article had a Hotmail or Live account at some point in their life.
Again, like Google, Microsoft’s offering has a robust calendar and integration with OneDrive. If your business uses Windows computers, the connection here is a no-brainer since these features are built into Windows.
Pricing is also comparable to Google’s offering, with emails starting at around $6 per month. Going a little more per month gives you full access to the entire office suite installed on your PC instead of just web-based software. This is a nice bonus for those who need to create documents and other such files.
Microsoft services are often resold by third parties, sometimes without the extra features. For example, you can purchase a similar plan through GoDaddy. However, I always recommend that you go straight to the provider of a service, rather than relying on a third party.
Email is the backbone of many businesses. And putting the best foot forward is always a good choice.
If you are a contractor, I would imagine it’s an easy decision to purchase quality tools that will last. Choosing a reliable email provider and paying a little for email services is no different. Email is just another tool in the toolbox to help your business succeed.
And if it comes down to a choice between Business A with a free email from Gmail or similar vs Business B who seems more professional with an email that matches their website, who would you choose? Invest in your business email and let that investment pay you back many times over.