If your answer to this Arrow-Tip title question is “yes” then you may want to consider a mail server solution – even if you are just a one person business. Your next question is most likely “how can you afford a mail server if you are just one person?” The answer is that hosted mail server solutions have become very affordable and reliable. Read on to see if you are a good candidate for a hosted email server solution.
The mail server of choice for most companies using Microsoft Outlook is Microsoft Exchange Server. What an Exchange Server will allow you to do is:
At this point, most of my clients (even single user companies) are either on or moving to an Exchange solution for one or more of the reasons stated above. Here are some scenarios to illustrate advantages to a mail server:
Scenario #1: Instantaneously Shared Scheduling Information – it is not at all unusual for my Training Specialist Zeenat Virani to schedule a follow up meeting for me and when she is working with a client. Zee can input a new meeting request into Outlook from her smart phone or Outlook directly and send that to me while still with our client. At the same time, I may be with another client and schedule a follow up appointment with them at the end of the meeting. Because Zee has sent me a meeting request and my Blackberry has already received it and placed it on my calendar, I know not to schedule my follow up appointment in the same slot. This functionality is invaluable for those of you working with virtual assistants or sales support staff who may set appointments for you.
Scenario #2: Instantaneously Shared Contact Information – I often ask Zee to respond to support calls from clients. Rather than keep information about the same contact in both her Contacts folder and mine (where it would have to be updated twice), I granted Zee access to my Contacts folder. This way, Zee can access client information directly from my Contacts folder and if she inputs updates like new phone numbers, etc. I can see them right away wherever I am. This functionality is especially great if I need last minute directions to a meeting – Zee can map quest the meeting using the address in my Calendar. My Blackberry then syncs wirelessly with Outlook and viola, I can see the directions to my appointment right there on my Blackberry.
Scenario #3: Synchronizing Laptops and Desktops – I have several computers which I use for various things from testing to giving presentations and demonstrations. It is nice to be able to access my Outlook folders from my desk top when I’m home where I have a nicer keyboard and monitor set up, but also still be able to access Outlook from my laptop at Starbucks. Since I’m on Exchange, it is just a matter of setting up my mailbox on both computers and then when I’m online, they both sync up with the Exchange data and I can see the same information from either place.
Keep in mind that both Scenario #2 and Scenario #3 also require Blackberry Server (or the equivalent for your smart phone or PDA) which is of course only available if you are on an Exchange Server. Personally, I use MailStreet as my outsourced Exchange host and I have set several clients up with them as well. Early on I was not a huge Mailstreet fan, but I have to say that over the past 2 years they have really gotten their act together and I am very happy with the service I have received from them.
These scenarios are ideal for small businesses with only a couple of people (or even just one person), but imagine the benefits for larger organizations where there is a need to share data among several people. I’ll save some of those benefits for a future Arrow-Tip, but in the mean time, I’d love to see some comments from some of you in a single user environment that have enjoyed working with Exchange.