Mobile communications such as text messaging, Facebook Messenger, Twitter Direct Messaging, SnapChat, Skype, and FaceTime are all seeking to supplant Email these days as the preferred form of digital communications.
Not so for business or for professionals where Email still reigns supreme.
Email access essentially comes in two forms:
- Email Software, or Client-based Email – E.g. Microsoft Outlook (costly subscription fees), Mac Mail (comes with Mac OS X), and Thunderbird (free open-source download) to name a few.
- Cloud Email – E.g. Google Mail (GMail), Yahoo Email, or AOL Email (yes, it still exists)—all free and accessible via a web browser
Let’s delve into the key differences between them with an eye on how each form manages Email in their own unique ways.
It should be noted that regardless of what method of accessing your Email is used, all Email actually sits on a server somewhere in “The Cloud” and simply waits for you to get it one way or another.
Client-based (meaning: on your computer) Email still has many years of unparalleled usefulness that other services can’t match—the main advantage being security. Say you’re an employee at Company X and check your email like everyone else does everyday. You can rest assured that the Email sitting behind your company’s firewall is as secure as it gets. Even when logging in from home, you are usually using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to establish a secure connection between your laptop and your company’s Email servers. There’s very little chance of your Email being hijacked as you send your messages to your fellow employees or out to your clients.
Microsoft Outlook allows a massive amount of Email filtering features, rich text (like HTML) messages, Email organization into shared and group folders across the entire organization, remote Email access via a Web-Outlook interface, and comes in cross-platform versions for Mac OS X and Windows (all versions).
And the final advantage is group organization capabilities like employee calendars, scheduling meetings and office resources, and working with the company Intranet (e.g. internal file servers).
Mac Mail, Thunderbird, and others do some of these same things but not on such an enterprise-wide scale.
The good thing about Outlook and Mac Mail Email Clients/Software are that no matter what kind of an organization you work for, large or small, you can usually set up your email access for both computers and mobile devices, and in either POP or IMAP.
POP is a form of Email delivery that simply downloads every incoming email to your computer’s Email software. This is usually a one-way street so once your Emails are downloaded that’s it. If your computer blows up, so does your Email. However, if you’re a politician and can’t afford to have sensitive emails out there floating around on “The Net,” you might want to consider this option. Also, your only limitation is how much hard drive space you have on your computer for Email storage—probably way more than enough compared to on the server.
The alternative is IMAP, which allows you to keep your email on the server for as long as you have the space for all of them. IMAP Email can be great if you’re checking Email all day via various sources such as your smart phone, a remote web page interface, or on your computer when it’s logged in.
Cloud Email, on the other hand, is like having all IMAP all of the time. If you’re not in a corporate environment, and need Email for personal or business purposes (say as a small business owner or consultant), Cloud Email is a good option because you literally do not have to set anything up on your end—just sign up for an Email account online and go!
Email services such as Google’s GMail is a good example of that. When you sign up for your Google+ account, you get 15GB of cloud-based data storage. That’s a lot of Emails!
When using GMail’s interface you are essentially using a suite of Google productivity tools all online as if you were using MS Office (i.e. Outlook, Word, and Excel)—especially when using Google’s Chrome web browser. Also, GMail connects you to all of Google+’s social networking channels, like Circles and Forums.
Working in “The Cloud” is a great forward-thinking idea. However, businesses are still a little too leery about trusting their sensitive content to “The Cloud” be it Google, Microsoft’s OneDrive, DropBox, Apple’s iCloud, etc. Security is the biggest concern here, and having a remote solution like cloud-based Email puts too many corporate execs in a tizzy.
The best advantage of Cloud Email is Universal Access. Whether you are at a shared computer in a library, borrowing someone’s mobile device, or at work accessing your own personal email, Cloud Email is a very effective way to handle your remote Email needs.
However with Cloud Email you have to consider the Image Factor. In other words, when you’re in a professional meeting and you’re exchanging Email addresses with a new client, you really don’t want to have email@example.com representing your company’s image—that can look a bit amateurish in a lot of professional circles. You should have a legitimate, dedicated, and unique domain name and email address to give your company that professional sheen, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The table below sums up the aforementioned benefits and drawbacks for each email access platform option:
In conclusion, whatever format of Email access you use to manage your electronic communications, one thing is for sure: Email isn’t going away anytime soon!