E-mail from Anywhere

How do you access your e-mail on the go?  Do you have multiple computers that depending upon where you are and what time of day you use to access your e-mail?

Honestly this is an issue that until recently I didn’t have any good answers for.  Actually I’m still working on perfecting my answer because there are a few small items that aren’t quite up to my expectations.

Most people access e-mail through an account created by their ISP or possibly a company specific e-mail account.  The general problem is we all need far more e-mails than there is space on the server to store them.  Thus the e-mails are downloaded to our computers and magically get deleted from the server.  For the most part this works quite nicely, except if you use multiple computers or would like to access your e-mail (and history) while on a business trip.

Most small businesses have to deal with this problem all the time and generally solve it the easiest way possible.  Ignore the issue and hope it doesn’t come back to bite you.  While this is certainly the simplest solution it doesn’t really solve the problem.

What you need is a simple way to access all your e-mails online.  So to do that you need one of 2 things.  An online e-mail service like Google.  Google actually offers a domain e-mail solution that combines your web domain and their e-mail services.  Or you need your own e-mail servers.

Personally I actually use a combination of the 2 solutions.  For personal consumption I use Google since it is just so simple.  And I would recommend any small business to take a serious look at Google for domain e-mails.  It pretty much just works and the cost/investment is pretty much zero.  For business I actually have my own Microsoft Exchange server.  This is an ideal situation since Exchange has high powered web mail capabilities as well as excellent integration into Microsoft Outlook.  My new solution is actually to use Exchange and enable the Exchange IMAP functions.  With IMAP almost any mail client can connect to my e-mail accounts so I now have my mail on every one of my many computers.  Its even fully accessible on devices like smart phones.

The really nice thing about having your e-mails accessible from anywhere is that you are no longer restricted to your laptop or desktop.  And if the computer crashes you don’t spend a pile of time crying about lost e-mails.

Centralizing your e-mail may cause a little bit of short term pain.  The benefits so outweigh the problems you may have in the short term though.  No loosing e-mails in a computer transfer.  No longer end up out of touch on the road.  No panicked requirements for a Blackberry.  Most of all it also means that the number of e-mails you store is now only limited by the number of hard drives your willing to stuff into a server, or the amount of space a generous e-mail provider like Google will give you.

For setting up a self hosted solution like MS Exchange you will likely need an IT expert.  I have considered writing up a bit of a tutorial for doing such but I am concerned it may be a little to technical for this blog, opinions would be welcomed.

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