I have been busy the past week going through the effort of setting up and Exchange server to enable myself and a few others to have true access to all their e-mails while at home and on the road. This process has been quite eye opening as a small business.
It seems that companies such as Microsoft have conveniently forgotten that small businesses usually don’t have a homogeneous work environment anymore. Often these small companies are several people scattered over a geographically diverse terrain. I know several customer who essentially have almost as many offices as they have employees.
For most small businesses, especially ones that provide some type of electronic service, this actually works out better than the old way of having some huge head office and paying for massive amounts of travel. Rather than having your sales people operating out of one building and traveling all the time, small businesses have adapted and often have people scattered everywhere. Operating out of their homes and on their own laptops or sometimes company provided consumer electronics.
Unfortunately this situation creates a massive problem. You likely don’t have enough IT experience available to handle the intricate difficulties created by such a spread out organization. Actually most major enterprises have less locations than many of the small businesses I know of. This means that an IT force of [often] 1 cannot possibly manage the difficulties presented of so many locations. So instead of having a great system with everything backed up and properly managed you end up with a crazy mishmash of semi good systems and hopefully each one slightly better than the last.
That brings me back to Exchange. Microsoft has wonderfully set this server up to exist only in a fixed IP system with only 1 e-mail provider or ISP. Unfortunately this isn’t really the case for small businesses now. Often your e-mail provider is someone like Google for Domains and each user must log in independently for sending e-mails or else your e-mails get blocked as SPAM. This is one of those impossible situations where the tools just haven’t managed to keep up with the needs.
So what are you to do? Unfortunately not much, the best products out there just are too difficult to work with or simply cannot do what you want. The free or cheap products have so many holes that they might as well be Swiss cheese. This is a terrible situation we are in, e-mail management is so important and yet even major multi-national companies are having a terrible time doing this correctly. I am presently in the search for a quality solution to everyone’s problems but in the meantime please send your ideas if you should have some.