This topic is closely related to Office suites because so many businesses use MS Outlook as their email client. Email has become a dominant form of communication in a relatively short period of time, but many firms do not think about email in a comprehensive manner. These are many things to consider. At a minimum, to meet state and federal regulations pertaining to registered investment advisors (RIAs), you must think about retention policies and privacy issues, as well as archiving, retrieval and disaster recovery issues.
There are also internal practice management issues surrounding email. How will you deal with spam? Is your email secure? How will you integrate email into your office workflows? Can and should you integrate email with your client relationship management (CRM) software? If employees will be using smart phones and PDA’s, how will that integration work?
Large firms have a great deal of flexibility when designing an email system, but for smaller firms, outsourcing the hosting of email, the archiving, and disaster recovery may be the best alternative. SMARSH (http://www.smarsh.com/) is one firm that has built a strong reputation serving the demanding needs of financial services firms. Redtail Email from Redtail Technology and AdvisorMail from LiveOffice are other examples of firms offering email, archiving and compliance services to financial service professionals.
A hosted version of MS Exchange is another way to outsource your email infrastructure. If you perform a web search, you’ll find numerous firms offering MS Exchange hosting. To give you just a few examples, 1&1 offers full featured hosted accounts stating at $6.99 per month per user. Appix offer plans starting at $4.95 per month per user. USA.NET, a provider of hosted MS Exchange solutions to over 1,500 financial institutions offers a full suite of communication tools at competitive prices.
For those willing to look beyond MS Exchange, Gmail for Business is enticing. For just $50 per year per user, Gmail for Business offers 25 GB of storage, plus IM, voice and video chat. Archiving and e-discovery tools are available at a modest additional charge per user. Gmail for Business is part of the Google Apps Premier offering, so those who sign up also get Google’s excellent calendar, Google Docs (documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings), Google Groups (for shared calendaring, shared mailing lists, etc.), Google Sites (Dynamic web pages you can create and share) and Google Video (a private video channel for your business). According to Google, there are already more than two million businesses running on Google Apps, so it might be worth investigating for your firm.