It's a Free For All!
While nonprofits are able to fit email into their IT budgets because free enterprise-class email is readily available, what is the difference and how do you choose?
A Little Electronic Mail History
In the early days of the internet, the only cheap email available to nonprofits was something called POP. You remember those old POP email accounts, they would not synchronize across multiple computers. They provided very little storage on the server, so you would have to delete your inbox every 30 days. And your sent and "read" status email never synced; so in order to review a sent or already read message, you would have to remember which device you actually wrote and sent it from.
Fortunately, this email was replaced with a new standard called IMAP. IMAP servers solved the syncing problem because they sent email information in both directions. With IMAP accounts, you typically had a little more storage and could review your sent or "read" email from any device.
But the problem then became, "How do we sync Contacts and Calendars?"
Microsoft provided a solution for this with Exchange, and many businesses began building in-house Exchange servers so emails, contacts and calendars could all be synced properly. Google introduced Gmail as a competitor in 2004. Now two viable options were available for email, contact and calendar management!
Then several years ago, Google made their technology free to nonprofits and schools. This made the choice a no-brainer for many nonprofits, except for one problem: their entire staff was hooked on Outlook! While Gmail technically worked with Outlook, most users found it "buggy" compared to Outlook's native integration with Exchange. Fortunately, Microsoft caught up with it's own Cloud hosted email called Office 365 and was began giving it away to nonprofits for free.
Fast-Forward to Now
Nonprofits have a real choice to make between the two tech giants, not an easy one because their performance and reliability are comparable. When helping nonprofits choose, we find that it comes down to the organization's culture:
- Users who are wedded to Outlook, we steer towards Office 365
- Users who are comfortable with Google's browser interface, we move onto Google Apps
How to Transition
Thinking about transitioning to one of these free enterprise solutions? Ask your IT Support or computer consulting firm about migrating your email to one of these free solutions. Make sure to keep these things in mind as you manage this project:
- A clear budget
- A defined timeline
- A game-plan for minimizing downtime
- A process for preventing data-loss
- Attention to details like Shared Calendars, Resources and Public Folders
- Timely end-user support before, during and after the transition
Want to learn more?
Contact me and we'll talk about how to get your nonprofit set up with free enterprise-class email.
President, Steady Networks
President, Steady Networks