16 Points to Consider When Selecting an Email Hosting Provider

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Excedent Highlights Characteristics of a Reliable Business Email Host

– Excedent Technologies, the leading provider of managed email hosting with integrated security threat prevention, today issued a list of characteristics that businesses and service providers should look for when outsourcing their email hosting to a third party provider.

1. Focus on hosted email

There are thousands of companies that promote email-hosting services as part of a large product portfolio. However, because email is such a mission critical application and features and security threats evolve so quickly, we highly recommend looking for a provider that dedicates their business to building and managing secure and reliable email hosting services rather than providing it as one of many product or service offerings.

2. Privacy policy

Privacy has become one the biggest issues facing service providers and for many reasons, we recommend selecting an email hosting company with a strong privacy policy. Make sure that your email provider does not sell your account information to third parties or scan your email messages for advertising purposes. We recommend selecting an email hosting provider whose business model is based on providing the best possible email experience, and nothing more.

3. Managed data center

When selecting an email-hosting provider, it is vital that you research the environment where the email applications are hosted. It is crucial to understand whether the provider is hosting their applications in a collocation or a managed data center. In a managed data center, engineers are onsite 24/7 to monitor the servers, the applications running on the servers, and their connectivity to the Internet. Most managed data centers provide immediate response time to critical issues that emerge and will often address issues before they arise. In most collocation situations, once an email provider becomes aware of an issue they will need to send someone to the facility to address issues, or pay an hourly rate to a data center employee who is not likely to be familiar with the solution software or hardware. Thus, we recommend selecting a provider whose applications are hosted within a managed data center as opposed to a standard collocation facility.

Important note: If you are considering an email provider with a collocation-hosting environment, make sure their employees have convenient access to those facilities. This will eliminate many email providers from your search, as some are not even located within the same time zone as their facilities.

4. Responsive customer support

Customer support is one of the biggest differentiators amongst email hosting providers. Make sure your provider has a responsive customer support policy. Whether it is by phone, voicemail, email or Web-based support, response times are critical. For example, many large carriers offer toll-free support, but put their customers on hold for lengthy periods of time. Again, its is response times that are crucial, more so than methods of contact. We recommend looking for a plan with guaranteed response times and recent customer testimonials backing up those guarantees.

5. Scalable software and redundant architecture

Many email providers are hosting large numbers of email boxes on mail servers designed for small and medium sized businesses. If you are looking to provide email to a large number of users, we recommend quizzing your provider about the software they use, the operating system they run and the redundancy that exists within their architecture. We recommend Linux or Unix based email hosts, mainly because large mail systems have been proven to scale more efficiently on those platforms as opposed to Windows.

6. Evolving Spam defenses

Spammers get smarter every day. It is vital to select a provider that dedicates resources to tackling Spam and staying one step ahead of the bad guys. Left alone, Spam filters quickly become outdated, unreliable and more susceptible to filtering good emails while letting the bad ones slip by. Constant vigilance is required for successful Spam fighting.

7. Spam filtering safe list and settings

While every company looks to promote the accuracy of their Spam filter, we recommend selecting a company that provides a level of control over their filtering settings. We recommend looking for Spam delivery settings as well as safe listing capabilities. This will allow email administrators and users to dictate what to do with filtered messages, when to erase them and most importantly, if a good email is caught, the involved email address can be added to a safe list to prevent further false positive filtering.

8. Spam blacklist prevention

Public blacklists are used by thousands of ISPs as part of anti-Spam defenses. If a company’s mail servers were to become blacklisted for sending Spam, it would result in mail delivery problems and immeasurable costs in lost business. We recommend selecting an email provider that has automated processes in place to prevent Spam from being sent from their system, as well as clearly defined procedures to deal with a blacklisted server should it occur.

9. Immediate virus updates from multiple vendors

With the proliferation of viruses and the potential damage they can cause, it is critical to block new viruses as soon as they are spotted on the Internet. Anti-virus companies react to virus threats as quickly as they can, but sometimes certain companies are able to block viruses quicker than others. For this reason, we recommend selecting an email provider that receives immediate virus updates from at least two reputable anti-virus companies.

10. Feature-rich Webmail

Many email users enjoy Webmail for two reasons: (1) Webmail allows them to access their mail from any Internet-connected computer; and, (2) Webmail eliminates the need for the user to configure email software clients like Microsoft Outlook. We recommend selecting a provider with a fast, clean, ad-free and feature-rich Webmail interface. You also should check for Webmail branding capabilities if you would like to customize the interface with your logo and color choices to make it look like your own.

11. Service level agreement

We highly recommend selecting an email hosting provider with a service level agreement that guarantees 99.99% uptime and provides financial retribution if that level is not achieved.

12. Ease of administration

Whether you run a small business or a large enterprise, ease of administration is critical when selecting an outsourced email host. Make sure that you are provided with the necessary tools to add/modify/delete email accounts, adjust Spam filtering settings, set email forwarding, etc. Most email hosts will provide customers with an online control panel – make sure it will allow you to accomplish your goals in an efficient manner. Having to contact someone live at your email provider to make a simple change makes you dependent on third party schedules and priorities.

13. Large mailboxes and distributable storage

As Webmail and IMAP gain popularity and attachment sizes continue to grow, businesses need larger mailboxes to store more data on the Web. However, in many organizations, some employees need large mailboxes, some do not. We recommend looking for an email provider that offers a generous amount of storage space and allows you to upgrade on a per-user basis. This provides a cost-effective way to fulfill the needs of every type of email user within your company.

14. Documented API

If your business needs to integrate Webmail login and control panel functions with third party software applications, you will need to look for a provider that has a fully document Application Programming Interface (API). A documented API will allow you to seamlessly integrate the email functions with other Web service offerings.

15. Financial stability

When selecting an email provider, make sure the company is in a healthy financial position. Look for a provider that can display growth, profitability and positive cash flow. Most of the leading email providers are privately held, so most will not disclose detailed financials, but that should not stop them from providing general statements which for the most part, should tell you what you need to know.

16. Established clientele

Another way to determine the viability of your email host is to make sure they have a reputable customer base. Ask them who their customers are, and by all means, read their testimonials, case studies and press releases. These should provide you with good insight into what other companies also used their services.

About Excedent Technologies

Excedent Technologies is the leader in managed email hosting. The company equips service provider partners across the entire business spectrum with the ability to resell hosted email accounts protected from Spam, computer viruses and other threats facing corporate email systems. Excedent manages and maintains this critical communications infrastructure, freeing up personnel resources and eliminating the need for partners to purchase email-related hardware, software and security services. The company is privately held and profitable, serving more than 2,500 resellers and customers worldwide. For more information, please visit http://www.excedent.com or call 866.EXCEDENT (866.392.3336).

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Trevor Winters
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