Best email provider for business 2019

It's a huge part of office life, but most of our working lives will see our email client dictated by the company we have joined, with little room to change.

However, for those of us going it alone and setting up independent businesses or those now managing major IT decisions, choosing or deciding to switch to a new email provider isn't something that can be decided on overnight.

Most of us will have used Microsoft's email offering, Outlook or Google's own called Gmail. Both offer a great business email service with loads of storage and integrated calendars. However, while these are great options, they're definitely not the only ones to choose from.

Here, we take a look at both well-known and smaller email platforms and provide advice on hosted or self-hosted options.

Read on for our pick of the best on the market...

Read next: Best email marketing software.

What to consider
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What to consider

As with picking any new software, there are plenty of things to consider before taking the plunge.

Usability is extremely important, especially if you're going to have a large amount of staff transitioning onto the new platform.

Ask your potential service provider questions like: Does your platform have a steep learning curve? Will you provide online training? What online resources are available to users?

You should also take note of the extras you'll get with the service you choose. Many listed will not only provide email but also document editing suites, advanced email security and business add-ons such as accounts and invoicing management.

If you don't need any additional features, you could save some money by just going for a standalone email.

One decision you will face is whether to go for webmail or desktop. See our guide below for an overview of each.

Webmail

Emails are stored on an online server mailbox meaning an internet connection is required to access mail. Some businesses prefer this over on-premise email hosts as it offers flexibility and doesn’t take up any physical storage.

Webmail usually provides greater storage space and in most cases unlimited storage is still pretty cost effective. However, because webmail services do not work offline, reliability can sometimes be an issue.

Desktop email

Emails are stored on-premise, meaning you don’t need an internet connection to access your emails. For some businesses, this is a big plus because it means multiple email accounts can be open at the same time without signing in and out of accounts. As desktop email doesn't require an internet connection it won't fail in times of poor bandwidth, gaining a point for reliability.

However, syncing devices is more time-consuming than webmail, data is stored in one place so is potentially vulnerable, requires maintenance and you are linked to an operating system that is restrictive if your business runs both PCs and Macs.

Gmail
Credit: Google

Gmail

Unsurprisingly Gmail has made it onto our list, and rightly so. Gmail is a hugely popular webmail service with a minimalist design and a user-friendly interface, complete with an admin console for business users.

April 2018 saw Google launch its "biggest update yet", delivering added security controls and smart features for reducing clutter.

One of the headline features is a new right hand panel which includes various popular add-ons for Gmail, such as Calendar and Tasks. This allows users to view their calendar within Gmail, making it easier to see availability and schedule meetings without switching tabs. Other new features include email nudging, snoozing, one click unsubscribe and full offline functionality.

For a full rundown of the new features read: Everything you need to know about the "biggest update yet" to Gmail

When it comes to security, Google has been working hard to cut down on phishing attacks using its machine learning algorithms and a new colour coded warning system. If a message is deemed by Google's algorithms as potentially malicious it is marked red, while lesser risks are marked yellow.

There is now a 'confidential mode', designed to protect sensitive data in case of an attack. This means users can now send an email in confidential mode and set a threshold for how long the content remains, as well as the power to manually revoke an email.

Pricing:

Currently, G Suite Basic costs £3.30 per user/month and its business addition is £6.60 per user/month.

On 2 April 2019 a new pricing structure will be implemented for G Suite Basic and Business Additions, marking this first change in price in 10 years.

In the US, G Suite Basic will increase by $1, and G Suite Business by $2. Price increases for other regions like the UK will be adjusted to recognise the increase in April.

The price change will not effect G Suite Enterprise users who still pay £20 a month.

Get Gmail here.

Microsoft Outlook
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Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft offers email as part of it's Office 365 package or as a standalone Exchange product.

Microsoft Outlookhas a familiar, traditional interface with straightforward practices meaning creating 'rules' is very easy and Outlook does have a few more categories than Gmail for organising the inbox.

Plus, Outlook integrates very well with social media channels and provides access to numerous email accounts and has an on-premise option.

With the Office 365 business package (arguably the best one for small businesses), you'll receive a 50GB mailbox, 1TB of file storage and total integration with Microsoft's Office apps for £7.90 per user/ month.

Alternatively, you can opt for Office 365's Business Premium edition which comes with everything in the regular package plus Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and Exchange, for £9.40 per user/month.

For enterprise customers, there are three tiers available: E1, E3 and E5. However, Outlook is only available on E3 (for £17.60 per user/month) and E5 (for £30.80 per user/month).

Exchange Online on the other hand comes in three plans, Exchange Online 1, a standalone email service offering 50GB of mailbox storage, Exchange Online 2 which provides a hosted voicemail and 100GB of mailbox storage and finally, a business premium plan that includes full Microsoft office integration and 1TB of file storage in addition to the everything included in the Exchange Online 1 plan.

Get Outlook or Office 365 here.

Mailbird

Mailbird

Mailbirdis a desktop email client designed for Windows 7, 8 and 10 users. The company has newly launched Mailbird Business and Business Essentials following the release of Mailbird Pro in 2017 - an email service often praised for its usability.

Mailbird Pro is available for both personal and business use but the most recent release is more clearly adapted to business purposes.

Mailbird promises, ‘Email made easy & beautiful' and offers a customisable interface which allows the user to pick from a number of themes.

One of Mailbird Pro’s main selling points is its integration with a range of apps such as Whatsapp, Twitter and Slack. However, as part the business packages, employers have the option of removing third-party app integration in order to minimise possible distractions for their employees.

The Business Essentials package also includes integration with the whole G Suite including Google Calendar, contacts and Google Docs.

Get MailBird here.

Rackspace

Rackspace

Rackspacehas both webmail and desktop email capabilities and with Rackspace mail users are able to access their emails through Outlook on desktop as well as the Rackspace webmail application.

Its business email server is ad-free and the anti-spam and virus capabilities are very good. Rackspace offers 25GB of mailbox storage and unlimited email aliases and advanced spam filtering from $2 per user/month.

However, Rackspace's basic package does lose points by not having email archiving and file storage included. But you can upgrade to the premium edition to receive 30GB of file storage, shared calendars, instant messaging and email archiving.

Rackspace also offers Hosted Exchange.

Hosted exchanges use the email technology from Microsoft Exchange Servers. Here, Rackspace has bought a licence and is essentially renting out the technology and adding its own services on top.

And while there are a few good hosted exchanges out there, Rackspace's hosted exchange is one of the most popular. Rackspace has a partnership with Microsoft meaning it provides enterprise-level syncing of Outlook Web Apps and works across mobile and tablet devices.

Get Rackspace here.

Zoho Workplace

Zoho Workplace

Like G Suite, Zoho Workplace (Zoho Mail) offers a range of business-focused apps including Zoho Docs and Office Suite.

Zoho Mail promises an ad-free, simple and reliable mail service with a guaranteed uptime of 99.9 percent.

And while it does offer a free package (ideal for startups), its prices are pretty low, with its 'pro' price plan offering 100GB of combined storage and 40MB of email attachments. All of this will set you back about around $5 per user per month.

You could also go for the enterprise option which offers 1TB of storage and 40MB of attachments for $8 per month.

Get ZohoMail here.

Atmail

Atmail

Offering both cloud and on-premise mailboxes, by choosing Atmail cloud mail hosting, you will receive between 100GB storage and 1TB of storage (depending on your price plan), maintenance and security updates, built-in antivirus and a custom domain, not to mention a user interface similar to Google Apps.

Atmail offers good customisation features, with custom branding, logos and themes integration coming as standard when opting for its cloud email server.

For those wanting an on-premise email service, you can expect to pay around £295 per year for 50 users.

Get Atmail here.

FastMail

FastMail

It's easy to get carried away with email and pay for a lot more than you actually need. If you can manage on a smaller inbox and file storage then cheaper options like FastMail are great.

FastMail's professional package - marketed at businesses - comes in at around $9 (£6.75) per month offering 100GB of storage per user, no ads or tracking, integration with own domain and able to sync with mobile devices.

Users will receive fast web and mobile apps, access to multiple domains and the advanced email filtering, making organising, storing and archiving much easier.

You can also add on more storage as and when you need it, to scale with your businesses.

FastMail doesn't tie you into a contract either, so you can change service if this isn't the one for you.

Get FastMail here.

Yahoo Mail
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Yahoo Mail

If you're a small business, micro-business or startup, Yahoo Mail offers a solid free email provider with great filtering capabilities.

Often a downside of free email platforms is the number of ads served. However, its responsiveness, cloud storage integration (Dropbox and Google Drive) and massive 1TB of free storage make it definitely worth your consideration.

It also includes a translator, which is a nice touch for a free email service.

But the record-breaking data breach suffered by Yahoo is worth a mention, which could have affected as many as 3 billion users.

See also: 31 of the most infamous data breaches

Away from its free version, its business plan offers unlimited mail storage capacity and very good address book and filtering capabilities. And of course, this is ad-free! You can get this from $1.19 per month.

Get Yahoo Mail here.

Free options
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Free options

Depending on how much storage you need, businesses can end up spending a lot of cash on an email provider. Money, that for a small business, could be better spent.

There are a couple of free options that offer a business-focused service. Other free email software is only available for personal use, so we'll avoid that for now.

We've already mentioned Zoho Workplace, but its free plan is one of the best. As soon as you sign up, you'll be able to set it up for up to 25 users, receive 5GB of storage per user, gain webmail access and run a single domain hosting.

Another great option is the lesser known Mail.com, a good, free emailing service, ideal for micro-businesses. A free user will receive 2GB of storage, virus protection, spam blocker and the ability to pool mail from other accounts into one Mail.com account.

If these don't quite fit, Yandex Mail from the Russian internet giant offers secure mailboxes with built-in antivirus and 10GB of cloud storage per person.

Our Verdict

Our Verdict

As always, selecting the right email provider depends on your business needs. For many, Microsoft Office still provides the gold standard of business email suites.

It can provide the best option if you're looking for an on-premise email provider, particularly for companies interested in using other Microsoft services. However, this can be a pricey option for younger businesses.

For companies with a strong social presence, Mailbird provides an excellent option for integrating a range of social apps within the email service, eliminating the need to switch between numerous tabs.

While for media companies, Google's email offering is frequently used in conjunction with the excellent G Suite (Google Docs, Sheets and Slides) which allows seamless sharing and editing of content. Gmail also provides a number of other interesting features discussed above.

For smaller startups, picking a free email provider like Yahoo or Zoho Workplace (for companies with under 25 users) could be the best option.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.