Is your email secure? Backed up? If you suddenly lose your email, calendar, or contact list, this could either be a speed bump in your busy day, or a nightmare that may take days or weeks and a lot of money to recover.
If you use email as temporary communications or your primary method of business, it needs to be managed securely. When you or your staff use email from multiple devices – such as your desktop computer, smart phone, or website – you have additional privacy and security requirements.
Many small businesses have purchased an email software system like Outlook as part of their desktop software. Unfortunately, recent software updates from Microsoft do not include Outlook; you are encouraged instead to purchase MS Office 365 software where all of your email is stored on the MS Cloud.
Some businesses use free email accounts – like gmail or yahoo – where emails, calendars, and contact information is on the public cloud. It is accessible from any internet connection but is difficult to back up to a local device that you can control.
If you use email to transact business – employee records, business contacts, company newsletters, subscriptions, financial or consumer purchases, or personally identifying messaging – you need to meet privacy and security requirements.
Previous versions of Windows Server Small Business Server (SBS) edition included Microsoft Exchange so small businesses could create their own in-house email server. This is not included in Windows Server 2012 Essential (SBS replacement). But small businesses still have a few options:
- Buy the Microsoft Exchange Server full licenses, although it can be quite expensive
- Sign up to Office 365 which is a hosted / cloud based Microsoft Exchange service from Microsoft with email hosted in the USA. Offices will need to determine their level of risk using personally identifiable information in emails – including sensitive information like credit card, payroll, health information, and other sensitive content – which will be stored out of Canada and subject to US legislation and uses.
- Contract with a Canadian hosted Microsoft Exchange service with a Canadian based cloud service provider. This might be a cost effective solution and permit full access to email in an environment which is backed up and more easily accessible.
Features offered with a hosted email service
There are many features offered with a hosted email service:
- Collaboration is easy as you have access to group calendaring and scheduling, shared contacts, folders and calendars, tasks and task delegation, as well as public email folders.
- Fully functional email software.
- Sync capabilities to your smart phone without worrying about viruses, spam, or malware, and mail archiving is automatic. Store as much or as little email as you need and do so without dealing with annoying ads.
- Anti-phishing, anti-virus, and malware software are attached to each email connection.
- No data ‘left behind' on the device – all data is securely maintained in the hosted email. If a mobile device is lost or stolen, business email is not compromised.
- You can apply business rules – for example, emails can be prevented from being forwarded to an employee's home gmail account. Employees can securely work from home.
- All business data is maintained by the business. So if your employee wins the lottery and doesn't come back to work, all business emails have been maintained in the hosted email and not on an employee's home computer.
- Data is encrypted during the internet transmission.
To get a Hosted Email, you will need internet access with a data plan. You can continue to use your desktop computer and its cable internet access. When you use mobile devices, you can use your mobile provider data plan (Rogers, Bell, Telus, etc), or connect to a trusted WiFi connection.
You are still responsible for good security practices at your location including:
- Unique user ID and password on your computer network – including mobile devices – and
- Good password management – complex passwords that are changed regularly
- Physical safeguards to ensure that your work locations – including mobile locations – are secure from theft
- Common sense awareness – don't open suspicious phishing or spam emails
Business-class Microsoft Exchange email hosting services mean you're always in touch and up-to-date, in the office or on the road accessing your mobile email.
3 Things to look for in a hosted email solution vendor
- Canadian provider with data centres only in Canada (Alberta preferable)
- Reputable company with proven track record
- Contract including:
Termination clause – when the contract terminates, the vendor will:
Notify you in advance of termination
Allow local back up of your data or data transfer
Validate that your data has been completely and securely deleted from the data centre
Encrypted at the data centre – no one at the data centre can read your information and it is secure from someone else hacking into the data centre to steal your data
Confirm your backup plan for your email accounts. If you don't have one, create a plan.