Written by Daniel Fletcher Category: eMail
Published on 07 October 2011
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Gmail

Gmail is an email service provided by Google.  It is listed here as a separate category because it provides a variety of methods of access to a mailbox through a combination of paid and free services.  The free service provides a standard webmail access to a mailbox that must be in the domain of gmail.com.  The service is sustained by advertising shown on the user interface.  Additionally, they also provide both POP and IMAP access to mailboxes.

A separate offering from Google/Gmail is a paid hosting of mailboxes.  Through this service, one can have a full domain of one’s choosing (ie: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).  The cost is between $3 to $5 per mailbox per month.  Through this service, users can still access the mailbox through their webmail access, through POP, IMAP, through a Gmail app designed for Blackberry phones, through any of the popular email client programs, or through a plugin that works with Microsoft Outlook.  These mailboxes currently have a limit of 25 Giga Bytes.

Advantages:

- Provides convenient access to one’s mailbox from any web browser

- Google performs some junk mail filtering

- The paid service also provides seamless integration for users of Outlook that allows synchronized access between the local and web copy of email, contacts, calendar, and notes.  Additionally, shared calendars, company announcement pages can be set up.

- The paid version eliminates the need to perform additional backups of the email data.

Disadvantages:

- Gmail outages

- Email is being stored “out there” subject to hacking

- Cost for the paid version

- The plugin to automatically sync is available currently for the Windows version of Microsoft Outlook, but not OS/X or Unix/Linux

Microsoft Exchange

Microsoft Exchange is an email server product that provides a significant amount of functionality beyond just email.  It starts with a full email server capable of operating as a full post office for receiving and forwarding email through the SMTP protocol.  It also provides full POP and IMAP protocols for retrieving email using the typical email clients.  There is also a complete web access service.  Exchange can scale to enterprise organizations with tens of thousands of mailboxes spread across multiple physical locations.

Beyond email, Exchange was really designed to work with Microsoft Outlook.  Outlook integrates fully with Exchange and provides company-wide integration of mailboxes, calendars, to-do lists, notes, contacts, and address lists, shared document libraries, and automatic server-level message routing.  Complete security control is provided to allow users their data and designate who has access to what and what type of access (ie: read-only v/s modify).

Advantages:

- Provides a comprehensive solution

- Excellent web client allowing comprehensive access to most functions from any PC with an internet connection and web browser

Disadvantages:

- Complex to deploy and manage

- Cost prohibitive to run in a reliable fashion in installations of 50 or less mailboxes because it should run on a dedicated box plus the cost of the Windows server, Exchange server, and client access licenses

- The web interface is inconsistent and some functionality lost in non Internet Explorer browsers

Mobile

With the proliferation of smart phones, mobile access to email has become widespread.  There are several methods employed, and are dependent on the capability of the phone, the phone service company, as well as the data plan subscription.  Many smart phones provide an email client that functions as either a POP, or IMAP client.  This is often referred to as “pull type” of email, because one has to tell the phone to check the mailbox.  Some phone companies provide a “push type” of email, in which their systems poll the server where the mailbox is hosted, and forward any new messages onto their client’s phone.

Android powered phones generally provide an email client with POP and IMAP access, and client applications are also available to connect to MicroSoft Exchange servers.

In addition to POP and IMAP access (both push and pull, depending on the phone company), Blackberry phones provide the Blackberry Enterprise Service (BES) when coupled with the correct data access plan and server.  The BES provides a complete, mobile solution that provides wireless synchronization to the email box, contacts, calendar, memo, and notes.  It does, however require a Blackberry Enterprise Server and MicroSoft Exchange server in the back end to communicate with.  A significant advantage for business users is that all wireless communication between the Blackberry and the BES are fully encrypted.  Alternatively, there are third party solution providers that provide this service for a monthly fee, thus eliminating the need for in-house servers.

Apple’s iPhone also provides POP and IMAP access.  It also has Blackberry Enterprise Service integration (see above) and Exchange Active Sync that provides full wireless synchronization with Microsoft Exchange.

Windows Mobile powered phones provide Exchange ActiveSync wireless push synchronization with Microsoft Exchange servers, thus providing the functionality similar to Outlook, but in a mobile phone.

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