This issue is primarily targeted at utilities that do not use organization-wide e-mail addresses and calendar, but even if your utility does use an enterprise e-mail system, don’t stop reading just yet – you might learn how you can save money!
I have noticed that a number of our customers, and even some of the Rural Water Associations that I work with, do not use organization-wide e-mail addresses. Instead they use personal e-mail addresses from one of the popular free e-mail services or they use their internet provider’s e-mail service. For example, rather than using an e-mail address of email@example.com, these customers use firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Is there a problem with this practice?
Not really, but it does present a face to the public that your utility is small and not very progressive – the same message that not having a website conveys. You do have a website, don’t you…? (If not, take a look at my very first issue here.) Would you like your customers to view your utility as being more in touch with the times? Of course – who wouldn’t?
So let’s take a look at why this is… Most likely, it’s because the utility does not want to make the investment to support an enterprise e-mail system. Traditionally, this has meant purchasing and implementing the most widely used server-based e-mail software. And, if you have remote users, this requires installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so those users can access the e-mail server. Resistance to implementing an in-house e-mail server could be due to any of the following reasons:
- Cost of purchasing the software
- Inadequate server infrastructure
- Lack of technical support
Upon closer scrutiny, aren’t all of these reasons cost-based? If you have to upgrade a server to support enterprise e-mail, there is a cost associated with that. Hiring outside technical expertise costs money as well.
Is there another option?
Of course there is! Google Apps from Google provides the following applications for just $50 per user per year:
- Google Calendar
- Google Docs
- Google Groups
- Google Sites
So if your utility has 10 employees who need e-mail and calendar access, the cost is $500 per year plus the registration fee for your domain name. Google Apps is web-based, so you can access your e-mail, calendar and documents from anywhere.
In addition, if your organization is required by public records laws to maintain an archive of all e-mails, Google Apps with Postini meets that requirement.
At Logics, we switched from an internal server based e-mail system to using Google Apps at the end of August last year. You may have noticed that we changed from using e-mail addresses with logics-software.com domain name to logicssolutions.com. The reason for this was our transition to using Google Apps. The migration to Google Apps was seamless and, I must admit, very easy (I don’t necessarily adapt to change any better than anyone else, even though helping folks change is my business). I can now access my e-mail and calendar any time I have internet access without having to connect to our office VPN. Plus, I love the easy integration with my Android phone!
If you have questions about Google Apps or would like assistance making the case to convince your board to implement an enterprise e-mail system, give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2011 Gary Sanders