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GMAIL: IS FREE EMAIL A GOOD FIT FOR YOUR SMALL BUSINESS?

Recently, after too many recurring crashes of Entourage, Microsoft’s “Outlook” for the Mac, I decided to give Gmail a try. Gmail is the free, Web-based email program from Google.

If you’re used to using Outlook, Entourage or a similar desktop-based product, Gmail takes some getting used to. Its Web-based, folder-free, threaded-email interface is quite a departure from what you’ve been using.

Reasons to Switch:

  • Junk Mail Filters – Although not perfect, Gmail’s filters are the most effective I’ve used, due in part to leveraging Gmail’s entire user base. You can learn more in this video.
  • Universal Access, Universally Synced – If you work on multiple computers or you use a smart phone, Gmail’s Web-based approach may be reason enough to switch. Whether I’m replying to an email on my laptop, our kitchen iMac or my iPhone, Gmail keeps all my email correspondence synced.
  • Incredibly fast search – As emails piled up, Entourage took longer and longer to find the one I was looking for. Searching through the “Sent” folder might take over a minute to find the email I needed. Gmail, on the other hand, can search through all my emails in seconds. My only frustration is that the matches need to be exact; in Entourage a search for “cyb” would bring up any mentions of my wife Cybele, in Gmail, not so much.

Reasons to Stick:

  • No folders?!? – Yes, it’s true. There are no true folders in Gmail. You can, in fact, use Gmail’s “Labels” as make-shift folders, but I decided to “go native” and try and live without the 100+ folders I had created in Entourage. (One for each client, receipts, personal stuff, etc.) I did create a few labels in Gmail during a transitory period, but these days I only use one, Action Items, which helps me keep my Inbox clean.

    Because Gmail’s search is so good, within a week I didn’t miss folders at all.

  • Web-based application – For some people this may be a reason to switch, for others it will be something they can’t overcome. The downside of a Web-based application is that you need access to the Internet to use it. (However, Gmail has a feature where you can keep a copy of all your emails on your computer for search and recovery. This allows Gmail to work just like a desktop email program when you’re offline.)
  • Not free forever – Gmail gives you about 7 Gigs of space (currently) under the free plan. If you need more than that, you will have to upgrade to a paid plan. I only wish Gmail had a better search tool to find and delete large attachments; this would allow users to reduce the space they need for their emails.

Key Features of Gmail:

  • Send from your domain – All business email should come from the business’s domain name, not from @gmail.com. However, in Gmail you can send and receive emails from your business email address. This video shows you how.
  • Mac users can forward HTML emails – One of my long-standing frustrations with Macs is when you forward an HTML email in almost any program it falls apart. However, with Gmail you can forward an HTML email to a friend and it arrives in one piece, the way nature intended.
  • Gmail Labs – As good as Gmail is out-of-the-gate, you can add features created at Gmail Labs. My favorites include Undo Send (in case you hit send too quickly) and Forgotten Attachment Detector, that alerts you if you referenced an attachment but didn’t attach anything to your email.

In Conclusion

I’ve found Gmail to be an essential tool for communication, and I can’t imagine going back to a desktop application. Its natural syncing abilities, lightning fast search and scalable toolset make it a must-have for any growing business or entrepreneur.

If you need help to improve your search or social media visibility contact flyte new media today.

–Rich Brooks
President, flyte new media

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