Setting Up an Email Service

Want to offer email to your visitors - now what?

Whether you're looking to provide an email service to your site's visitors, or to ensure that each of your company's employees has access to a personal mailbox, there are many ways of setting up an email service aimed at servicing groups of users. Remember, there is no one right way as your choice of solution will be dictated by your specific needs and situation, which are unique

Make this article a starting point for your research, and be sure to investigate your options carefully. By the time you're committed to a specific email service or provider and supporting active users, it will be very difficult for you to switch over to a different solution.

The following examples will help you begin the planning process for your new email service...

SMALL BUSINESS EMAIL SOLUTIONS

If you want to set up a free email service in minutes, several companies offer co-branded free email services for any site. Pros: Free and easy. Cons: you can't offer your own domain name, your service will be identical to the one on thousands of other sites, you give up all advertising revenues and you do not own your user base. Two large players in this market are I-P and ZapZoneNetwork.

BUILD, LICENSE OR CO-BRAND?

You need to consider whether you are going to build your free email service from the ground up, license an existing solution, purchase an email server package outright or co-brand an existing provider's free email service.

The answer depends partly on the funds you have available for this project. If your budget is very limited, you can either buy one of the cheaper server packages or co-brand your service with a provider such as Chek, Outblaze or BigMailBox.

Building a free email service from the ground up involves a very large commitment of time and money, but will enable you to distinguish your service from the competition by offering features not available through other providers.

If you want to use a proven solution, but maintain maximum control over users, advertising revenue etc. then consider licensing a package from an established provider.

CO-BRANDING

Although exact conditions vary from provider to provider, generally co-branding a free email service involves giving up part of the advertising revenue generated by the service, as well as partial or even total control over the user base.

For instance, a co-branding service might specify a 50/50 split in advertising revenues (with a minimum fee so that even if your traffic does not meet expectations you are still liable to pay something) plus a similar 50/50 split in ownership of the user base. Many co-branding providers will let you customize the service to match the rest of your site. Some will let you choose from a large "menu" of functions so that you can tailor your service to fit your audience.

Be very careful when entering such a deal! Get a legal expert to read through the contract, especially the clauses about revenue sharing! You don't want to end up having signed a document making you liable to pay over 50% of ALL the advertising revenue of your site. Make sure the deal is limited to the free email pages. Similarly, investigate in detail exactly what happens if you want to break off the relationship with the provider. Can you buy out the other half of the user base? What kind of value do they place on each user? Will they buy your half of the user base? What happens if they do not fulfil their obligation to you, or if their service is less than it was represented? If you break the contract abruptly, do you have to give up control over the user base?

Click here to go to the reviews of various email service providers