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E-Mail Services

Electronic mail is rapidly becoming one of the most important methods of business communication. By using e-mail, businesses can quickly send messages to the millions of firms already on-line across the globe, for less than the price of a letter, phone call, or fax message.

VENDORS

BUYING POINTS

 

VENDORS

Commercial Online Services
Headquarters / Phone Number

America Online (AOL)
Vienna, VA 800/827-6364

CompuServe
Columbus, OH 800/848-8990

Microsoft Network (MSN)
Redmond, WA 800/386-5550

Prodigy
White Plains, NY 800/776-3449

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Dedicated E-mail Services
Headquarters / Phone Number

AT&T
Bridgewater, NJ 800/242-6005

MCI
Washington, D.C. 800/872-7654

Sprint
Overland Park, KS 800/736-1130

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Internet Service Providers
Headquarters Phone Number

AT&T WorldNet
Bridgewater, NJ 800/967-5363

PSINet
Herndon, VA 800/827-7482

UUNet
Fairfax, VA 800/488-6384

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BUYING POINTS

Where To Obtain E-mail Service

Currently, there are three types of services offering e-mail: commercial online services, Internet service providers (ISPs), and dedicated e-mail services.

Commercial online services are private online networks offering e-mail and other services. Members typically pay a monthly fee and are given a certain number of free hours to spend on-line. Besides e-mail, these services provide news, chat rooms, and software libraries. The biggest services include America Online (AOL), CompuServe, Prodigy, and Microsoft Network (MSN).

Internet service providers are firms that provide a connection to the Internet. By dialing into an ISP's computer, businesses can browse the World Wide Web, set up a home page or send e-mail. Most ISPs are small outfits, serving a local or regional area. However, there are a few major national players, including AT&T WorldNet and UUNet.

Dedicated e-mail services are online services set up by the major long distance carriers: AT&T, MCI, and Sprint. Dedicated services concentrate only on communication needs, providing e-mail, fax, and telex capabilities.

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Choosing Your E-mail Provider

When choosing an E-mail Provider, consider the available service based the features being offered, the ease of use, and the reliability of the Provider.

Consideration how easy or how difficult it would be to setup the service with your computer. Setup can range from a simple installation procedure to a very involved undertaking. Commercial online services are generally fairly easy to set up. On the other hand, businesses that are using an ISP may need to have some degree of computer knowledge to get started. What you need is a seamless service where the provider gives you a "wizard" type software which "walks" you through the setup process.

The second area by which to evaluate a service will be "features" available with the service. For example, some services allow you to send "alias" e-mail over the same service you are using. For example, you can send an email from sales@yourcompany.com as well as custserve@yourcompany.com without having to set up two accounts. Under one account you can have multiple addresses.

Other Providers require you to use a proprietary e-mail application, which can make it more difficult to forward messages or send copies to co-workers. Other popular features allow you to compose messages off-line, or to send computer files attached to your messages.

Another factor to consider is reliability. Is the provider notoriously known for slow service? Is the service often interrupted or is the system known to be down a lot of times. Likewise, you also have to consider the speed of service.

With most commercial on-line services and dedicated e-mail services, you can be fairly certain that your message will be delivered in a timely manner if the message is sent to another account on the same service. However, messages traveling on the Internet may be delayed by traffic or routing problems. As a result, businesses may want to use the same service as the intended recipient if they often need to send very urgent messages.

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Sending Files Via E-mail

Most e-mail programs have an option called file attachment. File attachment allows you to send virtually any type of computer file along with your e-mail message.

When sending, you must consider how the file is sent. All computer files must be encoded before they can be sent as an e-mail attachment. In turn, these files must be decoded at the receiving end. Unfortunately, different programs use different encoding formats. The sender and recipient must be able to utilize the same format for a transfer to be successful.

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Accessing Your E-mail From The Road

As e-mail become ubiquitous, it becomes necessary for people to check and receive their emails even while they are away from home or office. In a business situation, it is very difficult to give up the ability to send or receive messages while on the road.

Business executives who need to access their e-mail on the road must look for an e-mail provider that can offer multiple points of presence (POPs) across the country. This will allow a traveler to dial a local number to access his or her e-mail account from many locations.

An alternate solution is to look for a provider that offers a toll free access number. This will allow you to dial into the network without paying a toll charge. However, be aware that costs for the toll free call will eventually be passed along to you through the service charge. Accordingly, such numbers should be used for only short periods of time.

Needless to say, if you are savvy with Internet connectivity, you can access your email account through another service provider, by calibrating the "check mail" function of the email program you are using to retrieve your email.

NOTE: There are companies that offer free e-mail service that you can retrieve and view from the web. This makes receiving and sending email extremely easy even when you're on the road.

Juno (800/799-JUNO), FreeMark (617/492-6600), and HotMail (www.hotmail.com) are three of the top "free email" services in the country. The only requirement to establish an account is that you complete a profile before receiving the service. This profile is then used to send advertisements that appear when you access your account.

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Pricing

E-mail service in very inexpensive and , nowadays, is quite easy to get. For businesses that do require special addressing (xxx@companyname.com), there are free email services you can get. However, in most cases, commercial service providers generally charge a monthly fee of $10 to $15 per month, unlimited use. But even if your commercial provider impose bandwidth limit, you can expect to send or receive about 300 messages in the five hour window.

Learn more about e-mail programs here.


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