Although we often associate email with specialist software packages like Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird, it appears email packages are in decline. Data for February revealed Outlook was only the fifth most used email client – beaten by Apple Mail and Google’s Gmail.
In truth, many of the advanced functionalities provided by email packages are irrelevant to private individuals who hold the majority of UK email accounts. People panes and reminder windows are of little consequence for personal accounts, while one-click actions are hardly intuitive to set up. By contrast, when you log into webmail, even technophobes are able to navigate around easily. As the only folder many people ever look at, the inbox is displayed by default. Other folders tend to be listed down one side of the screen, with a handful of key options available for selection elsewhere. Individual emails can be forwarded, deleted, marked as spam, highlighted or archived. All the basics are covered.
Getting down to business
For businesses, it might also be useful to perform advanced functionalities like searching for all messages with attachments in a specific folder. Folders themselves represent another advantage of email packages – Gmail struggles with folder creation, although Yahoo Mail enables instant sub-folder addition. And while it is possible to download webmail messages into an offline folder (the equivalent of Outlook’s PST files), it’s far less intuitive than Microsoft’s approach.
Even so, there are many advantages to cloud-hosted email services. Being able to login to webmail from any internet-connected device means you can work equally effectively from the office PC, your home laptop or a smartphone. If you can remember your login credentials, any web-enabled device should enable you to login to webmail. There’s no risk of messages having been archived in an offline folder only accessible from a single device. Your inbox will always look the same regardless of where you access it, and recent activities on other devices will always be fully updated.
Choosing to log into webmail rather than download messages into a software package also provides the full benefits of cloud hosting. Providing you have a stable internet connection, your data is always accessible. It doesn’t need backing up onto a data key or USB drive. It’s automatically shielded from malware and viruses by the webmail provider, whose reputation depends on keeping malicious content out of inboxes. And modern webmail spam filters block the vast majority of junk messages.
The heart of the matter
From a business perspective, the most important attribute of any email account is reliability. Messages need to be delivered quickly and with precision, without ending up in spam filters or going missing in cyberspace. A single work-related email could herald the start of an enduring working relationship worth thousands of pounds. Its safe receipt (and the successful delivery of replies) is essential for any company to survive and flourish in the modern age.