Happy New Year! As I returned from time off for holiday celebrations and a ski vacation, I was greeted by that bane of the modern office worker – an overflowing Inbox. Of course, today’s technology means I can check email remotely from anywhere in the world as long as I have a cell phone connection. However, even that doesn’t stop the messages from piling up. So, with a nod to my inbox, I decided to share some thoughts on email trends for the coming year.

Trend 1 – Cloud Email Hosting

I’ve been around long enough to remember a time when email didn’t exist for most people. When it became widespread in the early 1990s, small businesses rushed to buy servers for hosting their email. Over our 30+ year history, Invario has supported on premise email servers for many of our customers. However, the downsides of this platform are hardware, software and support costs, slow performance, too many spam emails, a lack of security, and 24/7 human monitoring.

For these reasons, the trend is that many businesses are choosing to move their email to the cloud. In this scenario, the email server is hosted (and maintained) in a high-performance, high-security hosting company using shared hardware and resources, rather than purchasing a server and maintaining email in-house. A major benefit of cloud email is that users can synchronize email, documents, and data across different devices, and access business information no matter where they are located even when the power is out at your office.

For a company migrating from Exchange, I recommend Office365 rather than Hosted Exchange (of course, there’s always G Suite for companies who prefer Google products over Microsoft). The price of Office 365 can be significantly lower than the cost of Hosted Exchange for small and mid-sized enterprises.

In addition, Office 365 has several benefits over Hosted Exchange. Both options provide businesses with access to Contacts, Email, and Calendar. However, Office 365 also includes access to online versions of the Microsoft Office software, including OneDrive and Skype for Business. Hosted Exchange is built on the On-Premise Microsoft Exchange platform, current when one signs up. The Office365 platform was released in 2011 and automatically receives continuous updates from Microsoft, transparent to the user.

Note that you will need at least Outlook 2013 to be compatible with Office 365 email today. If you are not there already, you will need to upgrade your version of Office at your company, include the full office applications in the Office 365 subscription, or only use email through the web apps.

Another advantage is that Office365 provides documented security standards, such as SOC-2 reports, FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) credentials, and other certifications like SSAE 16 Certified, ISA 27001 Certified, and EU Safe Harbor Compliant. Hosted Exchange options may be secure, but they don’t have all the credentials listed above.

Speaking of security…

Trend 2 – Phishing Emails Targeting Small Businesses

In 2018, hackers increasingly went after small and mid-sized businesses. I expect this trend will continue in the coming year. One of their most effective methods is to create targeted phishing emails using sophisticated techniques, such as spoofing the email so that it appeared to come from a trusted friend or colleague.

Here are some reminders on how not to fall victim to these attacks:

  • Be suspicious of emails you aren’t expecting or that seem out of character – Even when they come from people you know and trust
  • Don’t click on links in email, instead open a web browser and type in the address – Hover over the link and carefully inspect the domain
  • Never divulge sensitive information such as passwords or account numbers via email – NEVER PUT INFORMATION IN AN EMAIL THAT YOU WON’T PUT ON A POST CARD
  • Never transfer money solely through e-mail communication – verify another way
  • Unfortunately, in the rush to deal with the flood of messages in your inbox, it can be all too easy to click on the wrong thing. Providing security awareness training for your team can help them recognize phishing emails before they click.

    This leads me to…

    Trend 3 – Inbox Management Tools

    Some people I know follow a methodology called Take Back Your Life, a workflow management system that uses Microsoft Outlook or G Suite to improve productivity. A tenet of this system is to organize incoming email using what they refer to as the four D’s: delete it, do it, delegate it, defer it. Those items that are deferred are further categorized and prioritized, with the ultimate goal being an empty inbox.

    I confess, I’ve never been able to work all the way through to an empty inbox. Plus, as an engineer, I tend to gravitate toward technology solutions for my challenges. One of my favorite products is SaneBox. This is a software program that filters my email, leaving important messages in my Inbox while moving the rest to a SaneLater box where I can go through them at my leisure. Using SaneBox has allowed me to become much more productive when it comes to running Invario and responding to customers in a timely manner. Given my experience, I see increased use of email management software as another trend for 2019.

    Something to point out is that SaneBox still requires discipline. It is important to go through your SaneLater box regularly. A message from someone you have never corresponded with in the past, or even a good customer using their personal instead of work mail, will likely end up in the SaneLater pile. If you don’t go through the pile regularly you may miss those opportunities that come out of the blue. When you do find these gems in your SaneLater, just dragging the message to your Inbox trains SaneBox for the next time this individual sends an email.

    Feedback

    If you have questions about this article, or if there is an IT topic you would like to know more about please email me your suggestions.

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    Dave Wilson

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