The Yahoo! email hack, that has exposed the personal details of about 400,000 accounts highlights that security needs to be at the front of business's mind. One way to avoid being caught up in this is to set up your own email service.
If you’re in business having your own domain name so that email looks like it's coming from your business and not a free online service. While that sounds complicated, it's actually quite easy. It makes you look more professional and your email address won’t change of you swap your ISP. You can also set up multiple email addresses for different purposes. For example, you can have an address for accounts, another for you, one for enquiries.
Another potential side-benefit of getting your own email service is that it won't immediately be obvious where your email is being hosted. If someone knows your Yahoo! email adddress, for example, they also know your login name. If your email address looks like email@example.com though, users don't immediately know ikf it's being hosted by Google or someone else.
To do this, you'll need to get a domain name and an email hosting service that you can link to it.
1 - Buy a domain name
A domain name is the address part of your email - the "myawesomebuisness.com.au" section. Domains are sold through companies called registrars. If you plan to buy an address that ends in ".com.au" you'll need to provide your ABN at the time of purchase and some form of proof that the name you're registering is a reasonable link to your business. That way, you can't register a name that makes it look like you're someone you're not.
2 - Find an email service provider or create your own email service.
There are lots of email service providers on the web - a quick websearch will reveal dozens. Find a few, check that they're reliable and have a good security record and make your choice.
3 - Put the domain and service together
This sounds complex but most email providers make this easy and provide detailed step-by-step instructions. In many cases the domain registrar you bought the domain from will also provide the email service so they'll do the linking for you. It may add a little to the cost but then you'll know it's been done correctly.
While all of this sounds expensive, it's really not.
If you settle for a ".com" address and not a ".com.au" then the domain and hosting might cost less than $50 per year. ".com.au" domains cost a little bring the annual cost up to around $70 per year.
Email hosting costs vary significantly. Google Apps for Business is free for up to 10 users or between $5 and $10 per user per month for more features and users. Others cost up to $1000 per year but the range of services can vary significantly so you need to evaluate and assess different providers based on your needs.
[Main article image: Flick user Stickbob.]