Cheaper and Better

Outsourcing your e-mail is a bargain compared with the cost of setting up and maintaining a traditional mail system. For example, equipping a 25-person company with a Eudora Pro setup costs upwards of $5,000 for the necessary hardware and software.

Outsourcing your e-mail is a bargain compared with the cost of setting up and maintaining a traditional mail system. For example, equipping a 25-person company with a Eudora Pro setup costs upwards of $5,000 for the necessary hardware and software. And don't forget the annual salary of a tech guru to keep it all running. Compare that with the flat rate to outsource the works: typically a $150 setup fee, then $3 to $10 per mailbox per month.

When it comes to value, Electric WebMail is the clear winner. It's the only service to include SSL encryption for secure mail transfer and storage, as well as automatic virus scanning, in its low price of $3 or less per month per mailbox. You also get a generous 10MB of storage space for each account.

You can access WebMail using any POP-3 e-mail client (IMAP is available for an extra charge), but its Web interface is sophisticated enough to meet most business needs. You get all the basics, including support for file attachments, mail forwarding, vacation replies and signatures, and filters for autofiling mail based on the content of the header (there's no spam-blocking feature, however). Travelers will appreciate the global company address book that holds phone numbers as well as e-mail addresses. We were also impressed with its search utility, which quickly locates messages in any folder.

A close second is USA.net Professional, which starts at $5 per mailbox. USA.net gives you 5MB of storage space for each account, and it supports both POP-3 and IMAP clients, along with its own Web interface. For 75 cents more per mailbox you can add SSL encryption to secure your mail no matter which access protocol you use.

USA.net's Web interface supports all the same features as Electric WebMail plus junk-mail filtering and custom spam rules to keep your mailbox free of clutter. Other extras include a personal address book and an online calendar that you can use for group scheduling. Its administrative tools are easy to use, and USA.net throws in administrator training and support too. You can buy user support for a few cents more per mailbox. Our only gripe is that USA.net lacks a virus-scanning tool.

Easier Email
If you still insist on keeping your mail system in-house, there's a better way to do that too. Eliminate the hassle of maintaining a full-fledged server with a dedicated e-mail appliance. You just need a network modem and the plug-and-play Technauts eServer.Mail ($699; www.technauts.com) to set up and manage POP-3 e-mail for your entire workforce. Likewise, the Intel InBusiness eMail Station ($699; Intel eMail Station) plugs into your network and uses a single ISP account to automate and manage e-mail for up to 50 users.

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