Directors’ Briefing • Attaching files is a good way of transferring important information. 2 Getting email There are several ways your business can implement email. 2.1Use a free free online email service. • Online email services are accessed through a standard web browser (like Microsoft Internet Explorer). • Popular online email services include Google Mail (www.gmail.co.uk), Yahoo! Mail (www.yahoo.co.uk) and Microsoft Hotmail (www.hotmail.co.uk). Email and the law A When you send an email, you are liable for its content. • If your employees make libellous remarks in a private email (or a newsgroup posting), you could face legal action. • Emails can be retrieved from the system long after they have been deleted. B It is a good idea to add a disclaimer to your emails. • These usually state that information in your emails is confidential. The legal standing of email disclaimers is debated, but they may deter lawsuits relating to your emails and will provide evidence of your good practice in this area. C There are regulations dealing with an employer’s right to monitor employees’ emails, faxes and phone calls. • Generally, you can monitor email traffic. • You can inspect individual emails for ‘specific business purposes’. (See Website and email law.) D The use of email for marketing is the focus of increasing regulation. • • All unsolicited commercial emails must be clearly identified as such. You cannot send marketing emails to consumers, unincorporated partnerships and sole traders without their prior consent — unless their email address was collected in the course of a previous sale or sale negotiation, 2 • Using a free address can look unprofessional. You are almost certainly better off purchasing email addresses to use with your domain name (see 2.2). 2.2Purchase mailboxes from your web host. • If your business does not have a network server, this is probably the best way to get email for your company. • The company which hosts your website should be able to supply email addresses too. These are often called mailboxes. • To look professional, ensure your email addresses end in your company domain name. For instance, each member of staff could have firstname.lastname@companyname. co.uk. • Mailboxes can cost as little as £1 a month, but they are often included when you buy space for your business website. See Your website strategy. 2.3Use your network server to set up and manage email addresses within your business. • If your business has a network server, this is probably the best way to get email for your company. It allows you to manage all company email internally. • Your network server acts as a mail server, storing all emails coming in to your business. • Each employee then connects to the server to send and receive their emails. • You will need to install mail server software onto your network server. • Setting up a mail server is a complex task. Your IT supplier or a consultant can help if you lack the necessary experience in house. 2.4There are some key points to check when purchasing mailboxes or setting up your server. • Make sure you have spam protection installed. Without this, your mailboxes will quickly fill with junk email. • You should also scan all messages for security threats like viruses. See IT security. • Ensure each mailbox is big enough to hold a number of messages (50MB or more). Cheaper email services commonly offer smaller mailboxes. “ Not enough time is the number one enemy of the business owner. Make sure you make good use of IT and software so that you can work as efficiently as possible. Sean McPheat, MTD Sales Training ” Directors’ Briefing • Make sure you can log in and access emails over the web. This is called webmail and can be invaluable when out of the office. 3 Email management, security and privacy There are a number of management, security and privacy issues you should be aware of when using email in your business. 3 covering the forwarding of messages with questionable content. • Set up and enforce an email policy. See An email policy for your employees. 4 Shared calendars 4.1Shared calendars make it easier to arrange meetings and plan ahead. • The risk is small, but you should use encryption to scramble sensitive data before you send it by email. • Many email packages allow you to encrypt emails. • Never ask customers to send sensitive details (like credit card numbers) by email. • A shared calendar system gives everyone in your business an online diary. • Each of your employees can record their appointments in their calendar, just like a normal diary. • However, because the calendars are shared, everyone in your business can see when their colleagues are busy or free. • This makes booking meetings much easier, because there is no need to confirm with each person. • Meeting requests can simply be sent and accepted or declined by email. 3.2Email is a common source of computer virus infections. 4.2You can run a shared calendar on your network server. • You should scan all incoming and outgoing emails for security threats. • Be particularly wary of emails with attachments, if the attachment was unexpected. Do not open suspect attachments. • See IT security. • Most shared calendar systems come as part of a complete mail solution. • The most common shared calendar system for network servers is Microsoft Exchange. • Other systems are available too, including IBM Lotus Notes and Zimbra. • Your IT administrator or supplier will need to set up these systems. 3.1Emails are usually sent across the Internet in plain text. This means they could be intercepted and read. 3.3Although it is an excellent communication medium, email can be a distraction. • Make sure employees do not feel they have to reply to every email as soon as it arrives. • Encourage employees to close down their email software when they have an important task to complete. • If there is a long or complex message that needs investigation before you can give a proper answer, do not just leave it. Take a few seconds to acknowledge receipt and let the sender know you will reply as soon as possible. 3.4Employees may use the email you provide for personal or inappropriate messages. • Set clear boundaries for what level of personal use is acceptable. For instance, you may permit employees to send personal messages when they are on breaks. • Some emails contain objectionable content which could offend members of staff. Make sure you have clear guidelines 4.3Alternatively, you can use an online calendar service. This option is ideal if you do not have a server in your business. • Free calendar services such as Google Calendar are available. They are generally accessed through a web browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer. • Alternatively, you can subscribe to a shared calendar service. The company which hosts your website may be able to provide this. • Subscription shared calendars are generally paid for monthly. The price depends on the number of users you have. • With a subscription service, all your diary information is hosted on servers owned by another company. You pay them to access your calendars across the Internet. • The most common subscription shared calendar is Microsoft Hosted Exchange. The calendar usually comes as part of a complete hosted email service, which is Directors’ Briefing charged monthly, per user. 4.4Although shared calendars are very efficient, switching to them can be difficult at first. • Your employees may find it hard to adjust to recording appointments on the computer instead of in a traditional diary. • People may be nervous of making the schedules more public. Most calendars have a ‘private appointment’ option for personal appointments. 5 Instant messaging 5.1Instant messaging (IM) systems allow you to hold real-time conversations online. • Each person using the system can log in and show themselves as available or busy. • Everyone has a contact list of other people on the system they know. • Conversations are usually conducted by typing messages into a window on the screen. • Messages are sent instantly. Some systems also allow you to hold audio and video conversations too. 4 • Some of your employees may already use IM for personal communication. If you use the same system in your business, it may be hard to tell the difference between personal and business use. See 6. • IM can be disruptive, interrupting employees with trivial questions while they are trying to concentrate. You can avoid this to some extent with the software’s ‘busy’ or ‘do not disturb’ functions. • Audio and video conversations use considerable bandwidth which could clog your network. 6 Management and business policies Further help There are other Directors’ Briefing titles that can help you. These briefings are referred to in the text by name, such as Setting up a basic IT system. 6.1Personal use of business communication systems can be a real problem. • Ensure your employees understand when personal use is acceptable. • For instance, you may allow personal use of email and IM systems during breaks only. 6.2Security is another key issue. • Some IM systems work over the Internet. These include Skype, Yahoo! Messenger and Microsoft Live Messenger and are generally free. • Other systems can be installed on your network for internal use. These include Jabber (also available as an online service), Lotus Sametime and Microsoft Office Communicator. You may have to purchase these solutions. • If you intend to install an internal IM system, you will need a network server. • Most communication systems like email and IM are not guaranteed to be secure. • You should ensure your employees understand that sensitive information should never be sent unencrypted. • See IT security. • IM software allows your staff to get answers to simple questions quickly. • It is an excellent way of keeping in touch with staff who are offsite. • You may even be able to use IM software as a customer service tool. For instance, you could offer online chat as an alternative to a telephone helpline. Thanks to Sean McPheat (managing director, MTD Sales and Training, 0800 849 6732). When you adopt new communication tools into your business, it is important you communicate how they are to be used. 5.2IM systems are widely available. 5.3Your company can see a number of benefits from using IM software. Expert contributors 6.3There may be situations where you feel use of certain communication systems is inappropriate. • For instance, it may not be acceptable for employees to use email to tell their line manager that they are on sick leave. • You should communicate any such situations clearly to your employees, through training and business policies. 6.4Make sure any new communication systems are fully covered by your company’s guidelines and policies. • See An Internet policy for your employees and An email policy for you employees. 5.4However, you need to carefully consider which IM system you use and how you implement it. Published by BHP Information Solutions Ltd, Althorp House, 4-6 Althorp Road, London SW17 7ED Tel: 020 8672 6844, www.bhpinfosolutions.co.uk © BHP Information Solutions Ltd 2009. ISSN 1369-1996. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without the written permission of the publisher. This publication is for general guidance only. The publisher, expert contributors and distributor disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions. Consult your local business support organisation or your professional adviser for help and advice.