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Jan 25, 2024

Optimizing Email Infrastructure for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs): A Comprehensive Guide

Email is the “bread and butter” of corporate communications, and it’s here to stay (at least for the time being). Used in enterprises, big or small, email is the backbone for both internal and external interactions.

With 77% of marketers observing a rise in email engagement over the past 12 months, it’s obvious that email still has untapped potential to be used for more than just “friendly reminders.” Think about marketing optimization, outreach efforts, or creating client nurture campaigns, and you’ve barely scratched the surface. 

This guide will take you through the intricate process of optimizing your email infrastructure. 

Read on to explore: 

  • Tips on choosing the right hosting solution for your business.
  • Training processes so your employees are fully prepared to meet security challenges. 
  • Key performance indicators that help calibrate your communication strategy.

Assessing the Scale of Your Business’s Email Needs

Your employees are a goldmine when it comes to assessing business needs on every front: financial, operational, etc. Conduct surveys among your workforce to understand how your staff uses email and what they need to make the most of it. 

  • Collect and analyze feedback on how their needs evolve and what they prefer regarding internal and business-client communication. Tools like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey can help create and distribute surveys.
  • Then, leverage email analytics tools like Google Analytics, for instance, to track relevant key metrics, including email volume, response times, and peak usage periods
  • Look at how email integrates with other business applications you’re using. For instance, a Small or Medium-sized Enterprise SME) focusing more on sales requires integration with customer relationship management (CRM) tools.
  • Consider where your business is headed. Assess projected expansions, potential workforce increases, or pending marketing campaigns that may influence your email needs. You can easily do this using tools like Zoho Analytics or Tableau for future resource planning.
  • Wrapping up, check to see if your current email infrastructure is scalable and to what extent. Consider if it could easily accommodate increased email traffic and additional users. Use scalability tools like AWS Auto Scaling to automate the adjustment of resources based on increased demand, if need be.

The Role of Email in SMEs’ Communication and Operations

Email plays multifaceted roles as a primary communication channel within SMEs. It allows team members to communicate more efficiently, ensures that information is available around the clock, and offers immediate access to updates and project-related discussions.

It also serves as a professional channel for communication with clients, vendors, and partners, maintaining a consistent brand image and fostering long-term client relationships. 

From the very first step — writing cold emails and reaching out to clients, email is the medium for turning prospects into leads. Furthermore, newsletters, promotions, and even customer support communications via email enhance customer engagement.

How to Choose the Right Email Server for Your SME

To make the best choice for your company’s communication requirements, consider the server option that can scale as your business grows. The same goes for businesses that need to scale down — choose a flexible option that adjusts to your business needs.

Comparison of Different Email Server Options

Let’s take a look at the major pros and cons when it comes to choosing your designated email server provider.

Cloud-Based Email Servers

  • Pros: This type of server is easily scalable, and as such, it can accommodate any company’s growing email needs without significant infrastructure investments. It is also accessible from any place with an internet connection, boosting remote work capabilities. As the service provider handles software updates and security patches, the company has one less thing to worry about. One popular cloud-based email server example is Google Workspace.
  • Cons: Cloud-based servers rely on a stable internet connection, which might be problematic in regions with connectivity issues. Some cloud-based solutions have limited customization options. Businesses with specific demands might appreciate more flexible, tailored solutions.

On-Premise Email Servers 

  • Pros: This type of server is preferred by companies looking for complete control over their email environment and customized configurations. On-premise servers provide more control over sensitive data, which is essential for businesses that face strict compliance requirements. Microsoft Exchange is one of the most well-known examples of on-prem email servers.
  • Cons: This is not an option for companies just starting out, as it requires significant upfront investments in hardware, software, and maintenance. These need to be handled by the organization, which increases costs and responsibility.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Email Server 

The following factors play a crucial part in making the best choice for your organization.

1. Cost

Aside from the initial setup costs, evaluate the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), which includes maintenance, upgrades, and potential hidden expenses (downtime, security measures, data integration, etc.). Choose the essential features you cannot compromise on, then check if the chosen email server aligns with your budget.

Go with a subscription-based model if you do not wish to make a major initial investment. This way, you’ll only pay for the services you need. As your business grows or downsizes, you can switch to a pricing model that adjusts resources based on fluctuating requirements.

2. Scalability

Choose a solution that can easily scale with your business, considering the number of users (actual and projected), required storage capabilities, and must-have features. Then, check the server’s capability to perform under periods with heavy email exchanges.

This is paramount for businesses with projected growth that require scalable storage solutions. Consider servers with storage capacity extension to avoid switching providers just as your business thrives.

3. Ease of Use

Daily operations require a user-friendly interface. To help your team transition to a new server, consider how intuitive the server’s dashboard is and what administrative tools it’s equipped with. Ensure that the configuration options are straightforward and that tedious maintenance tasks can be automated to reduce workload.

Choose the email server that requires less training for your staff. Assess their technical proficiency to make sure the transition is smooth.

4. Integration Capabilities

Does your email server integrate well with your existing business apps and systems? 

Asses integrations with your project management tools (Jira, Basecamp, etc.) to ensure that:

  • Project-related communication is easily accessible.
  • Email attachments and discussions can be incorporated into project documentation.
  • Your teams can synchronize project milestones and deadlines with email calendars. 

Review integrations with collaboration tools (Slack, Asana, Microsoft Teams, etc.) to ensure that: 

  • Important email threads can be easily converted into chat discussions, promoting real-time collaboration.
  • You can create tasks from emails and integrate email notifications directly within the collaboration platform for a unified communication experience.
  • There’s no need to switch between email and collaboration platforms. 

If data flow is streamlined between these different tools, you’re all set.

Now, you need to check for available APIs and assess their performance. This is especially important for SMEs with elaborate development requirements that need tailor-fit server solutions.

Axigen’s mail server software offers tailored options for SMEs that address the unique needs of smaller businesses by providing the following:

  • Scalability: Solutions are designed to grow with your business, ensuring that your email infrastructure evolves alongside your organization.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Focusing on cost-efficiency, we provide SMEs with robust email solutions without imposing exorbitant expenses.
  • Ease of use: The user-friendly interfaces aim to simplify email management for SMEs, reducing the need for extensive technical expertise.
  • Security: We strongly emphasize security features, helping SMEs safeguard their sensitive communication and data.

Five Strategies for Streamlining SMEs’ Email Operations

Optimizing email management can save time, reduce errors, and improve overall communication. Here are five strategies SMEs can employ to enhance their email operations.

  1. Choose a centralized email platform that acts as a unified communication hub. This will consolidate email accounts, contact lists, and calendars, reducing the risk of overseeing important information.
  2. Automate recurring tasks by configuring filters and rules to categorize and prioritize incoming emails. This cuts back on manual sorting and promptly addresses important messages. Corroborate that by setting up automated responses for routine inquiries to save time and effort.
  3. Organize folders based on projects, clients, or urgency to simplify navigation and ensure users can quickly locate and manage their emails. Set up routine clean-up and sorting sessions to remove clutter and prioritize important tasks.
  4. Make sure the platform grants seamless email access from smartphones or tablets. This, combined with synchronization across devices, will maintain consistency in email operations. Now, your employees can easily switch between different devices without disruptions.
  5. Optimize performance with system maintenance tasks, including updates and performance checks. After you reduce the risk of downtime, implement email archiving practices to manage storage efficiently. This ensures compliance with data retention policies while at the same time contributing to better performance.

Best Practices for Enhancing Email Security

Building trust with clients and partners is a crucial aspect of SME development and can be achieved through robust safety measures that guarantee data protection. Let’s go through the main best practices.

1. Vendor Security Assessment

SMEs often collaborate with third-party vendors. Checking and approving their security measures is essential for preventing security vulnerabilities that could affect the company. 

To mitigate risk and protect customer data, you can develop a questionnaire that asks vendors to explain security practices in detail. Inquire about data encryption, employee training, and incident response plans.

2. Mobile Device Security

Once remote work grew in popularity and adoption, many SME employees started using mobile devices to access company emails, which took mobile device security measures to another level. 

Remote access security requires a secure connection and going the extra mile, like swiping company data from lost or stolen devices. Ask employees to set up passcodes or biometric authentication on their mobile devices for an added layer of security.

3. Email Retention Policies

Email retention policies specify how long emails are kept. Financial transaction emails, for instance, are retained for a minimum of seven years to align with tax and audit requirements.

This translates into reduced legal risks, complying with regulations, and effectively managing storage costs for SMEs. To automatically set up and reinforce policies, you can use email archiving tools like MailArchiva or Barracuda Message Archiver.

4. Data loss prevention (DLP)

DLP helps prevent accidental or intentional data leaks, protecting your company's reputation and avoiding legal consequences. SMEs use DLP tools (McAfee MVISION Cloud, Digital Guardian, etc.) to scan outgoing emails for sensitive information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, or proprietary business data.

You can integrate most DLP tools with your email system to enable real-time scanning of outgoing emails.

5. Secure Email Gateways (SEGs)

Secure email gateways act as a filter between your company's email system and external systems. They filter incoming emails to block malicious content like phishing attempts, viruses, and spam. SMEs often lack dedicated IT staff to manually filter emails, which makes implementing SEG even more important in their case.

Look for a reliable email security service that doesn’t exceed budget limitations. Services like Microsoft Defender for Office 365 or Proofpoint offer strong protection without breaking the bank.

Ensuring Compliance and Data Protection

SMEs need to obtain explicit consent from individuals before processing their personal data. Make sure your emails comply with GDPR requirements, especially in terms of obtaining and recording consent.

PCI DSS standards are the norm for SMEs needing to handle email payment card information. To protect sensitive financial information, avoid transmitting sensitive cardholder data via email and implement secure payment processing systems such as Point-to-Point Encryption (P2PE), tokenization, or Two-Factor Authentication (2FA).

Techniques for Secure Data Handling and Privacy Protection

Implement end-to-end encryption for sensitive email information to ensure that only the intended recipient can decipher the content.

Use TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocols to safeguard the transmission of emails between servers. TLS acts as a code for the communication channel, preventing interception and unauthorized access during the email's journey.

Importance of Regular Data Backups and Recovery Plans

In the event of data loss or system failure, you must promptly restore critical information. You can store backup copies offsite or in a secure cloud environment to do this.

Outline the steps for data recovery, system restoration, and communication with affected parties in the case of email incidents. Ensure that key personnel are familiar with their roles and responsibilities during recovery.

The Importance of Continuous Training for Your Staff

Training staff is crucial for any organization because it significantly contributes to its health and security. Adequate staff training helps employees recognize phishing attempts, a common method cybercriminals use to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information.

To help with your training and troubleshooting efforts, Axigen provides a vast array of  support and resources:

  • You can access extensive knowledge and documentation, including guides, tutorials, and troubleshooting resources.
  • Dedicated training sessions educate users on the effective use of our email solutions, including security features and best practices.
  • Collaborate, share insights, and troubleshoot issues collectively on our user forums. This community-driven support complements your internal training efforts.
  • Our dedicated support channels provide you with direct assistance. Address any issue, seek guidance on secure configurations, and troubleshoot technical challenges.
  • We regularly release software updates and security patches to keep your email systems up to date so that you can benefit from the latest security enhancements.

Optimizing Your Email Infrastructure Has Never Been Easier 

SMEs need to assess and adapt their email strategies constantly. Email operations should align with the organization's evolving needs and the digital landscape's continuous challenges.

Email can potentially guide SMEs toward success by integrating effective communication practices, marketing initiatives, and robust security measures in a single communication platform.

For a tailored approach to optimizing your SME's email infrastructure, explore our solutions via Our messaging services are designed to meet the unique needs of SMEs, providing secure, scalable, and feature-rich platforms for seamless communication.


About the author:

Ioana Sima