Lawyers need email – there’s no doubt about that. Not only does it serve as a vital link between attorneys, other firm members, and clients, but it also serves as a billables-generator; clients will email you and can charge them for the response. Email reduces material costs such as envelopes, ink, and stamps, while delivering messages in a fraction of the time.
So how do we go about getting email? Here’s a quick analysis of your main options.
POP means “Post Office Protocol”, which sounds archaic, but is a good way to get email at your firm. This is where you outsource your domain (@abc-law.com) and mail server to a third party. They buy the equipment, you pay a monthly fee. In this model, they hold all your firm’s emails offsite and you merely connect to the server and go fetch what you need. POP is cheap, easy to setup, and results in no real upfront costs, which is music to most attorneys’ ears. All an attorney has to do is to link it up with Outlook, which most everyone has on their computers anyway, and you’re ready to send emails from yourname.com. Pretty easy.
As with anything there are drawbacks, the first being that POP servers usually start removing older items out of your email folders to make space and reduce storage costs. The second is that there have been incidents where all emails were completely lost and were not recoverable – a very bad thing in the legal industry. Since you rely on the provider to backup your emails (because they’re the ones with the server) you’re at their mercy.
Hosted Exchange refers to you buying a server with software called Microsoft Exchange, plugging it into your wall at the office, configuring it to host your domain, and linking it up with all firm email accounts. This is obviously more expensive: you need a server, MS Exchange, and need to pay to have someone set it up. Additionally, you have ongoing maintenance costs such as utilities consumption, dipping into your real estate to make space for it, and regular IT maintenance. Finally, since you own it, it’s your problem. That means regarding acts of God or human error, the buck stops with you (which means you’ll lose any chance you had at being able to yell at “Peggy” from India).
That said, hosting Exchange is our preferred route because over its life it’s usually cheaper (no one leases their server to you with the intent to break even after all) and because it’s your baby. Once configured, emails deliver directly to your server where profit-hungry CEOs can’t get to them. Also, since the server is onsite, it can be backed up ensuring that you’ll never lose your data. What’s more is that with the right backup software, and with nightly backups, if someone messes up and deletes an important email you’ll have the ability to restore individual mailboxes (this means that your restore process won’t hinder the rest of the firm).
We’ll do quick pro’s and con’s here:
It comes down to two things: cost and ownership. Initial costs are lower with POP but, if you do it right, you can probably win the cost war by owning it yourself. This does, however, depend on size, and the smaller you are the more and more likely that winner of that cost battle is POP. That said, even if Exchange is a little more expensive, the above list of advantages making a pretty compelling value proposition for that increased cost. Now keep in mind you can buy Exchange-like features on a POP platform, they just come at additional costs, and can be pretty expensive. At the end of the day just reach out to a Managed Services Provider (MSP) and ask them.