Choose an internet service provider for your business

ISP email service provision

Guide

As well as supplying internet connectivity, most internet service providers (ISPs) also run email servers that deliver and transmit emails on behalf of their customers.

Essentially, all ISPs deliver and transport your email in much the same way. You store all of your incoming and outgoing email on your own PC or client, while the remote mail server at your ISP acts as a storage facility or 'post office box'. You can read your existing email and write outgoing messages using email client software, such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird. Many ISPs also offer webmail where you can send or read your email using any of the popular web browsing software packages.

How to set up an ISP email account

You can set up email accounts incorporating the ISP's domain name. For example, John Smith at Invest NI, accessing the internet through an ISP named Largelink, might use the address 'john@investni.largelink.co.uk'.

Most ISPs offer a number of such addresses free with their standard packages.

Increasingly businesses are choosing to use their own domain name as part of their email address. So, in the example above, once the legal firm has purchased its own domain, the address would become 'john@investni.co.uk'.

This approach creates a more professional image and gives the company an unlimited number of email addresses. The downside, however, is that the ISP cannot be expected to sort incoming emails into large numbers of virtual mailboxes. You may need to have a local email server within your business to do this or host your email domain with an email service provider.

Evaluate your ISP's email service provision

When choosing an ISP it is worth considering if you can:

  • set up aliases to point email into different accounts
  • re-route emails to different addresses
  • create an auto-responder to emails informing customers that their message has been received and will be dealt with
  • use multiple systems to send and receive emails rather than using the ISP mail server, as this will have an impact on the configuration of users' machines

Find out if the ISP email server has built-in spam filtering and if it scans emails for viruses and malware before delivering to the end user. Most ISPs stop you from using their service to send 'spam' or unsolicited commercial emails. Read about some common email security issues.

If you use a smartphone, check how easily you can integrate it with your ISP mail servers.

See what else you should consider when negotiating ISP service level agreements.