By Mike Barnett
I am frequently asked this question: “Which handheld device should I buy to best manage my e-mail when I am out of the office?” The answer is: That depends.
Before you buy a handheld device, you need to take a look at your business and determine what functions you would like the device to perform and what features you will need.
In addition to sending and receiving e-mail, will you use the device to manage your contacts? Will you use it to carry around listings from your MLS? Will you use it with your lockbox? The answers to these questions will help you narrow your choice. If all you want the device for is sending and receiving e-mail, your choice will be based on the types of devices supported by your Internet Service Provider.
Another consideration in making your decision is whether or not you need to see/manage your e-mail from anywhere rather than just using the handheld device itself.
Additionally, do you want to share the e-mail with others, such as team members, partners and/or associates?
If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes,’ then the challenge will be how (and where) to keep copies of all of your e-mail in a readily accessible location that can be accessed over the Internet.
As with most technologies, there is more than one solution.
For instance, I have associates that use one main computer (in the office or home) and then use “Go to My PC” (or a similar service) to access their “main computer” and manage remotely the e-mail resident on their “main computer.”
Benefit: All your e-mail is in one central location and can be easily backed up.
Drawback: If you do not have Internet access, you are cut off from your stored e-mail.
Another solution, used by many, (but not my preferred solution) is to use the setting in your client side e-mail application (Outlook, Outlook Express, etc.) that allows you to “leave a copy of mail on server.” This setting is part of the Post Office Protocol (POP) and is located in your e-mail software. While this solution will accomplish your goal of keeping all the e-mail in one place-on the server-the functionality is limiting.
How is This Limiting?
Managing e-mail effectively requires creating an e-mail filing system, comprised of “folders.” So not only do you usually want to leave a copy of mail on the server, you would like to have that mail sorted into appropriate folders for ease of search and retrieval.
Another solution would be to replicate your file management system on your local computer on an Internet server, then with any computer (and/or handheld device) you can access (and manage) the e-mail effectively and efficiently, while still having it on your device for reference when you are not online.
This solution can be accomplished with IMAP.
As explained in last month’s column, setting up an IMAP account in your e-mail manager (on your computer and/or handheld device) is as easy as selecting IMAP instead of POP (in the pull down menu) when setting up your e-mail account in your e-mail manager. In order to be able to do this, your e-mail host must support IMAP. Most first-tier e-mail hosts offer IMAP as an option to or in addition to POP.
Many ISPs do not offer IMAP because e-mail is not their main product; connectivity to the Internet is.
Maintaining an IMAP server requires a lot more resources (hardware/software/human) than the ISPs are willing to invest in e-mail.
Since many ISPs are not being paid to deliver e-mail, but provide connectivity, they take the easiest path-to make available only the POP protocol, which, for mobile professionals, may not provide the best solution.
So in summary, I would suggest you look for an e-mail host that can deliver the functionality you need (like IMAP). RE