Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cloud Based Email Comparison

Email was the first core business service that migrated to the cloud. Mainly because the benefits of web based email are immediately obvious to users.  No more clunky desktop email clients that end up corrupting archive files.  No more running out of storage space. And perhaps the kicker that necessitated the switch to the cloud, the ability to immediately access email from anywhere with any device.  GmailOffice365Zoho, and HyperOffice all have email solutions for businesses. After the quick comparison chart below,are some of the benefits and common criticisms unique to each solution. Ultimately your choice of email provider will be based on the ability to integrate with other cloud services including Contacts, Calendar,  Document Management, and Collaboration.


is the undisputed leader in cloud based email service.  It was created in 2004 as an internal email client for Google employees.  It now has over 425 Million users, and is the email provider for over 5 million corporations.

With it's widespread adoption, nearly everyone knows how to use Gmail.  And it's design revolutionized web based emails.  It has excellent integration with other Google services like Search, Drive, Calendar, Tasks and Voice.  Gmail is fast, flexible and clever.  Features are constantly being tested in Google Labs helping Gmail retain it's technology lead over the other email platforms.

Despite being the crowd favorite, Gmail is not for everyone.  By default replies to emails are grouped as conversations. Although this feature can be disabled, it is off putting to some users.  Also Gmail embraces the concept of  tags over categories.  Again, this throws off some users who have gotten comfortable with older email clients.  Using filters can help new users get a handle on how tags work. Perhaps the criticism most often bought up by competitors is that Google parses emails for keywords, then uses these to show targeted ads. however this is only for free email accounts.  This is disabled by default with a paid account.


is enterprise-grade email from Microsoft.  Microsoft is the undisputed leader in client server email.  Exchange server is used by the vast majority of fortune 500 companies as their messaging system.

Nearly everyone in the corporate world has used Outlook.  It is the industry standard, and users like it.  The web based version is a familiar interface and easy to adapt to from the traditional client.  Microsoft bundles Outlook365 with their new cloud offering, Office365. It integrates with familiar tools such as Calendar and MS Word. So switching to Office365 from the desktop version is not a huge learning curve.

Microsoft's move towards cloud applications , or software as service is exciting, but a bit late in the game. The Outlook web client works well, but mainly in Internet Explorer.  Some key features such as document integration don't work nearly as well in other browsers. And some features common to other web based email clients are missing.  Searching for text within attachments yields unpredictable results. document types such as pdfs can not be added to document management with a single click. And Outlook365 doesn't recognize iCalendar (.ics) files.   Where features lack, users are directed to use the Outlook desktop client, which defeats the purpose of moving to the cloud.  However Microsoft is notorious for catching up on the technology curve as in the days of Explorer vs. Netscape. It's just a matter of time before Microsoft adds features that web users want.

Zoho Mail

is part of Zoho Office which debuted in 2005 and is a great contender in cloud based office tools.  There are already over 7 million users of Zoho Office.

Zoho is a company completely dedicated to working online.  Although a newcomer,  Zoho has the most comprehensive collection of cloud applications. The mail user interface matches every feature available from competitors, then adds a few, such as integration with social media. It's interface is packed with more features than Gmail, yet loads faster.  iCalendar files open up automatically. Look out Google.

The new car smell is great, but the Zoho applications are still being fine tuned.  A search for text within an attached pdf file didn't turn up any results in Zoho Mail.  Currently only Gmail can handle that task.   However new features are being added quicker than any competitor.  If you want to be near the cutting edge without getting cut, Zoho mail is your product.


, formerly WebOS, has been building an online collaboration suite since 2002.  HyperOffice has over 300,000 users. Once a company before it's time, perhaps their time has finally come.

HyperOffice Email stacks up well with the rest of the crowd.  It's products were built with small businesses in mind.  The company takes pride in customer service, and is quick to offer phone support to its users. It has an impressive suite of products that integrate well with it's email.

The HyperOffice user interface takes a bit of time to load. And it's not that intuitive.  The email search function does not allow for searching content of an email , never mind content of attachments. The site fails to detect when it's being viewed from a mobile device, making an already clunky interface unusable from a smartphone.  While Microsoft can afford to get by without a few features, a small company like HyperOffice cannot.  They have some work to do in order to compete with the other cloud email providers.

Gmail, Office365, Zoho, and HyperOffice are all acceptable email solutions.  Choosing one will depend mainly on user preference.  Before making that decision, consider features in accompanying products in the providers overall office suite, and how well those products integrate with email and with each other.  The good thing is that all four companies offer free trials, so definitely try before you buy.


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