Post initial setup, a primary concern will be the log-on issue. If your organization is fine with a separate log-on for your email provider, then this step will be quick. However, that's not typically what businesses want or users expect. In general, users expect to sign onto their desktops and have their email and file sharing sign-ons happen as part of that one-step process. Not surprisingly, this is called Single Sign-On (SSO) and it's enabled in one of three ways: through the use of a back-end directory service like Microsoft Active Directory (AD); an identity management service, like Okta (one of our Editors' Choice winners in that category); or several compatible web services that include SSO along with other apps and email services, like Google G Suite Business and Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium (two of the top providers reviewed here). Which method you choose depends on how your business is configured today and your long-term cloud services strategy. It's definitely a conversation you'll need to have either with your in-house IT staff or your outside IT consultant.
Ultimately, it boils down to a balance between cost, features, and risk. It's always tempting to simply jump on the lowest-cost solution, but the fact that email is ubiquitous keeps this from being the smart play. It's nearly impossible to escape using it, which means your users, your customers, and the guts of your business have all come to depend on it in different ways. You need to discover those ways, evaluate them, and then choose a service that either meets or improves on them. This takes time, discussion with your IT staff, and some investigation; these are steps you don't want to skip. Otherwise, you'll pay for it later.
PCMag understands that no two businesses have the same web hosting requirements, so we've rounded up our best-reviewed web hosting companies for small businesses and detailed their offerings in the table above so that you can get a jump-start on picking a service. If an offering catches your eye, make sure to click the appropriate link from the capsules below to read the in-depth review of the service in question.
Data protection is another key email security concern. Inboxes often contain GBs of business-critical and personal data, so not just hackers but also legitimate marketing companies can make big money off mining email data—and this sometimes includes the very company that is providing the email service to you. Fortunately, most companies, including your hosting provider, are pretty good about keeping out of private data, but it's important to be aware of when these policies have failed. Security breaches are commonplace and it's important to know how your data is being managed. To protect yourself, be sure to inquire about data safety capabilities on the provider's side, especially around encryption and malware scanning. But be sure to implement additional measures on your side, as well, including encryption for those using local email clients as well as deploying personal virtual private networks (VPNs) to folks accessing their email from multiple locations.
If you're planning on selling a product, look for a web host that offers a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, because it encrypts the data between the customer's browser and web host to safeguard purchasing information. You're probably familiar with SSL; it's the green padlock that appears in your web browser's address bar as you visit an online financial institution or retail outlet. A few companies toss in a SSL certificate free of charge; others may charge you roughly $100 for that extra security layer.