Microsoft Outlook is widely used as an email platform for businesses – but are there other alternatives that could compete with this? Outlook provides an impressive amount of flexibility for users, connecting to other platforms such as Exchange in order for users to be able to share calendars, invite colleagues to meetings and create opportunities for connecting. It also has the capability to connect to other Office programs such as Word and Excel to easily share documents across the business.
However, there are some businesses that do not find that Outlook meets their needs. This happens especially when the businesses are smaller as if they do not require all of the features of other Microsoft software and simply use it for email, it becomes very expensive for a rather basic product. The price for the product and for licensing can amount to £162 for each computer based within the individual company – for smaller businesses, this could still be a substantial amount.
Before we begin to look into what alternatives are available for you to transfer from Outlook, you may be wondering why people would want to. Below is a breakdown of the reasons that many have found Outlook to be an issue:
- Cost – as we mentioned earlier, if users aren’t using the platform to its full capacity, it can mean that they are losing money from the amount it costs to keep the license updated. For the upgrade of being able to use Exchange, there is also an additional fee for this – for smaller businesses, these extra costs for something that they can get far cheaper, it may be time for them to look elsewhere.
- Limited integrations – as you will see, there are many clients that offer integration with Office services and other programs but Outlook doesn’t provide the same to its users. There is full integration for their own products within the Microsoft Office package but for users who use Google Drive or other platforms, there isn’t the option for their data to be synced across platforms. You can opt to use external integration services but this is again, an additional cost.
- Lack of reliability – although Outlook is one of the most used email platforms across the market, it is also one which creates a lot of problems and has a lot of ‘bugs’ which can prove irritating for users on a day to day basis when they are trying to complete their workload. Microsoft does attempt to fix these bugs by completing regular updates but simple bugs such as general ‘freezing’ of the application still happen regularly which is extremely frustrating – especially when businesses are paying a lot of money for it.
- Lack of support – on the same thread as the previous point, having a buggy system wouldn’t be so frustrating if there was someone helpful on the other end of the phone or live chat. Even though Outlook do offer a support service, it has been recognised that they aren’t as helpful as they could be and that many users end up using a search engine to find out the solution to the problem themselves.
- Complicated features – the basic email client is simple enough to use for day-to-day activities such as exchanging emails or other such tasks that are completed regularly within most businesses. But when it comes to syncing with their other apps that they use, there is no real help in how users can use it to the best of their ability to make their workload easier.
So, what other alternatives are there on the market and what do they offer?
Even though not all of the systems provide the same connection with programs such as Exchange, they could still suit your business as they have the same flexibility, reliability and security of Outlook while being more affordable. Before considering these products, it is important to remember that there are different features built within the system that may or may not suit your business – although basic emailing is a simple enough feature to provide, email platforms aren’t a one-’size-fits-all’. There may be some features advertised that you didn’t realise your business needed until now. Also, hiring a reliable IT support services provider might prove to be useful when looking for a bespoke solution for your business.
- eM Client – if your business operates on a Windows platform then this could be a perfectly viable option for you. The eM Client has the capability to connect to existing email providers such as Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail. This is especially useful for communicating across businesses as you can sync your calendars with other users – making setting up meetings and other reminders. With a simple interface to use, there are also a plethora of features offered such as junk mail filtering, email support and messaging on Skype and Facebook. An especially useful feature for a worker who has a high volume of emails to maintain is the feature wherein when an email is open, it will show all of the previous emails in that thread or with that contact. This means that any unnecessary searching is put to an end and work productivity is increased. It also has its own Exchange service which enables users to sync their different devices together such as their PC to their laptop to their tablet etc. For the option of unlimited accounts, this would cost $50 which is £40.82 at the time of writing. It also holds similar features to that of Outlook, offering users the option to store their contacts, create themselves tasks and also appointments which they can share with others.
- Thunderbird – Thunderbird has been universally recognised by technology experts as the best alternative when looking for a different platform to Outlook. The client is a product of Mozilla, the creators of the Firefox web browser. Similarly to eM Client, it has some unique features while being able to rival Outlook with similar features for a cheaper price. It has an address book which is ever-reliant, meaning users won’t have to worry about losing important client details when dealing with queries. It isn’t limited to Windows, either, and can be used on Mac OS X and Linux. It also has the capacity to be able to connect to Exchange, making the transition from Outlook to Thunderbird an easy one that wouldn’t slow up any processes. The special features that it offers users are social media plugins, spam filtering and what’s more? It’s completely free. However, this comes with its own downsides as it means that they do not offer any support plans for users if there are any issues. There is a forum which has a FAQ on which should be able to help any problems should they arise but there isn’t a bespoke team dedicated to helping your business which could make many unwilling to make the change.
- Zimbra Desktop – as you can probably tell from the name, this is one of the more quirky alternatives that are offered in place of Outlook. The name ‘Zimbra’ came from a song by Talking Heads and offers as unique an experience for its users as its name. It is especially popular with open source users and works alongside Exchange alongside its own server. It has the capacity to connect to other email hosts and social accounts, making communication across clients as simple as it can be. It also offers the opportunity for users of Google apps such as Google Docs, Gmail etc. to sync their data such as emails, calendars, tasks and contacts across clients. It also offers the option for users to be able to work offline, which is helpful for users who have to commute on a train without wifi or if the business doesn’t have a strong internet connection. A downside to the system, however, is that it isn’t as simple to use as other clients and could take users a few days or perhaps longer to get used to if they are moving from the much simpler Outlook. Unlike Thunderbird, it also offers a full technical support service – but this doesn’t come cheap. The service costs $625 annually for their first 25 users which at the time of writing amounts to £510.11.
- Mailbird – we mentioned earlier how there were some users who struggled to use the interface on Outlook or other Microsoft apps which were supposed to easily link to Outlook. This isn’t the case with Mailbird as the interface has been created in order to be clean and designed for the user. It offers an intuitive user experience that has a simple enough design that anyone can pick up the application instantly, navigating through everything they need to have an easy running of day-to-day tasks. Many state that because of this, however, Mailbird doesn’t have has many features to offer as Outlook but this isn’t the case. The features are there, but are placed in a way to make the interface seem ‘cleaner’. The features that Mailbird offer are integration with third party apps such as Whatsapp, Skype, Facebook, Google Calendar etc, integration of all mailboxes on one screen, inbox personalisation, an intuitive search engine for attachments, the option to ‘snooze’ emails until you are ready to reply, connection to Linkedin. Finally, there is the option to continue using the free version or to upgrade to a ‘Lite’ version for a small fee.
- Gmail – Gmail is as recognised as an email client as Outlook is. The difference is that Gmail is primarily web-based, meaning that it can be accessed anywhere on any computer or other device. However, it does mean that there isn’t the option to access your emails when offline – it also doesn’t offer the same functionality as a desktop app. Gmail does offer an array of features which could make up for this and perhaps there will come a time in the future when they will offer the same functionality as a desktop-based client. There is the option to integrate with other Google apps such as Google Drive, Photo and Calendar, full personalisation of themes and layouts, inbox sorting into categories such as ‘social’, ‘promotional’ etc to make for a cleaner inbox, labels to be able to filter out work from personal, advanced search capabilities, apps for use on mobile devices. The best part? It’s totally free for all of these features; there is no need to ‘upgrade’ to a professional level. It also has a simple user interface, meaning that new users don’t have to search for a long time when they’re trying to complete a simple task.
With these options, there is an email client for every business dependent on what needs they may have – whether personalisation is key or quick access to support should anything go wrong. Alternatives to Outlook offer a wide range of features for their users in order to make choosing their email client an easy task.
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