Email is the number one way businesses communicate, but it is not the only way. Through the years new products such as Skype, instant messaging, texting and social have made their way into the business process. But is it time to start thinking of Email 2.0?

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Email by itself can be a real bear to use and manage. Add these other forms of communication, and your world is truly complex. Serious flaws can be found in many of the other approaches. For example, texting is basic, lacks threading and attachments can be hard to manage. IM has similar problems and social can be a total minefield when you consider possible productivity lost by giving employees access to such platforms. Other approaches might be a great way to communicate on the fly but email is still the center of the communications’ universe. For email to remain king it has to continue to earn its place, and that means there’s a lot of work to do. Here are some of email’s biggest problems:

  • Hard to keep up with volume of mail
  • Hard to integrate with social
  • Not a truly unified communication (without a lot of effort and expense)
  • Mobile usability is still a compromise
  • Hard to integrate multiple addresses

You many look at this list and say that a combination of the newest versions of Microsoft Exchange, Outlook and Microsoft Lync solve most of these problems and more, and technically speaking, you’d be correct. But that means you have three pieces of software that must be licensed, installed, managed and used. It is a very complex, unwieldy approach even for well-heeled organizations, and once you’ve activated all these features, you are truly locked in. The other problem is that each piece of this puzzle is complex for end user and IT alike. Outlook is a rich client, and using its advanced features takes some learning. Lync adds a whole other layer of complexity to gain Unified Communications features and it integrates far better with its own built-in Instant Messaging than with what you are probably already using. Furthermore, to get all this truly working on your mobile platform means more set up and learning/training to get used to the way it works.

Ideal mail

The ideal email platform will do everything Exchange/Outlook/Lync do and more, plus be cheap, easy to set up, and work the same no matter the device. Luckily, there are plenty of services out there ready to take the headache out of emails until a new email platform is created.

Keeping up with email volumes

Youngsters these days barely use email, so our need for 500 messages a day is probably overblown. What you really need it to get essential mail, and get it sent in a way that makes sense. Some add-ons organize incoming and existing mail based on tasks or projects. It would also make sense to have mail from the CEO or your immediate boss always rise to the top. Services like Awayfind go a step further. AwayFind will notify you with an SMS when you receive an important message, stopping you compulsively checking your inbox every minute.

Integrate with social

Facebook is great for keeping up with far off pals, but its messaging can be pretty lame, so lame that messages may lay there for weeks before you even bother to check. Webmail clients such as Microsoft Outlook (formerly Hotmail) can let those messages come directly into your email client, though this integration still needs a lot more polishing. If you use Gmail, there are also other services that can be used such as Rapportive or Smartr Inbox for Gmail.

Easy Unified Communications

Vendors have been talking about Unified Communications for over two decades. In the early days it meant you could get your email and voice mail in the same place. Today it means the phone is fully integrated and works seamlessly across your PC and mobile, you can get IMs, audio and video conferencing, and good old email. All these features work well in high-end systems from Microsoft or Cisco, but are not ubiquitous because of expense and complexity and they have to keep pace with new communications techniques.

Analytics

In an age where we are obsessed by the number of likes we get on Facebook and with Twitter recently introducing the activity insights functionality it is clear we all care about numbers. Cue services that let you know if your email was opened, its links clicked, by who and from where. Services such as Sidekick do just that (because who still believes that read receipt email).

Security first

If the aim of the next generation email platform is integrating various sources, text, IM, voice, and email from a number of accounts, the security bar is hugely raised. Not to mention the fact that multiple devices will need to access all communication. Whatever the new platform will be, it needs to be secure right out of the box – for all forms of messaging. Over the years, while platforms might have changed, security has always had the same aim; stopping malware, viruses and scams. GFI MailEssentials (click here to download a free 30 day trial for your business) does this for you and more, and throughout the years has been leading the way adapting to every change. Whatever email throws at us, we’ll deal with it.

While we are waiting for the perfect email, there are a variety of add-on products that can be found nowadays, and a collection of these point to the future of email and in this post we listed some of our favorites. Do you have any add-ons that make managing your email that little bit simpler? Let us know in the comments section below.