Effective E-Mail Access On The Road … Can It Be Achieved?

Many people love to spend pockets of time on the road catching up on emails, staying organized and getting prepared. Are you set up to take advantage of spare time in the best possible way for this?

© anyaberkut – Fotolia

© anyaberkut – Fotolia

How many of these scenarios have you found yourself in?

#1 : You’re rushing at the office to get an important project organized and started but you’re rushing to catch a flight or get home for an important engagement.

#2 : You’re waiting at an airport and you have a couple of hours to kill at the gate before your flight and you’d like to give people some direction on how to run a project while you’re gone.

#3 : You get to a hotel after a long flight and confirm something you sent to someone before you left the office.

#4 : You’re on the road and you want to check on what’s been said on an email thread that was started both before you left and that continued after you left.

#5 : You sent a flurry of email from your desktop at the office and you grab your laptop before heading out on the road and you want to be able to have full access to all your email communications on the road.

All these scenarios are made much less stressful when you have an effective e-mail system setup that is seamless and allows you maximum flexibility.

Ultimately you want to be able to grab whatever device is closest to you and have it be seamless and you able to pick up where you left off on any other device in your arsenal and be able to be fully functional immediately.

Whether it’s starting an email on a SmartPhone and finishing it on a laptop, or searching for an email on a Tablet and replying to that email from a desktop the point is that your entire email system follows you regardless the device you happen to be using at the time.

To achieve this your email and folders need to be located in a central location with the ability to get at those email messages and folders from multiple devices … this is what people commonly refer to as email being “in the cloud”.

This can be accomplished in one of the following ways :

#1 : Leaving all your email and folders in the mailbox at your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and accessing them from your devices using IMAP instead of POP3

#2 :Leaving all your email and folders in the mailbox on the mail server at your office (if that’s the way your e-mail is setup) and accessing them from your devices using IMAP instead of POP3

#3 : Using a Hosted E-Mail provider like Google Apps for Business or a Hosted Exchange provider and operating all e-mail operations from there.

There may very well be scenarios and/or solutions that I have not included here,  but here’s the main point : With some re-engineering of how your e-mail flow operates and re-learning some ways to work you can indeed achieve a bit of an “e-mail utopia” that is fully functional and allows you an seamless environment whether in the office or on the road.

I would encourage you to have some talks with your IT Department and ask them for help with ways to make your e-mail setup more functional.

In the meantime here’s some other articles related to the subject that I’ve already written and I’d invite you to take a look at them as well!

Am I Safe To Move My E-Mail To The Cloud

How Do I Pick A Great Hosted Exchange E-Mail Service Provider

I Want To Run Our Own E-Mail Server At The Office Which One Should I Pick

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll look forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

How Much E-Mail History Should I Keep?

I know that I certainly give my clients the gears about keeping too much email history but in some cases it’s justified!

© Artur Marciniec - Fotolia

© Artur Marciniec – Fotolia

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding on what your own personal policy or what your corporate policy should be.

  1. E-Mail Client Limitations
  2. Industry Regulatory Requirements
  3. E-Mail Provider Storage Limits
  4. E-Mail Access Method
  5. Personal Preference

E-Mail Client Limitations

I am mostly thinking about Windows here and Microsoft Outlook specifically. If you use Microsoft Outlook in a Windows environment then your email is stored in what’s called a PST file (a file with a .PST file extension … e.g. outlook.pst). All your email and email folders, calendar, contact and task items are all stored in a single PST file.

Earlier versions of MS Outlook had a 2.0GB file size limit on them meaning that, although it wouldn’t suddenly implode, if you pushed the size of the PST to sizes larger than 2.0 GB you ran the risk of the file corrupting and thus potentially losing data.

In doing some research online for the writing of this article I did learn that in later versions of Outlook this 2.0 GB limit is no longer the case, but really massive PST files produce performance issues and are not recommended.

This all being said to say that when considering how much email history to keep you’ll want to keep this in mind.

Industry Regulatory Requirements

Depending on the particular industry you work in you might be required to keep a certain number of years worth of email history for forensic reasons.

Check with your IT administrator to see if there’s anything particular you need to do on your end as it might also be covered on the back-end of your system where archives are created. If this is the case then you can likely keep your email volume lean and mean!

E-Mail Provider Storage Limits

If you use IMAP as a method for accessing your email then your ability to keep history is really only limited by the capacity of your email service provider. G-Mail for instance allows you to keep 15 GB on their free gmail.com email addresses and on their paid Google Apps accounts they start at 30 GB of storage and go up from there! Yahoo allows up to 1 TB (Terabyte) of storage for their free yahoo.com email addresses … According to this article outlook.com doesn’t put any limit on the size of your email storage.

As you can see it all depends on who’s actually providing the e-mail service for you …

E-Mail Access Method

If you use simple POP3 for accessing your email then you have to consider E-mail Client Limitations, as mentioned above, but you also need to consider disk space on the PC or Laptop that you are accessing from. If you are using IMAP to access your email then you may choose to use a web interface to get your email in which case you would just limited by the amount of space at your provider -or- you may choose a traditional email client in which case you’d just be limited by disk space on your PC/Laptop or possibly by the email client software you use (see E-Mail Client Limitations above)

Personal Preference

If you are strictly a personal user then it’s pretty much whatever you like. Some people adopt a method of “Once I’ve dealt with it I never want to see it again” and they delete everything. Others are hoarders and keep “EVERYTHING” including even the SPAM they receive. You need to decide for your self what works best for you.

Summary

Ask lots of questions of the IT Administrator at your place of work if you are not sure what you should do or if you have a strictly personal account ask questions of your email provider and what their best practices might be.

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

Should I Outsource My E-Mail Security To The Cloud?

You want proper security wrapped around the flow of email messages in and out of your organization! Do you run it yourself or outsource it to the cloud?

© Melpomene - Fotolia

© Melpomene – Fotolia

Whether your email is hosted in the cloud or it’s hosted on your premises you still have the issue of proper email security to consider.

You have 3 choices essentially :

  1. Use the canned security provided by whomever is hosting your email (assuming it’s hosted offsite)
  2. Use hardware and/or software tools onsite at your premises (assuming you host your own email)
  3. Outsource email security to the cloud (whether hosted offsite -or- you host your own)

Let’s take a look at each of these options and you decide for yourself which option makes the most sense for you and your particular situation…

Use the canned security provided by whomever is hosting your email

Many email hosting companies will provide a limited amount of security for their customers. In many cases it will be limited to simple SPAM filtering and Whitelisting or Blacklisting and perhaps even some limited virus filtering but that’s usually about it.

You really need to check the level of security provided and decide right off the top if that is sufficient enough for you or if you need to enhance the security to a more acceptable level.

PRO : Usually very expensive and includes with your hosting plan

CON : Often not very extensive

Use hardware and/or software tools onsite at your premises

There are a number of hardware vendors (SonicWall, Cisco, Barracuda and others) that provide excellent, enterprise grade, email security appliances that provide a very high level of security.

They sit on premises in a rack usually and any email delivered onsite goes to this device first where it is filtered for both virus, malware and content and, once cleared for delivery it’s forwarded on to your email server onsite.

Any email sent outbound from your organization would be sent from your mail server out through this security device where it is filtered for both virus, malware and content before being delivered to its destination.

There are also a number of software plugins available for onsite email servers and even some of the hardware vendors mentioned above will make virtual machines for things like VMWare available that are dedicated email security appliances.

PRO : Peace of Mind of being able to have all piece of the “security puzzle” under your roof

CON : Often an upfront expense with a yearly or monthly subscription attached

Outsource email security to the cloud

As with the hardware vendors mentioned above there are a number of cloud email security vendors (Cisco, McAfee, SonicWall and others).

These services work by pointing the MX Record for your email domain to the cloud provider and that causes any email sent to you to go to the cloud provider first where it is filtered for both virus, malware and content before being delivered to your mail server onsite.

Conversely any email sent outbound from your organization would be sent from your mail server to the cloud provider where it is filtered for both virus, malware and content before being delivered to its destination.

PRO : Centralized staff that monitor the cloud service where this is the only thing they do thus creating a highly specialized environment that is highly effective. You get to take advantage of staff being able to jump on outbreaks and other situations immediately and everyone gets the benefit. There’s also usually no upfront as with hardware and it’s usually just a monthly or yearly subscription and that’s it. It’s also just one less piece you need to worry about.

CON : If you insist on only having “tangible and physical” resources linked to your network and you’re not comfortable with outsourcing or cloud computing then this may not be a comfortable choice for you.

Summary

Ultimately the choice of what you’re comfortable with is completely up to you! Ultimately I suggest you do your homework and assess your comfort level and go with the solution that fits you best! There are clearly pro’s and con’s to all the solutions.

If you have questions, comments or concerns please leave a comment below or reach out using our CONTACT page and I look forward to interacting with you!

Is Your E-Mail Secure, Protected and Recoverable?

E-Mail communications is the lifeblood of any organization and you want to protect it as best you can with the tools that are available to you

© markrubens - Fotolia

© markrubens – Fotolia

With e-mail security and protection we are really talking about 3 main areas of focus …

  • Backup and Disaster Recovery of email and email items
  • Virus, Spam and Content Filtering
  • Forensic Archiving and Storage

Let’s take a look at each of these separately …

Backup and Disaster Recovery of email and email items

Let’s face it, we’ve all had a situation where we’ve deleted an email folder by accident or actually “fat fingered” a delete key and Murphy’s Law strikes! That important email you received yesterday and absolutely must have tomorrow is gone!

The very first thing to do is to look in your “Trash Bin” and see if it’s there at all!

I know I know … you’re likely thinking “DUH! Of course I’d look there!!!” but you’d be surprised the number of people over the years that have faced this kind of situation and not done the obvious and looked there first so I thought I’d just get “STEP #1” out of the way

If this doesn’t work for you then the solution to finding your email depends on what your particular setup scenario is.

I think the best way to handle this would be for me to suggest a few different scenarios and if none of those apply please feel free to leave a comment below, or at my website, and I’ll try and address that specific scenario for you!

Scenario #1 : Standard Internet Service Provider E-Mail using POP3 for e-mail access

If the account set up on the machine is set to leave the email on the server for a number of days before removing it then you may be in luck. You can simply log in to the web interface for your email and retrieve the email if it was sent fairly recently … (have your current IT Staff check and see if your POP3 account is set up this way)

If this setting is set but the email you are missing was received outside the “# of days” window that is set on the POP3 account settings then you will need to go to your backup for this … if your email files are kept on your local PC or Laptop and you don’t have a backup of those local files …. then …. well … how do I say this … it’s likely time to cut your losses and move on!

If your email files are stored on the server at your office then you will need to contact your IT Administrator and have them do a restore of those email files and sift through them to retrieve the email you are looking for …

(See It’s Late On Friday, Do You Know Where Your Data Is? for tips on being aware of where all your data is at all times)

Scenario #2 : Hosted Microsoft Exchange Services in the Cloud (Office365 or others)

It would very much depend on the hosting provider that you use as to what their policies are as far as backup and restores are concerned.

Many of them will offer a special archiving service as an “add-on” to your account but even “that” might have a limited time window attached.

(See How Do I Pick A Great Hosted Exchange E-Mail Service Provider? for some great tips on this)

Scenario #3 : Using GoogleApps for Business for E-Mail

Google is a bit unique in the way they offer email in that even if you delete an email you can often times still search for it in your email program and it will often show up and that’s due to the way that emails are stored in the Google Cloud … and if you can’t find it using a regular search in your email client then often logging into your Google Apps web interface will allow you to search for it there and find it.

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ACTION ITEM : I can’t possibly cover every single scenario here but it basically comes down to this! Ask your IT Management team this one question …

“Is this organizations email set up in such a way that we can easily recover an email or emails if someone should accidentally delete something?”

If this is important to you and they cannot answer this question definitively then changes need to be made to your setup so you can have the “Peace Of Mind” knowing that you’re covered!
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Virus, Spam and Content Filtering

If your email services are hosted on an email server at your office there are numerous ways you can handle this onsite at your office .. here’s a few possibilities

Router/Firewall Based Solution : Many of todays’ enterprise class firewalls and routers have security services you can subscribe to from the manufacturer to screen for Viruses and Malware right as soon as it hits your site and before the email is allowed to touch your email server

(See How Do I Pick The Best Security Firewall and Associated Security Devices For My Business? for some great tips)

Dedicated E-Mail Security Device : This is a dedicated piece of hardware where all incoming and outgoing email is sent to for “screening and cleaning” before it is allowed either “inbound” or “outbound” from your organization … This might be a great solution for a company that is committed to their current router/firewall hardware but still desires enterprise class protection… these devices can fit into pretty much any office network scenario

Software Plug-In for Existing E-Mail Server Vendor : The software vendor for your current e-mail server software may themselves have a software “add-on” or plugin available that fits nicely with your existing server setup …

If you are using a Cloud E-Mail Provider you will need to check directly with them inquire as what kind of email security processes they have in place.

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ACTION ITEM : Have the discussion with your current IT Management Team and ask them this question …

“What steps have been taken in this organization to protect our incoming and outgoing email from all the different types of virus and malware activity?”

This is an incredibly critical piece of your network and it is an absolutely essential to have this covered. The current solution of just having Desktop Anti-Virus may not be 100% effective … Ask lots of question and if you don’t have a peace about it then you need your IT team to make the necessary changes so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you’re taken care of!’re covered!
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Forensic Archiving and Storage

Whether you are bound by certain laws that require you to keep email history for a certain time frame, or you desire to have a record of all email coming either in our out of your organization there are solutions available that can give this capability to you …

Hosting Your Own Mail Server?

#1 : Check with your email server software vendor and see if they have a solution ?

#2 : Similar to the “Dedicated E-Mail Security Device” scenario mentioned above, you can have all inbound and outbound emails directed to a “device” or “server” where it is first archived before being delivered.

Hosting E-Mails In The Cloud?

#1 : Check with the vendor to see if they have this kind of capability built into their systems to give this to you …

This can be tremendously useful if you need to find an email during an audit situation? during legal proceedings???

Having a solution like this takes the “guess work” out of things as it allows you to literally search for “anything” coming in or out of the organization during however long you are set to keep email for?

SUMMARY :

This is a pretty deep topic and I’ve tried to cover as many of the scenarios as possible … in the end it all comes down to having regular discussion with your IT team about issues like E-Mail Security and Protection …

I’d encourage you to leave comments below and let’s have a conversation …

Am I Safe To Move My E-mail To The Cloud?

“Cloud e-mail options are varied and plentiful today, but is this the right choice for my business?”

© duncanandison - Fotolia

© duncanandison – Fotolia

As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, email operations really are the life-blood of your organization. Orders coming in by email, communications with customers and suppliers coming back and forth by email, prospective customers initiating communication with your company by email… and so on!

There really are 3 main ways that email services are delivered in a business environment today :

#1 : Internet Service Provider based emails

You have to get your business internet services from someone right? So why not just get your email services from them as well … makes perfect sense right?

All the Major Internet Services Providers (ISP’s) will provide hosting services for your company email and all of them will provide at least POP3 access. POP3 is, for the most part, an access method for your email where your email is downloaded off the ISP’s email servers and once downloaded it’s removed so it only exists on the device you downloaded it on.

The really good ISP’s will also offer IMAP access. IMAP access is a method where the email actually stays on the ISP’s servers and the device you are accessing the email from actually just synchronizes with the ISP’s mail system. You can have multiple devices all accessing the same email account using IMAP and they all stay in synch .. delete an email on one device and that same email is gone on all devices accessing that account ….

PRO : Usually very cost effective and reliable

CON : Not as friendly on mobile devices for both setup and operation -and- sometimes sending an email from a domain on one ISP’s system through another ISP’s internet pipe can get rejected (i.e. Domain is hosted on Shaw and you are trying to send an email from a Telus internet pipe) … Not at all ISP’s will block this kind of traffic but it must be checked out in advance before you implement to make sure this is not an issue.

#2 : Onsite E-Mail Server Based E-Mail

If the Internet service from your Internet Service provider includes a static (i.e. permanent and unchanging) IP address then you also have the option of hosting your own email services …

NOTE: If you’re unsure what a static TCP/IP address is just ask your IT Staff and they’ll tell you!

Doing this would involve setting up E-Mail Server software on the server in your office and setting up email accounts for each person. You then would configure the E-Mail server software to accept email for your @companyname.com or .ca or whatever domain and finally make changes to your router/firewall and your domain name DNS so that any emails sent to your @companyname domain would get delivered from the internet right through to your E-Mail Server …

Your IT Staff will undoubtedly know all the procedures and processes to go through to make this happen. If you or they need assistance with this please reach out using out CONTACT page and I’d be glad to engage with you to make this happen.

People would then log in to the local E-Mail Server from their email program and get their mail…. that’s it …

All the good On-Site E-Mail Servers will have both POP3 and IMAP services. Many of them will also have Security Plugins for both Virus and Malware as well as content filtering. Many of them as well will play nicely with Mobile devices that access them

(see our post entitled I Want To Run Our Own E-Mail Server At The Office … Which One Should I Pick? for some great ideas)

PRO : Complete control over your entire email environment

CON : Someone needs to administer it locally … requires some extra configuration of the domain registration as well as router/firewall security (mind you this is only done once and then usually left alone but still something to consider) …

#3 : Cloud Providers (Hosted Exchange & GoogleApps for Business)

The “big guns” out there really are these 2 different players …

If you have come from a Microsoft Environment in the past where they used Microsoft Exchange either onsite or in the cloud and you really like the Microsoft Outlook look and feel on the desktop then using a hosted Exchange Environment might be the very best pick for you …

(see our post entitled How Do I Pick A Great Hosted Exchange E-Mail Service Provider? if this is a path you are considering as it contains some really helpful tips for this)

Google Apps for Business is hosted by, as the name states, Google … you have a little more freedom in being able to choose the email client you wish to use on your desktop as well as it being very friendly on a myriad of mobile devices as well … but it is also an excellent and robust platform for your business communications needs …

If a cloud provider is the way you want to go you really can’t go wrong with either option (Hosted Exchange -or- Google Apps) and it really comes down to which one you like better …

Some people consider a Hosted Exchange platform as being “safer” because it’s familiar however with the millions of customers that the GMail system currently has there’s definitely a whole community of people that love that platform too …

So … do your homework … ask lots of questions of the IT staff at your company and have some fun investigating …

PRO : Enterprise Class … Robust … Super friendly with mobile devices …

CON : Cost may be higher overall

SUMMARY :

The main point of the article was to introduce you to the different ways that email services are delivered in a company environment … this should give you some good food for through when considering if a Cloud E-Mail platform is the best choice for you …

If you have specific comments or questions regarding this article please leave a comment a below or you can always reach out using our CONTACT page …

I Want To Run Our Own E-Mail Server At The Office … Which One Should I Pick?

You’ve made the decision that you want to run your own email server at your office so you can have complete control over the solution! Which one do you pick?

© Nikita Kuzmenkov - Fotolia.com

© Nikita Kuzmenkov – Fotolia.com

This discussion is very similar to the discussion we had last week regarding Security Devices (see How Do I Pick The Best Security Firewall and Associated Security Devices For My Business?). If you get a number of email and messaging experts in a room and ask them which package you should go with you’ll likely get as many opinions as there are people in the room.

Here are a number of questions to ask about any e-mail server you want to consider :

#1 : Cost Of Licensing (including ongoing renewals)

Some email server charge a flat rate based on the number of users and that’s it. Some will charge a certain amount for the core server software itself and then so much per user after that.

Most packages out there as well will have some sort of renewal that is paid either every year or perhaps every 2 years if you want to stay up to date with the latest versions at your leisure.

Just make sure you have all the costs laid out in front of you … maybe even consider laying out all license and renewal costs over a 5 yr period so you are comparing “apples to apples”.

#2 : Calendar and Contact Sharing and Collaboration

Beyond just simple sending and receiving of emails does the server in question give you the ability to share calendars within a team environment as well as perhaps a shared corporate calendar that everyone can see?

Do you have the ability to have separate private contacts for each person but also perhaps have a corporate contact list that everyone can see with key vendors and customers listed?

#3 : Enhancement ability with the use of Plugins

For things like security (anti-virus and malware scanning) or archiving or other extra functionalit,  does the server you are considering play well with other packages that take care of these secondary functions? Or perhaps does the same company that makes the mail server also make these other package.

#4 : Ease of Use with Mobile Devices

Does the email server allow for easy syncing and use with mobile devices for people on the move such that work and email they do on the road is reflected when they get back in the office?

#5 : Easy Access to Mail Logs for Forensics

Are there good records kept of all email coming both in and out of your systems for both audit and potential forensic use?

#6 : Cost and Availability of Support

Is there an easy support channel you can call on if you run into issues so you can get you questions answered in a reasonably quick fashion? Is the cost of this support included in the price of the software or is there an extra fee attached?

#7 : Cost of Hardware

Will your existing hardware at the office be capable of running this server or will you need to purchase additional hardware?

#8 : Cost and Availability of Ongoing Administration

Do you have the resources to handle the day to day administration of this server yourself internally, with maybe a little training, or will you need to rely on an external resource to help you each time?

SUMMARY

There are many questions that you need to ask yourself when picking a system as critical to your operation as this. You might find one package that has all the functionality you need but cost of licensing and renewals is through the roof?

You might find another package that has all the functionality you need but you’ll need to purchase additional hardware to make it happen?

You might find yet another package that is reasonably priced and doesn’t require any extra hardware but you don’t have anyone who knows how to run or administer it and extra help will need to be brought in?

All these points need to be considered …

How Do I Pick A Great Hosted Exchange E-Mail Service Provider?

“You’ve decided you want to use a Cloud Hosted Microsoft Exchange email service for your business email system … now comes to the time to choose which service to use”

© destina - Fotolia.com

© destina – Fotolia.com

The point of this post is not to tell you a specific company to use, the purpose of this article is to give you a number of points to consider when deciding which company to use …

Consider this a “check list” of sorts to perhaps go over when checking out the features and functionality of companies you are considering.

Basic Features of Functionality

All the major providers out there will have the same basic feature set …

  • Shared Calendars, Contacts and Tasks
  • Synchronization of Mobile Device
  • Web Access
  • Mac/PC e-mail client access

Still check out the entire feature set but it would be a showstopper if they didn’t have at least this set of features and functionality.

As with most things in life and business there are a ton of companies and people out there all performing the same thing and it’s becoming harder and harder to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack….

In our travels here’s a few different areas where we have seen differences between the different providers

Trial Period Offered

Does the company offer some sort of trial period where you can test out things like the Control Panel (where you add/remove/change email accounts and features) … the Web Access Interface? … Access On Mobile Devices???

The good providers will give you the ability to test all these features out with no risk and a complete money back guarantee …

Ease Of Support Options

  • Tech Support phone number clearly identified on their website?
  • Ability to submit support tickets and get a timely response?
  • Is support available 24x7x365?
  • Does the provide have migration services available if you to move “to” their service?
  • Chat Support options available online?

Nothing drives people more nuts than signing up for a service and then either trying it out and making the decision to go with it and then when you run into issues you can’t easily reach support help for assistance with the issue.

This really is supremely important and can have a massive affect on your overall impression of the organization as a whole. A good experience at the support can, in many cases, make up for any bumps along the road you encounter during the on boarding process with the service.

Ease Of Administration

When you log into the Control Panel (where you add/remove/change email accounts and features) are features and functionality clearly marked? Do you have obvious access to things like billing statements and the ability to add/remove/change accounts?

Is the overall look/feel of the area clearly intuitive and easy to understand?

Advanced Functionality

These services really are more of “icing on the cake” yet could still be an important factor in your decision making

Virus/Malware/Content Filtering : Does the provider include some sort of service for the scanning of incoming and outgoing emails for virus/malware and certain types of forbidden content?

Automatic Archiving and Retrieval : It may be an extra paid service, but does the provider offer the ability to automatically archive all incoming and outgoing mail plus the ability to retrieve it, even if it’s purposely deleted from the users mailbox?

This is by no means an exhaustive list but we believe this gives 4 big areas to look for to distinguish one services from another …