My Daily Toolbox: Microsoft Outlook
Quite honestly, this topic could go on for hours, or days, so I may be breaking it up into multiple articles, and as time progresses, I’m certain that a new tool will be discovered, or an old tool will be abandoned. The pursuit of cutting costs has become number one priority these days, and it shouldn’t be that way. What I mean, is that we always need to be cutting costs that weigh us down, on easy street, and on skid row.
Much of the corporate world uses some variation of Microsoft Outlook, whether the latest and greatest version, or an outdated version, to manage Contacts, Appointments, Tasks, and E-mail. I recommend Microsoft Outlook as a basis by which you manage your contacts and communication to your contacts. I’m speaking of the full blown Outlook, not Outlook Express, the kid sister to Outlook. Outlook express comes with your computer free.
How to Get Outlook Free
A little known secret in the IT world is that you can get Outlook for free. How? Well, firstly I’ll explain one major condition that you must meet prior to choosing Outlook as your “Dayplanner.”
Outlook is a corporate level software application. It’s a big deal. It does all sorts of things that the average user is unable to take advantage of. You see, Outlook was designed with bigger things in mind. Outlook really shines when it is combined with Microsoft’s Enterprise Server product, Microsoft Exchange Server. Microsoft Exchange unlocks the most treasured features of Outlook and allows you to really collaborate with other team members.
What if I don’t have a team? That’s okay, because using Outlook all by yourself, in conjunction with Microsoft Exchange Server will save you thousands of dollars in the future. You could consider Exchange Server to be your Outlook insurance policy. You don’t have to have a team to take advantage of the features.
How much does it cost? Well, if you operate your own server, which 99.99% of you will not be doing, you would need approximately $5000.00 worth of hardware and about $1600.00 worth of software, and a few years of IT experience. Alas, there is a solution. There are many companies out there that allow you to “rent” a mailbox that’s operating under Microsoft Exchange Server, allowing you all of the corporate, enterprise features for a single user, and all for around $10.00/month. That’s cheap insurance.
Why is it a big deal?
Jennifer, anothe real estate agent, recently contacted me to talk about how she could better manage her e-mail and contacts. “The problem with Outlook is that all of my e-mail is on my computer and I can’t get to it without my computer,” she complained, “and when I try to go online to my webmail, the inbox on webmail doesn’t match the inbox on my computer in Outlook.”
A hosted Exchange account will solve this problem. Here’s how it works. You setup your e-mail account with a hosted exchange server company, like Exchange My Mail. They help you configure Outlook to connect to the server, and Outlook displays all of your data on your computer screen through the interface you’re already familiar with. Everything including your e-mail, contacts, appointments, and tasks are stored on the server, not on your computer, so that means you could lose your computer, but you’d never lose your data.
When you have your e-mail hosted this way, there is only one copy of everything, which means you read your e-mail once, and it’s read. There’s no more deleting mail from to places, no more scanning e-mail that you may have already read on one computer, but not on another, etc. If you have a Windows based smartphone or an iPhone, you can also connect to Exchange and view the same information, live. Delete an e-mail message in Outlook, and it’s gone on your phone too. Change a contact name and phone number, add a contact, or delete an appointment, and voila! Every device you use is instantaneously updated. Don’t have your computer or phone on you? No problem, just login to Outlook Web Access anywhere you can use a computer that’s connected to the internet. All of your data is there, and it’s all in the same place you left it, in the same status you left it.
Managing contacts, appointments, tasks, and e-mail has been made seamless and extremely efficient, and secure, and safe. I recommend considering this as your primary method of managing this part of your business, and one of the best parts about it is that whenever you use a hosted exchange company for your e-mail, you get a free copy of Microsoft Outlook with your account! That alone will pay for the service for about a year or so.