I've been reading reviews of Yahoo's new mail program, including CNET's, which appeared on our At Work front door yesterday. The general consensus is that the program, still in beta, is a big improvement over its previous iteration and is very competitive with Google's Gmail. Some say it's the best-ever Web-based e-mail--though to get all the features, you do have to pay (the current $19 yearly fee is not much of an impediment, frankly, to get POP3 and some extra storage).
I use Yahoo's mail program for myself and for business, but have recently gotten tired of a lot of the glitches. The biggest one, which the reviews don't seem to get at much, is that Yahoo's mail program belches a lot--sometimes telling me when I try to access a message from search that the message is "unavailable" and to get it directly from the folder it's in, or on other occasions that my account is temporarily unavailable. I've signed up, and I'll see if the new beta version fixes these issues. Because, regardless of the features, if you can't get the message you're looking for, the program is of no use. (I haven't had these issues with Gmail, and Gmail is much faster loading.) Yahoo also takes forever to load addresses into the address book, requires you to do it manually (Gmail saves addresses you've e-mailed automatically), and sometimes takes a long time for attachments, much longer than Gmail. I was considering dropping Yahoo mail, but now maybe I'll give it another shot and see if it's any better. There is a business mail option from Yahoo if you subscribe to its small-business Web hosting, but the main difference I see is the ability to set up multiple accounts under the same domain name and to access a joint address book.
I have Microsoft Outlook and have on occasion used it to, say, personalize bunches of e-mails to a list using the merge function, or to try to filter and sort a few things, or to share contact lists or attach a group of e-mails. But I don't use Outlook all the time because I don't really like having all those e-mails on my laptop--which is my main business computer--and I much prefer to be able to use any computer to get the mail I want from wherever. At some point, I may use an Exchange server.
So far, though, I prefer Web mail solutions that let me access my mail from anywhere, at any time, and at the same time, forward them to my BlackBerry or whatever else I happen to be using, I do the same with my Gmail accounts. I like that Yahoo's new beta, like Outlook, has unopened message display and drag-and-drop functions. I don't like that it doesn't have subfolders (so I can't, say, have CNET, then folders inside that for Reviews, Blog Entries, Freelancers, and so on).
Sorry for long blog post--almost an article--but what more important lifeline is there today than e-mail? We'll explore best practices for e-mail for small business in upcoming stories.