Even in 2021, email remains the most prominent communication form and collaboration tool in the business world — and from the looks of it, it will stay this way for a while. However, using free email service providers threatens the security of small and medium corporations as it risks exposing sophisticated data communicated over emails.
So, what are the risks of using free email services? What is the safe option to use email for businesses? Let’s find out.
What Are The Risks of Using Free Email Services?
Insecure storage of messages and user information
When you use free email services such as Gmail or Protonmail, you cannot control where your data is stored. The location of the server dictates who has access to your data. For example, Swiss-based servers are typically more private due to strict Swiss privacy laws.
Whether your email data is stored in a physical location or cloud-based storage also impacts data security during natural disasters or cyberattacks. Even though you might get privacy depending on which email service provider you are using, you still cannot fully control where your company data is stored or where it’s being transmitted.
Selling user data to third parties
Every internet user should know by now that nothing is free. Meaning the free email service you are using is making money in other ways than charging you directly. One of the ways email service providers generate revenue is by selling your information to other parties. Usually, you agree to this term when you sign up for a free account.
Selling user data threatens the security of a personal email account and even more so when you use it in your business. You risk exposing financial and other sensitive data to potential attackers who can use it to run an organized attack against your company.
Lack of technical support
If anything goes wrong with your free email account, for example, you cannot log in, or your account got hacked, you will not get any support from your email service provider. If anything goes wrong, Google or Yahoo will certainly not pick up the phone and resolve your issues. If they did that for free, they would probably be out of business by now. On the flip side, Google offers technical support to its Google Workspace clients like many other paid email services.
To keep your business up and running, you need to have access to technical support 24/7. Otherwise, if you lose access to your email account, you cannot connect with people inside and outside of your organisation. It can cost you as much as $5,600 per minute, depending on the size of your business.
Increased chances of being detected as spam
Nearly all email service providers include an active spam filter to protect their users against spam emails. Typically spammers use free email services to send spam emails. Therefore, most spam filters look for free email addresses with a domain name like Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo!. When you use these free email services to reach business partners or clients, your emails are more likely to end up in your recipient’s spam box. Email hosting services usually allow you to add a digital signature and custom domain name, improving email deliverability.
Collecting user data for advertising
As mentioned before, the free email service providers bring in revenue by using your personal data in various means. One way is to use your data for advertising and gain analytics that they later use to improve the product and marketing. Google, the most used ESP among US board members, admitted in 2018 that it allows many companies to scan Gmail accounts, read and share email data. Additional email-related tools and apps, such as assistant in organizing your inbox or offering price comparisons, can also look through personal emails and use the data for marketing or product research purposes.
It looks less professional
When you use free email services, it can make you come across as less professional. Your email address can communicate a number of things to the recipient, and when it is a generic email address, they can assume –
- Your company cannot afford an email hosting service and, therefore, is not doing well in business
- You are sending the email using your personal account rather than your business account, which is against the widely-accepted norm
- You are clumsy about the privacy and security of your email
- You are not organised enough to create a domain name for your company
- You are a spammer impersonating a well-known organisation
How to Keep Your Business Email Secure?
Considering the major risks of using free email services, you should choose an email hosting company that matches your organization’s requirements. Most email hosting companies now offer multi-layer security protocols at different tiers suitable for companies of all sizes and types.
Besides using a secure email hosting provider, it is essential to take proactive actions against spam emails as they threaten the security of your business. Typically, attackers collect email addresses when visible on the web, either on social networking sites or other spam lists. To mitigate the risks of cyberattacks, you need to check the visibility of your email address.
To check your email address visibility, go to Sniff Email — an online platform dedicated to finding out if your email address exists on the Internet. Enter your email address in the search field and click fetch to find out if your email address exists on the web within a few seconds. Based on the results, you can take appropriate action to remove it.