Is email your best bet for internal messaging and collaboration?

Any staff communication system has its own benefits and potential pitfalls, but the nature of today’s workplace often requires real-time, eyes-on teamwork. Consider these software options.

Should internal email be replaced?

Few professionals are ready to abandon email for their external correspondence.

Still, with other options available, why use email internally? There’s a lot to be said for using internal email as a primary means of communication. One plus is familiarity: Every employee knows how it works.

It’s a quick way to distribute documents to a selected group. It also helps you document which tasks you have and haven’t completed—with a built-in time stamp.

Internal email is easy to organize with folders and sub-folders, too.

Potential drawbacks with internal emails

We are increasingly at risk from phishing attacks. Though the threat may originate from outside, one moment of inattention by a single employee can let the scam work, potentially affecting the entire company.

Hacking is another issue. If a hacker should identify a vulnerability, it could be used to steal emails, possibly containing proprietary information or internal-only documents.

Sometimes people don’t respond to a particular email, even pretending they didn’t get it. Features that verify when the recipient opens the email can work but, not everyone likes this approach.

Messaging and collaboration software

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Email alternatives can serve similar purposes, such as internal messaging, which allows for attaching documents, such as meeting agendas.

With collaboration software, you can create a group or display required documents for real-time discussion and revisions.

The popular platform Slack, represented above, offers free and fee-based options.

Risks associated with email alternatives

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(Image source)

Just as email has drawbacks, the alternatives have their own risks to consider. If you grant a client or other guest temporary access, someone must remember to revoke that access afterward.

The same is true when an employee—especially one who has broad administrative access—leaves the company.

Reducing risk across the board

Your website—including email and messaging apps—is probably under attack from hackers nearly two dozen times per day. Unless you’re diligent about setting up a defensive perimeter, some hacker will eventually succeed in breaching whatever communication method you use.

PCMag listed several reasons every small to mid-size business should install a virtual private network (VPN)—especially if your company stores data in the cloud or has employees access the network remotely.

Most credible vendors use AES 256-bit encryption, and charge $5 to $10 a month. For maximum privacy and protection, look for one that does not maintain logs.

Why not a hybrid approach?

For now, the solution might not be an either/or approach. Allow employees access to both methods. Messaging works fine in place of internal email in many cases. Use it for quick communications or to collaborate on a project in real time. To include clients, use online communication tools like web conferencing, and augment that approach with email.

The best bet is to experiment with various tools and collect feedback from staff to guide your next steps.

Dan Fries is technical product lead at Next Ventures.

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