TL; DR: In a tech landscape where companies often diversify services at the expense of product quality, Greatmail is focused on perfecting one thing: responsive email hosting. Rather than providing multiple offerings, Greatmail puts all of its efforts into developing better email and SMTP hosting and servers, including an affordable Groupware Edition email hosting that delivers a low cost solution for sharing and synchronizing calendars and contacts. The company provides reliable, streamlined, and affordable solutions to companies looking for alternatives to suite packages. Cost-conscious businesses can spend around $1 per user for Greatmail, as opposed to $5 or more per user on other email platforms.
When Ryan Hess began working in the email hosting industry, he saw a void that would inspire him to create a reliable solution of his own.
In 2003, he worked for a company that could only offer certain email products to its clients — even if they wanted more. Back then, a workable hosted or cloud-based email solution didn’t exist, and email options could be problematic for companies that didn’t want to host in-house.
“The email available was also kind of spotty, and I was disappointed with the spam filtering,” said Ryan.
In response, Ryan contracted with a Vancouver-based company called Gossamer Threads to purchase a dedicated server on its network. Even 15 years ago, Gossamer Threads’ email was reliable and user-friendly, so Ryan started selling a Virtual Private Server (VPS) email solution to small businesses that didn’t have the infrastructure to host their email in-house. He called his new venture Greatmail.
“I started the company to provide email hosting packages to other small businesses,” said Ryan, the Director of Business Development.
That has remained Greatmail’s primary goal for more than 15 years. The company doesn’t have infrastructure overhead and uses in-house support and its marketing team to deliver those server solutions to SMBs.
Many small businesses choose Greatmail to provide more professional email domains, and they can afford to because email packages start at $15 a month for up to 15 mailboxes.
Greatmail, which is based in Texas, also offers affordable services through its selective partnerships, including Rackspace, which is also based in the state. And though the company has had several opportunities to host more complex, feature-filled email platforms, Ryan suggests that it isn’t interested.
“Our email services have been strong for years,” he said. “So we’re going to continue with what works.”
Businesses Can Reap the Benefits of Paid Email
Initially, many small businesses consider using free email. However, corresponding through a free address can make a new venture seem like an amateur group rather than a company whose expertise can be trusted. Instead, an email address with a company’s name can build brand awareness and promote legitimacy.
And a growing number of businesses don’t need extra apps or tools bundled with many services. Instead, they’re looking for an unbundled email hosting service.
Greatmail provides both of these functionalities. The Standard Edition Email Hosting features cross-platform Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) and Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) email hosting that works with most desktops and mobile devices. Groupware Email Hosting allows users to sync contacts and calendars across multiple devices using CalDAV/CardDAV and/or Exchange ActiveSync.
“Our bread-and-butter clients are small startups and larger businesses that are cost-conscious and don’t want to spend $5 per user,” said Ryan. “The $1 per user that we charge is appealing to them.”
Greatmail provides clients with email services that include firewall security, virus protection, and spam control — three things that Ryan said he thought were lacking in other hosted email programs.
One of Greatmail’s most robust offerings is its simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) hosting for high-volume mail applications. The service allows companies to send transactional or marketing emails that bypass ISP, web, and other email hosting restrictions.
“Our SMTP hosting is great if a company is having a problem sending bulk emails,” Ryan said. “We also include campaign management tools that we have made in-house.”
For example, a national real estate company uses Greatmail’s SMTP hosting to send out nearly 500,000 emails per month. Technologies like DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Sender Policy Framework (SPF) offer sender authentication, and Greatmail actively monitors the reputations of its outbound IP addresses.
Hosted and Hybrid Exchanges Offer More Options
Some clients are interested in features of Microsoft Exchange but don’t want to pay the hefty licensing fees. For these users, Greatmail provides a Hybrid Exchange that combines Exchange and POP3/IMAP accounts on the same domain. Hybrid Exchange means that companies can have the benefits of Exchange without taking on its administration.
“Our Exchange Hosting is powered by and managed by Rackspace,” Ryan said. “This is for users who need full-featured hosted Exchange and come from a background using Exchange servers.”
Some clients don’t have the tools necessary to host Exchange themselves. For these companies, Greatmail offers Exchange Hosting, which provides all the same features with a scalable pricing model that depends on mailbox count, storage, and features used.
“We have a lot of clients that buy their apps from Microsoft but host their email with Greatmail,” Ryan said.
Greatmail also has email options for clients who need corporate mail servers or multiple configurations. Scalable servers can combine transactional and marketing email capabilities on the same server by designating distinct IPs for both tasks. The other server type is for businesses wanting to host SMTP and email from one machine. The latter is also configured with multiple outbound IP addresses.
Greatmail has several projects and new services in the works for 2019, as well. For example, the company developed its own skin on Roundcube that gives email clients a more sophisticated look.
“As Roundcube rolls out updates, we’ll pass those on to our customers,” Ryan said.
Developing New Services Based on User Feedback
Over the last 15 years of operation, Greatmail has built a reputation for providing reliable, focused email hosting solutions. Of course, the company owes much of its longevity and success to its adaptability over that time.
Now, the company is gearing its solutions to telecommunications companies that provide email solutions to businesses.
“They’ll start on a small dedicated machine, with their IP space and secure server names to give their clients fully private-label solutions, which is hard to do on a cluster,’ Ryan said.
For a small number of users, that solution is highly effective. From that starting point, Greatmail has the solutions to grow with a business as it expands. For example, if a company already has an IP, Greatmail can help it expand to its own cluster as it grows.
“If they get to 3,500 to 5,000 users, we begin to look at setting up redundant firewalls, multiple machines, and additional IP addresses,” Ryan said.
Greatmail will begin to automate more of its processes to increase efficiency for users, as well. Its backend and office development will include more automation for both customer support and new client onboarding.
As the company has shifted its services over time, it has also listened to its customers. When users wanted the ability to sync their calendars, which many requested, it spurred the Greatmail team to develop a new solution.
“Our groupware offering was inspired by customers who wanted to sync their calendars,” Ryan says. “We identified Sogo as a good fit and developed it into our offering and secured licensing for EAS directly with Microsoft.”
Greatmail: Building a Following for its Commitment to Email Hosting
Now that Greatmail has more than a thousand clients, it’s clear that the company has come a long way since Ryan’s experience with lackluster email hosting in the early 2000s. He built Greatmail to address many of those shortcomings by focusing only on providing the best email service.
Greatmail not only provides businesses with a professional appearance but also professional capabilities including the ability to send nearly 500,000 marketing emails per month. That flexibility allows entrepreneurs to take advantage of affordable per user rates and scale with Greatmail.
Though it provides slightly modified services from what it began offering 13 years ago, the Greatmail difference is clear. The company proves that doing one thing well can be the smartest method for growing a business.