Advantages of SmarterMail over Office 365 and G Suite
Idea shared by Ron Raley - 10/30/2020 at 9:57 AM
Office 365 and G Suite are FREE for our non-profit customers. They are switching.

We are putting together a list of advantages SmarterMail has over these Cloud services.

One thing I can think of is email archiving. Another is to be able to call us and talk to a human to fix their email issues quickly and easily.

I would like to get ideas from you guys!


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365 has legal hold / eDiscovery which is akin to email archiving but better. In terms of proposition they can receive Business Basic for free, so Email, Teams, OneDrive / SharePoint, etc. SmarterMail cannot compete either with the free not-for-profit option or even the lower cost business packages. Charge to migrate them to make a few $$$ then charge them monthly to administer their tenancy.

Realistically the numbers for SmarterMail do not stack up when compared to what Microsoft or G Suite offer. Once you have factored in SmarterMail Licensing, Microsoft Licensing, Physical kit, colo/DC costs, management costs, support costs, backup / DR costs, etc, etc can you compete with commodity 50GB+ mailboxes for circa $5.

The situation is not specific to SmarterMail but email in general.

Great support is a selling point, it can certainly be attractive to clients but it comes at a cost to you which commodity priced mailboxes is unlikely to recover. 

It would be interesting to know the thoughts of others, perhaps I am being too pessimistic today but given the thrust of Ron's question and experience perhaps not :-/


These are all very good points. Not pessimistic, just factual.

I am looking for advantages in some way, shape, or form.

One of our customer's members (firefighter) told us that he has used GMail personally for 15+ years.  When their fire department recently switched to G Suite, it forced him to switch back and forth between profiles and now he hates it.

We have also assisted when members go rogue. Emails sent and received are disgusting and then deleted. We were able to provide a backup copy of a firefighters mailbox for the chief and president. How far can G Suite and Office 365 go with this? Can they get the data easily?

Finally, our customers see STORAGE with big eyes! One customer switched to Office 365 and said one of the biggest selling point was STORAGE. Yet, in 10 years they accumulated 4.6 gigabytes between all 30 members, which they migrated away to Microsoft.

I really am interested in this topic and the FIGHT against big tech. More feedback is welcome! Thank you Nathan.

We are grateful that our e-mail services are "complimentary" with our website services.  So we aren't losing money, but we are losing contact.

For example, when we provide support, we've got a few awesome customers. One particularly awesome customer is Keith from Kentucky.  Keith is NOT a computer guru and doesn't pretend to be.  He is a Fire Chief and also enjoys cutting grass.  When at the fire station, he runs Outlook and uses IMAP/SMTP with SmarterMail.  He also takes advantage of webmail, calendars, and contacts.

Keith gives us a ring every now and then.  Yes, an actual phone call.  He is a joy to talk to and always refers to us as the "smart guys".  He calls us when he has certain questions such as when he gets a kickback message or how to add IMAP/SMTP to his phone.  We have even used remote desktop to assist Keith.  Keith is HAPPY and leaves great feedback for us on Facebook and our website.  Our team is HAPPY because we support Keith.

Sadly, I agree that the non-profit giveaways are deadly to hosting providers, and not just those using SmarterMail.

We have a medium sized non-profit (in the 500-600 mailbox range) for which we've run an Exchange server for more than a decade; long before SM added MAPI.  It costs them a certain amount of money, and they just approached us about migrating to O-365 because their 501(c)(3) status entitles them to "free" service with huge mailboxes.

This account walking away from us is a significant loss.  They weighted the ability to call us for support and immediately reach a live person, against "free" email, and made their choice.  We cannot compete against $0.00 monthly.  

Microsoft is killing its own ISP/hosting customers with O365, the push to Azure, etc.  They have their cake and are eating it, too-- because they own the cake and can give it away to whomever they want.  All we can do is pay money to rent the cake.  They aren't just biting-- they are biting OFF-- the hand that fed them so well for so many years (the hosting community) and I've really grown to hate them because of it.

So based on this thread and some of my research, the only major advantage is that SmarterMail usually comes with a HUMAN.

If there are any further clear advantages, we would like to know.

Thanks for the input,
Depends on your perspective.  If you're the customer, then dealing with a hosting provider running SmarterMail will often give you more responsive personal service, depending on the size of the host.  They may also be willing to go that extra mile for something you need.  Getting the freebie from Office-365, you have to deal with Microsoft's support team... but it's free.

So the sad answer is, if there's a reason NOT to use Office-365 when you can get it for free as a non-profit, I sure would like to hear about it.  Either way, you're relying on SOMEONE to provide your email service, whether it's a host running SmarterMail or Microsoft running hosted Exchange.

Now, if you're a non-profit running your OWN mail system in-house, the answer is a lot more clear.  Your own mail system gives you absolute control over your email environment, compliance, backups/recovery, security, etc.  Ditching an in-house system and moving to the "cloud" (man, I hate that term) means you give up all that control and have to rely on someone else, and hope they don't screw up.
Some of non-profit clients have opted for Google or Microsoft’s free email accounts, but most have remained with our SmarterMail instance for the sake of keeping their website hosting and support in one place. Hopefully this attitude does not change over time.

I don’t think our clients are concerned about the CLOUD Act, GDPR or data sovereignty, but self-hosting SmarterMail outside of the US enables us to confidently offer services to Europe as well.
How about anti spam with Gmail and Office-365? I would expect Google could do a great job given their data access.
Yeah, they can be pretty aggressive about **inbound** spam, and fast to block **your** network if they deem you a source.

Apparently, however, they couldn't care less about **outbound** spam.  One of our largest sources of spam is Google's network (as evidenced by IPs of the SMTP servers delivering to us).  Their 'abuse' desk seems to be a black hole, because all the reporting we've done (complete with full headers) has resulted in zero action-- and as we all know, Gmail is "too big to block".
Not adding much value here, but have to agree with Jay. Both GMail and Outlook/Hotmail originate junk, never seem to encounter Gmail issues but Outlook/Hotmail are nuisance for blocking at the drop of a hat or indeed what feels like a roll of a dice. Not to forget Yahoo who win Gold, never ever received a response from them, at least Outlook/Hotmail will respond if you persist.
And it doesn't have to be spam *originating* from our network.  We have clueless users who, for whatever reason, forward everything to their Gmail account.  ((what is the fascination with Gmail anyway!!!???))  Because they're clueless, their email addresses are on spam lists everywhere.  And when our server dutifully forwards everything to Gmail, *we* are tagged as the spam source.

It was bad enough that we blocked forwarding to major email providers like Gmail, MS/Outlook, Yahoo, et al.  Better to irritate a few clueless users, than to have our SMTP servers blacklisted.

I believe that disabling forwarding to these providers is not the best way to tackle the problem. You are tasked with stopping the spam before forwarding it.

Yes, these big tech companies are sneaky and hypocritical!
We'll agree to disagree.  Any external forwarding we do is a courtesy at best.  There is no requirement for us to accommodate that in our terms of service, and with the razor-thin profit margins of email hosting nowadays, we're not going to take on the added responsibility of sorting wheat from chaff, just so we can forward messages to some clueless neophyte's Gmail account because they can't figure out how to set up their domain's hosted mail account in Outlook.

If we did, that opens Pandora's Box when the recipient only gets half their messages and blames us for not forwarding everything (including what we would have tagged as spam).  In our view, it's all or nothing, and nothing is the safer bet.  If Bob wants his domain email to go to his Gmail portal, he should set up his domain with Gmail and have them host it for him directly.
I think this will be a hard battle to win, but that does not mean that it is not worth fighting.

A lot of business empires have been built by guys with big pockets dropping prices until all the little guys are gone.   Why do you think so many products are now ONLY made in China?

My best efforts at a counter argument:

Who owns your data after you migrate it?   Go back to the SmarterMail blog posts that explain why they dropped the GMail import option.  My paraphrase:  once Google has your email data, you have no right to take it back.   Not sure about Microsoft's current rules.   But Google's rules were different until they decided that they could be unilaterally changed.

What does Big Tech do with your data?   Do Google and Microsoft promise not to monetize YOU in exchange for hosting your data?   Is that promise reversible?    Is it verifiable?

Is Big Tech working with Government in a way that you believe is in your personal best interest, or contrary to it.   Non-profit administrators tend to be sympathetic to big government because it is a source of a lot of money, so this one may not resonate.   But I am alarmed at why I see in the news almost daily.   For people who think Big Tech is becoming a Big Problem, they should be willing to pay a little extra to keep their privacy and their options open. 

But many non-profits are just trying to keep the doors open and the lights out, so Iong-term issues may not get much weight.

Doug Foster

Kyle Kerst Replied
Employee Post
@Doug - I think your most recent follow-up on this is probably the biggest selling point right there! The ability to control your own data and decide what is done with it is key. We don't mine your data, we don't keep tabs on you, and you're free to delete or retain as much or as little as you like. Granted, the other side of that coin is that you're also responsible for the security and stability of your data as well, and this can have its own costs associated with it.

For non-profits and similar low-budget shops, I think the ability to get support when they need it, without paying an arm and a leg, is probably a great selling point. Small shops love being able to reach out and talk to someone, and I don't know that this is something O365 can offer in a meaningful way. 
Kyle Kerst System/Network Administrator SmarterTools Inc. (877) 357-6278 www.smartertools.com
I can chime in on this.
We ARE a non profit, run our own server, and in addition provide email service to a number of other non profits. @Douglas comments above are the primary selling point, and we can in fact provide 'proof of concept' on it.  Many smaller non profits are not familiar with what an "acceptable use policy" is for email. We have built some and help them to understand that once you start using gmail or another provider for your email, you are at their mercy. If you accidentally delete everything from an email box, they will decide if they will give you the backup data or not.  If your account gets hacked, and they cant prove if you are really you or not (since you can not call gmail on the phone and talk to a tech) they may decide the best thing to do (for THEIR protection, not yours) is to just kill your account. If you ahve some legal sh** going down and need to terminate emplotyees, volunteers or executives, you need to have absolute control over the email data, and if you are using gmail or others, you do NOT have that.

Back a few years ago, An ED of one of the non profits was terminated by her board.  We are the non profits email host. The New ED asked me to look at something because she could not find some important emails she was expecting. Turned out the previous ED set up her domain email account to forward everything over to her personal Gmail account, and then delete everything from the non profits domain.  The real problem was that it was close to a month before they informed us of the leadership change.  So this forwarding and deleting had been going on for weeks after her termination. The new ED had no information the state or the AG's office was sending them as it was all being forwarded to the old ED's personal Gmail account. Gmail would not give us access to the info because it was the previous ED's personal email account.  We ended up having to look at server logs and see what was inbound to the previous ED's mailbox and then contact the senders to ask them to resend info,  

We have also had volunteers or staff go rogue from various non profits - where they start sending (forwarding) everything to their personal email (gmail, yahoo, etc) account and then reply to the sender from their persoanl account, and not the non profits domain account. non of the conversations or data is captured through smartermail or backups, and if the staffer or volutneer quits or is terminated, you have no access to any of that info.

Other situations i have seen is that some volunteer set up a "donationsForOrgName@gmail.com" account and started collecting donations. Meanwhile the non profit has no control over that data, or even the money coming in for that fact.  This of course comes under an acceptable use policy and a strict enforcement of using only domain based email for org activity.  But is a prime example of how the big tech providers will not give you access to the account info, even if your name is literally part of the email address.

I could give you a list of reasons why as a non profit it is better to use smartermail than gmail. Most of them revolve around data ownership and control of the account. "FREE" sounds awesome...until you need to go and get immediate access to info (and are legally responsible for) that you do not have direct control over. Then you quickly learn how truly expensive the decision was to go for the "free" offering.

Regarding SPAM  :

I posted about the ownership part of this, back in 2015 :

Another idea in 2017  : 

Another suggestion in 2018 : 

www.HawaiianHope.org - Providing technology services to non profit organizations, low income families, homeless shelters, clean and sober houses and prisoner reentry programs. Since 2015, We have refurbished over 11,000 Computers !

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