Many smaller cities try to make their budgets go further by using a free email service like Yahoo, GMAIL and Hotmail or from their Internet Service Provider (ie - Comcast, AT&T, Frontier, etc...).
While free email may be fine for some personal use, it is not designed for official city use as it is unprofessional, lacks adequate security, can't be controlled, and provides little to no support. This could end up costing a city more than just money.
Free email typically provides users with an address like "email@example.com" or "firstname.lastname@example.org rather than something that matches their city domain like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. This projects a level of unprofessionalism and can be confusing to the public. Services like GMAIL (part of paid GSuite) give organizations the ability to use one or more domains for their email. For example, a city using GMAIL could have two (2) different addresses- one for City Hall and one for the Police Department (email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org).
Email can be critical to the proper function a city. If service goes down or stops working, some city business can grind to a hault. Free services typically offer no phone support and often provide little or no email support. So, if there is an emergency, users are just stuck. With services like GMAIL, users get Enterprise-level support from Google. In addition, Google partners with private companies (big and small) accross the globe who can offer a more personal level of support. They typically are a phone call or email away from instant support. Moreover, these "Google Cloud" Partners don't just offer support, but, can often offer high level training on GSuite and can tailor solutions designed to help City's use GMAIL and all of the tools in GSuite to improve their operations, provide better customer service, offer greater transparency and lower their overhead.
Email, at it's core, a perfect example of "cloud-computing" as it involves off-site servers for things such as email storage and domain hosting. As a result, the user is depending on the email provider and domain hosts to protect their data from hackers and keep their service running. As everyone is now aware, that is not an easy task. Few free services offer adequate security. However, companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple are some exceptions to that rule. Both the free and paid versions of GMAIL have some of the most powerful security features on the market. rom the end users perspective, they offer tools such as two-step verification as well as account login monitoring. Behind the scenes, data is encrypted and stored on servers protected by an army of the best internet security engineers in the world. The paid version of GMAIL gets even higher levels of security as an administration level can be added which can enforce event tighter securit policies including mobile device management and password strength.
LACK OF CONTROL
With free email services, users have no control over their emails. As a result, organizations are not able to easily enforce retention policies. This often results in emails getting scattered accross individual computers and mobile devices and shared with unauthorized viewers or deleted by end users by accident or with intent. This could lead to privacy violations pertaining to HIPPA, CJIS or Open Meetings and could unnecessarily expose information on computers and mobile devices to costly litigation. With the paid versio no GMAIL, City emails can be kept off individual machines and mobile devices and can be made to comply with privacy laws such as HIPPA, CJIS and Open Meetings. In addition, emails can be subjected to e-discovery policies which allow for the enforcement of rentention policies.
If you are a City utilizing a free email service, we recommend you take a look at upgrading to a paid service like GSuite. Not only will you get professional looking email with a domain that matches your website, but access to enterprise-level security and support. Moreover, you can gain control of all of your emails and ensure they are there when you need them and gone when you don't. Plus, you will have access to the entire GSuite "toolbox" of applications which can help you get your job done faster, better and cheaper.