These days, it is difficult to find a real estate agent that works on only one computer or who doesn’t work with an assistant or in a team. For those of you who fit that description, you have probably found that you have outgrown the standard configuration of Outlook. Your contacts, calendar and tasks are on only one computer. Other computers that you use don’t have that information and you are unable to share that information with teammates or an assistant. The good news is that it is now easy to overcome these limitations.
Outlook Exchange is a server based version of Outlook. All contacts, calendar events tasks and emails are stored on a server. The user then configures their standard Outlook software to communicate with that server. This means that you can have the exact same Outlook data on multiple computers with no additional effort.
For times that you need to access your Outlook data when away from your computer, you can access your server’s Outlook Web Access (OWA) page from any Internet capable computer. OWA gives you full access to your data with most of the functionality of the Outlook program. This can be a real savior when on vacation. I accessed my OWA page from a coffee shop in Italy and was able to respond to an urgent client email.
For real estate agents working in a team or with an assistant, Outlook Exchange adds collaborative features that you will wonder how you ever lived without. Share contacts and calendars with teammates. Invite teammates to appointments and have the time blocked off on their calendar. Store Microsoft Office files in public folders so that everyone can find them (think marketing materials).
Other value-added functionality includes auto-reply capabilities for times that you are out of town or in conferences, and the ability to sync your Outlook data with any Windows Mobile 5.0 or 6.0 smartphone (see my posting on smartphone options for real estate agents).
Up until recently, only large corporations could afford the high cost of Outlook Exchange implementation. This has changed due to the numerous Outlook Exchange hosting services that have popped up. My personal favorite is a company called 1and1.com. They offer Outlook Exchange hosting for $6.99 a month per user. What really differentiates 1and1.com from the competition is the storage place that they offer. Most Outlook Exchange hosting services offer a miniscule 100 MB per user. 1and1.com offers 1 GB of storage per user (10 times the space).
1and1.com offers free domain names and Outlook software with your subscription. Most real estate agents that I have set-up on this service have their domain name tied to their website hosted on a different server. There is an easy solution to this. You can have your emails automatically forwarded from your website host to your 1and1.com account. You then configure your 1and1.com account to send emails with your email address as the “from” address.
Give this service a try. 1and1.com offers a 90 day money back guarantee, so there is no risk. Once you experience the added functionality, you will appreciate Outlook much more and will never go back to a standard POP3 Outlook configuration again.