Secure e-mail, encrypted so no one out side the intended recipient can read it, has been strictly the stuff of big companies for many years. But just like everything else these days, e-mail security has become simpler, and more Web-based. Dozens of firms are offering options for sending and receiving secure messages.
Encrypted e-mail will almost certainly never replace open e-mail, it is too cumbersome and expensive. But even tiny companies need to protect critical info like tax returns, independent contractor IRS 1099-Misc forms, human resources data, and personal health information. This security burden will only grow. Not only are federal security officials requiring stringent new rules for sending and receiving employee information, but HIPAA also requires healthcare providers to secure all personal health information.
With that in mind, here is a roundup of services the little guy can use to keep a big secret:
For Small Companies That Have a Little More to Spend
PGP Desktop Email (perpetual license: $164 per user)
Worth considering: Symantec's Desktop Email product allows for complete, easy to use encryption of most messages, provided both parties have the software properly installed. Those without the code get an encrypted zip file that can be attached to any piece of mail.
But beware: Users outside the system must exchange some form of password or identifying code, which can be cumbersome. Allow time to get folks up to speed.
BDS Secure File Transfer(Server)
Worth Considering: Look at BDS for server based email encryption solutions. BDS allows emails and attachments to be sent without the email or file actually leaving your system in an email. This means the Data is safely on your system until the recipient goes and gets it.
But beware: This solutions does create extra work on the recipient’s end. They will need to click on the link and enter a username and password to retrieve the email and any attachments.
Bottom line: Security is complex, but there is real value in this spend for firms with secrets to keep.
For Firms That Want to Keep It Secure but Simple
Hushmail (free for single users, domain support starts at $10 a month)
Worth considering: Not too paranoid or too complex, Vancouver-based Hushmail offers a simple set-up. It's fairly easy to establish basic security questions and answers to read messages.
But beware: This is a seriously no-frills e-mail interface, and features are similarly basic. Also keep in mind that this sort of encryption is hardly bombproof from a security perspective.
Bottom line: For a manageable level of hassle you can send your taxes, healthcare data or other sensitive information over the Web.
For the Secretive Web-Based Office
JumbleMe (free for 100 e-mails a year, $9.95 per year for 500 e-mails)
Worth considering: Schwenksville, Penn.-based JumbleMe lets messages be sent and received via the Web, meaning you can access them from whatever computer you're using without having to worry about them falling into the wrong hands. And they do it with an attractive, easy to use internet-based interface.
But beware: JumbleMe takes a bit of cloak-and-dagger to use properly. Both sides will need to keep track of previously agreed upon passwords. Also, depending on how it is configured, you may have to use an odd, and questionably professional, e-mail address like firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bottom line: For not a lot of money or hassle, and with a bit of planning, JumbleMe lets you send some seriously secure e-mail.
For Small Groups With Lots of Sensitive Data
ZixMail Desktop Email Encryption (three-year license for up to 49 users, $90 per user, per year)
Worth considering: Cornelia, Ga.-based ZixMail lets groups of up to 49 users send and receive secure messages with minimal passwords or hassle. Those not on the system are routed to a Web-based portal that is reasonably easy to navigate.
But beware: You may miss the bells and whistles of, say, a Symantec product. This is one stripped-down interface.
Bottom line: If you're a small business managing a fair amount of secure information -- like electronic medical records -- and you need an affordable way to stay secure, ZixMail is a good value for the money.
No Matter what solutions is right for you CHS Tech Solutions can help secure your email and the information within.