Tools Of The Trade: The Lycos system for remote access to business emails

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The Independent Online

Electronic mail is now as familiar as the phone among people who need to keep in touch for business. But managing email, especially if you spend a lot of time away from the office, can be a pain.

Remote workers and frequent travellers usually have a choice of direct access to the corporate email system -- meaning wrestling with private network technologies and often slow dial-up connections - or relying on free email utilities. The latter are useful, but not exactly business strength.

The online portal Lycos Europe thinks it has an alternative. As well as a standard, free email service, the company has launched two tiers of paid-for service, Lycos Mail Max (£1.99 a month) and Lycos Mail Personal (£3.49). One downside: subscribers have to give a credit card authorisation, so unless they cancel, they will be billed again after the first year.

Despite this, the Lycos products promise features over and above those offered by free utilities. The company claims that they can handle virus outbreaks such as MyDoom, and are 98 per cent effective in blocking spam.

Lycos also provides a much larger inbox than its (free) competitors, with a basic allocation of 50 megabytes and the option to add more storage. This makes it viable to keep a reasonable number of messages in the online store, and this is important: a mail service is only of limited use if you have to download most of the material to a laptop or office computer to keep it.

The top-of-the-range Lycos Mail Personal can store up to 1 gigabyte of data in up to 50 mailboxes.

Individuals and companies can also register their domain name (web address) as part of the service, and this is included in the price.

The combination of a domain, multiple mailboxes and compatibility with PC-based email programs means a small firm could use Lycos Personal instead of a mail server costing hundreds or thousands of pounds.

The potential of the service is hampered somewhat, though, by the practicalities. We found the web mail service slow at times, with pages refusing to load over an otherwise fast broadband connection. The navigation of the Lycos pages can also cause confusion: click on an email link and, instead of being connected to your mailbox, you find your way to part of the Lycos directory instead.

However, it is worth persevering. Of the competing products that offer more features, most are designed for larger businesses and require an IT department to set them up.

Even if that is possible, on a price-per-feature basis, few services come close to what Lycos offers.


Lycos Mail Max and Mail Personal

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pros: strong on features, low costs.

Cons: can be slow, navigation could be better.