The other day my wife received and eMail to her gMail account. Nothing unexpected here. Except that this eMail was not meant for her. She happens to share the same name as an HR consultant somewhere in northern England. To her horror, as she started to read through the eMail, it outlined the disciplinary and private details of a dismissal of an individual from a (to be un-named) manufacturing company and the thoughts of the managers involved asking for advice. Her reaction was to reply to the original sender and delete the message.
I have received eMails to my gMail to the same effect; a customer had a wetsuit shipped to him from a company in Dorset, family pictures to a Doug Hirst in Northern America and on a domestic level these make very little difference. However this was not domestic, this was the very detailed, confidential, private files meant to be used by a paid professional in her line of business. I am fairly sure that the Data Protection Act 1998 would have something to say about this. Taking reasonable measures to ensure your data is going to the person you want it go to is kinda important!
As someone who is tech orientated I have to confess to a small amount of snobbery - a tradesman or company with a @btinternet, @gmail or @hotmail email address is an immediate turn off. I am not saying I will not use their services, but I will double check their details much more. A bit like seeing a Tesco van making a delivery to your local "gastropub" - there is nothing wrong per se but is suggests a lack of understanding of how to run a business and getting the basics right.
Some practical advice - it is cheap and easy to have a domain hosted offering a variety of services. Most of these cost less than a weekly Starbucks run! - Approx £20 to register the domain and around £ 12 per month will get you a full service, and usually include webmail. Providers of these include Heart Internet, who I currently use and 1-2-3reg who I have heard a number of people recommend.
You can, of course, go much further - setup your own server with a shared address book (so everyone in your company has the right eMail addresses) and setup secure file sharing space so that only those who are meant to share confidential info are able access it. These are bigger solutions but they are also important - much like taking the time to make sure your showroom is clean and tidy - you should also make sure you are putting into place as many systems as needed to ensure that your data is not ending up with people who should no have it!
My advice is look into how and where your data goes. If you do not have time get in contact with someone like me who can take it onboard for you; you do the same for your taxes, but get it done. Loosing your data could cost you a lot more!