By Patrick Antaki's estimate, his fast-growing, $4.1-million company, AnTel, in Plano, Tex., has about 1.5 computers for each employee. Despite AnTel's technological sophistication, there's one thing the 24-person electronic-engineering business lacks: an internal electronic-mail system. That's not because Antaki hasn't tried such a system. It's because he had one and got rid of it.

AnTel uses IBM-compatible personal computers for business functions and Sun workstations for engineering. At the workstations, E-mail contact with the outside world is important: AnTel's engineers often use the Internet network of computer networks to communicate with clients or to transfer design files to them.

In 1993 Antaki decided to try linking the PCs and the Sun machines in a network that could, among other things, offer companywide E-mail. Big mistake, Antaki thinks now. He soon discovered that maintaining such a cross-platform network demanded a substantial investment of time -- and Antaki likes to keep his company lean, with only two nonengineers on staff. "It was a nightmare," he says.

Antaki also found his employees spent too much time exchanging unimportant E-mail. What was the point, he asked himself, of internal E-mail in a small, one-location company? "It takes about 15 seconds to go from one end of our building to the other," he notes. So he canceled all in-house E-mail, as well as the cross-platform network -- and he's happy with his decision. "We use voice mail a lot," he says.

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