What is E-mail Hosting?
With E-mail Hosting, you're renting a service that gives you the ability to either send or receive e-mail (or both). Most Enterprise providers allow you to use your own Domain Name, or even register a new one. Freemail providers — Mail that's Free — don't allow you to choose your own domain.
The Domain Name determines the part of the E-mail Address after the
"@". For example, if you own or register "
company.com", you can create addresses like "
email@example.com" or "
firstname.lastname@example.org", in other words you can determine the entire e-mail address (given that you've got access to the domain you want). For Freemail providers your choices are limited to the part before the "@".
Most of the Price is determined by the Features and/or Limitations a provider sets. Some limit the amount of Mailboxes, Forwarders, or Disk Space, others limit the amount of mails you can Send and Receive. Some only allow you to read your mail on the web (Webmail), while others you to use your personal E-mail client (e.g. Apple Mail, Outlook or Thunderbird). Finally advanced features like Relaying, Fallback or SMTP Connectors.
Finding the best Provider for you
Not all E-mail Hosting and E-mail Services are created equal.
Some providers offer their services for free, most are cheap and some are expensive. While the free options might be good enough for some, a payed option might actually save you money in the long run. Use these 5 questions below to determine what kind of service would be most suitable for you:
1. What kind of User am I?
- Private / Home user
For you, e-mail is nothing more than a means of communication. Simply sending and / or receiving e-mail is more than enough for you.
A Freemail service is sufficient for you, unless you want to use your own domain.
- Self-Employed / Entrepreneur / Looking for a Job
You'll earn (a big chunk of) your money using e-mail. Therefore, at least, find a Provider that allows you to use your own Domain Name.
For Businesses, use a Domain with your business name. Looking for a Job, a "
email@example.com" really looks good on your resume.
- Corporate / Business Owner / System Administrator / IT Professional / Online Marketeer / E-mail Marketeer
Either you'll need to able to help your customers or collegues with setting up their mail or you'll need to connect your E-mail Campaign program to a SMTP Server that sends Signed and Valid messages. Look for an Enterprise or Advanced service.
Perhaps you're running an obsolete system (an old Exchange or Lotus Notes Server), than look for Mail Relay or MX Relay options.
2. How do I value Security and Privacy?
- I don't mind others using my Data for other purposes
For (almost) all Freemail providers, your (perhaps anonymized) data is used to earn back the cost of providing the service, either by selling your data or re-targeting ads.
This is moreless the same for most cheap providers. Keep in mind: if the product is free, you're the product.
- I really don't want others to see my message contents
3. What kind of E-mails do I send mostly?
- Simple one-on-one messages / Mostly personal
You like to keep in touch with Granny — if she's mailing, well done! — or like to share a funny post or picture you found online, the Freemail option or a simple E-mail Service will be more than sufficient for you. Refer back to the Privacy question above if you share personal pictures or content.
- Professional messages / Messages with multiple attachments or other rich content
If you're a Professional, — you earn money using mail — you absolutely have to be sure your mail looks professional, and
firstname.lastname@example.org doesn't, sorry. Also, sending messages with attachments (for example a Quote to your new customer) are marked as Spam more often, if you're using that cheapo provider.
An Enterprise Service might yield you more value for the buck.
- Newsletters / Mailings / Campaigns
Please, don't ever send your Newsletter using the BCC-method. This negatively impacts the reputation of the Domain you're using severely. Use Professional Campaign software to send Newsletters, Mailings and Campaigns.
Either use an E-mail Campaign System built for the purpose or use Campaign Software with an option to enter an SMTP account or SMTP connector.
4. Bacon and Eggs: With or without Spam?
- I don't mind manually removing unwanted mail / Checking my Spam folder
Off-course you don't want to mess with potentially risky messages, but these will be filtered out by most providers, even the Cheap and the Free ones.
Some unsolicited messages might reach your inbox and some valid messages might be marked as spam.
If you don't mind, a simple cheap or free service will do for you.
- I haven't got the time to mess with Spam
Even the cheapest providers filter most of the Spam for you. Only Enterprise Solutions are able to use their resources to set up a customised filter to get rid of even the sneakiest phishing messages. This is especially important for Corporate, Business Owners, Sysadmins, IT Professionals and Marketeers. Keep in mind, almost every breach or hack starts with a simple Phishing or Spear-Phishing mail opened by an Employee in a hurry.
Look for an Enterprise solution.
5. Do I require advanced features?
- Simple: One e-mail address
If you just want to receive your mail on a one e-mail address or perhaps just want to forward to a different address (some providers allow that).
Freemail would do for you.
- Moderate: Mailboxes / Forwarders / Aliases / Autoresponders
When you want to have more than one e-mail address for your Domain Name, perhaps Forward "
support@" to a few Mailboxes, or set up an Autoresponder for senders to receive a message when you're away.
Most Cheap providers have these solutions for you, Enterprise providers are more suited for either multiple domains and or multiple .
- Advanced: List-Unsubscribe / Feedback Loop (FBL) / SMTP Connectors / MX Relay / Fallback server
If you're sending a bigger amount of mails, you'll need to have a proper List-Unsubscribe system to manage any Unsubscriptions. A Feedback-Loop ensures your messages are not sent by unwanted senders and ensures Complaints are managed properly and automatically.
If you're using your own Servers, or have an Advanced, Custom or Obsolete Setup, you'll need SMTP Connectors and or Relays and Fallback servers to ensure your mail is send and received properly and actually reach the daylight of an Inbox.
Other Important E-mail Service Properties
Some providers back-up your mail periodically and allow you to restore your lost messages.
Steer clear from POP if you don't want to manage your own back-ups.
- Pricing: Set-up Fees and Contract Duration
Check if your provider asks a Set-Up Fee or other hidden costs to get started. Also, some providers require a minimum contract duration of a few months or even years.
- Pricing-Models based on Usage
While some providers ask a fixed price per unit, e.g. per Domain or per Account, others ask additional fees based on the amount of messages send or received.
Make a good estimation of your expected usage to determine your expenses per provider.
- Compliant & Valid
Ensure the provider you've found is on par with all E-mail regulations. Off-course you'll need SPF and DKIM validation, but you'll also need them to sign you up for Whitelists and Feedback-Look programs where possible.
- Trail Period or Money Back Guarantees
Some providers allow you to use their service for free for a while, or allow you a refund if it's not up to your expectations. This is neat, because it allows you to send some mails to different Mail-Testers. A good score from these testers are a good indication you're using a good provider.
Finally, decide on the best E-mail Provider for you
Answering the 5 questions from above and keeping the Other Important Properties in mind, you'll surely find the best E-mail Service Provider for you. If you're starting fresh, you can simply set up your (new) Domain Name to send an receive the mails using the service you chose. Otherwise, you can usually run the service alongside your current setup to at least test sending some mail.