In this article, we will look at 1) what to look for when choosing an email provider, 2) free email providers, 3) paid email providers, and 4) most secure email providers.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN CHOOSING AN EMAIL PROVIDER
Email is increasingly becoming the primary mode of communication in today’s world. Through both paid and free email providers, we are able to maintain personal and professional communication easily. In addition to this, other online platforms and social media websites now require a personal email address for registration.
With ever increasing choices in email providers available, it can become very difficult to pick the right one that suits every requirement and provides the best service. There are some basic functionalities that any good email service provider should offer. These functionalities should go beyond just sending and receiving messages. These include:
- Features: Additional features that a good email provider should offer include calendars, instant messaging options and mobile apps for smartphones and tablets. All features should sync seamlessly between desktop and mobile versions
- Storage: An important thing to consider is the amount of storage space an email account offers. Some people prefer to keep detailed archives and have a lot of incoming and outgoing emails. For these people, the need for an email provider that offers extended storage space is extremely necessary.
- Attachment Limits: Another key considerations these days for email providers is how large an attachment can be sent in a regular email. With the proliferation of high definition photos and videos, it can be a challenge to send media and documents with embedded media over email.
- Filters and Folders for Organization: In order to maintain a clean inbox, folders and filters are an important feature. A good email host will allow these to be set up with some even allowing auto-sorting of incoming emails based on keywords, past preferences and behavior
- Email Composition Tools: This may not seem like an important feature to some people, but it is a useful tool to have options such as fonts, sizes, spell checks, signature etc
- Security: One key aspect of choosing an email provider is to assess the degree of security it provides. For even a regular user of email, there can be sensitive information to protect such as bank information, passwords, links to other websites and social media websites, tax information and other personal information. The ability to keep hackers and other cyber thieves out of an inbox therefore becomes a key consideration. A good email provider should provide layers of security that include, phishing filters, spam filters, secure login mechanisms, attachment scanning for viruses etc
- Help, Support and FAQs: A good email provider should provide basic support for regular smaller problems as well as major issues. Help services can include password recovery, customer service over email or phones and frequently asked questions
- Data Portability: This aspect is often not considered but is a very important factor. This either means that the email provider must support a desktop client such as Outlook or Thunderbird or the service has export and import capabilities. Desktop clients are supported by email addresses in general. The other aspect is trickier since emails are usually easy to transfer back and forth. It is the contact list that creates problems and there is almost certainly some loss of data.
- Reliability: A reliable email provider should have as few connectivity issues as possible as well as smooth delivery of email, unhindered by things such as overzealous spam filters. This can be an issue in some providers where either emails are not received or do not reach their destination.
FREE EMAIL PROVIDERS
Gmail is one of the most popular email providers today. It is known for its simple and user free interface, ample storage space and a myriad of features. At present it offers about 15 GBs of inbox space to its users and this is extended periodically.
Benefits of Gmail
- Gmail provides a large number of features and the option of choosing to use any of 30 different languages. These can be used if required or ignored if not needed. Some of the more interesting and useful features include RSS feeds, labels, auto-saved drafts, auto forwarding, ability to send emails from other accounts owned by the same person.
- There is a search bar that allows the user to search within the inbox
- There is an integrated instant messaging service called Gtalk
- There is constantly work being done to offer new features and improve existing ones.
- There are also detailed options to organize conversations and emails into folders and filters allow these emails to directly be sent into relevant, specified folders.
- Junk email filters are very strong and work quite well to keep unwanted email out.
- Emails are organized into conversations rather than separately. This makes it much easier to keep track of them.
- There are also preset tabs and email is sorted into these automatically. These are the primary, social and promotional tabs.
- There are no advertisements banners at any point on the screen. Some relevant text based advertisements are shown on one side.
- The interface is simple and easy to navigate though still displaying many of the features on offer. The email page loads faster than most other providers.
- Storage and Attachments
- Gmail allows users to send emails with up to 20mb of attachments within.
- There is an extensive section for help and FAQs in addition to the option of emailing for a solution.
- Accessibility and Security
- Gmail is smoothly integrated for mobile access with the Android operating system.
- Gmail also offers a two-step authentication making it a very safe service.
- There have been some privacy concerns with Gmail pertaining to the Google ads algorithm that reads emails. This is used to pick and display relevant text ads. This is a primary concern regarding Gmail.
Outlook, the free online email provider and not the Microsoft desktop client, is one of the first free email services launched. It is the updated version of Hotmail.
Benefits of Outlook
- Since Microsoft owns Skype and is a part of the Facebook board, it is able to offer access to instant messaging and Facebook seamlessly.
- The account can be setup according to personal preferences. This customization includes filters, tabs and importance classification options for emails.
- In contrast to Hotmail’s slow and somewhat clunky interface, outlook is sleek and minimalist in appearance. The interface is both functional and visually appealing.
- The account offers access to SkyDrive and other Windows Live tools and applications. It is also integrated with Windows phones and Windows 8.
- Though vastly improved, the service still does not manage to create a strong enough motive for people to want to switch over from Gmail or chose Outlook over Gmail.
Also one of the initial email service providers, Yahoo! has made several improvements to its product.
Benefits of Yahoo! Mail
- The latest upgrade to the user interface by Yahoo! has brought it much closer to Gmail and even Outlook. The difference is that the email provider has kept its three pane screen model with the right pane being divided into sections. One of these offers email previews.
- Among the features offered is the Yahoo! Messenger, an integrated calendar and a contact list.
- As is the norm, there are options to apply filters, star important emails and sort the rest into tabs. The service allows attachments such as photos and videos to be viewed inside the inbox without the need for a separate tab.
- One major point of concern is that the service does not allow the email account to be accessed from different locations simultaneously.
- Another annoyance for many users is that the Yahoo! Mail page still sports banner advertisements.
PAID EMAIL PROVIDERS
Opting for a Domain Name
Though free email providers are a good option for more people, it is tricky when the long term value of email accounts is considered. With Gmail overthrowing established players such as Hotmail and Yahoo, it may be a matter of time before another option comes along to dethrone Gmail. To prevent such an occurrence, business owners may find it a good idea to use a unique domain name for. This will ensure that no matter what the service being used, the email address will remain constant over time.
The first step then is to invest in purchasing a domain name. The next step is to pick the right paid client to host this domain name.
Examples of Paid Email Providers
One paid email provider is Thexyz, which offers more features to a professional, enterprise audience. All emails are automatically backedup, to ensure that no data is ever lost. This includes all sent and received emails and is an attractive feature for businesses. he service allows more space in the inbox as well as up to 50MB of attachments per email. Other features include integrated group calendars and sync to smartphones. The service allows all data to be transferred seamlessly from another account.
The appearance of the service is not as streamlined and attractive as other services such as Outlook or Gmail. But this is usually not a concern to the target audience for Thexyz. There is not much integration or plugins with other applications such as Skype or Facebook with Outlook.
Google is one of the most popular choices for domain hosting. The service costs $5 per month per user on the hosted domain. For that subscription, the user will receive 25GB of storage and strong support from Gmail along with all the usual features and benefits.
The updated Outlook is another strong option for a paid email service. The major benefit of outlook is that it remains free for people looking to host their own domain. As many as 500 email addresses can be hosted for no charge and there is the option of upgrading to Outlook Plus to remove ads for a few of $19.95 per month. The services on offer include integration with Office Web Apps and Skype powered video chat. There is also a 2 step verification process which adds an important layer of security.
The service does not support IMAP sync which means it cannot be used simultaneously in different locations unless the desktop email app Outlook is used.
Office 365 Small Business
Another service by Micrsoft, a monthly subscription of $4 will allow access to Exchange in Microsoft’s Cloud. This means access to Exchange push email (IMAP or POP3 sync) among other features. For the $5 per month subscription, users also get access to Sharepoint which allows collaboration with teams. An additional fee of $7 means access to the complete Office 2013 for a PC and Office 2011 for a MAC.
Atmail offers an attractive user interface despite a few bumps here and there. There are many of the same features as Gmail on offer and every kind of sync that is needed. There are tools available to manage an entire team. All this is available for a small subscription of $2 a month. The service does require a minimum of five users for a domain to be hosted.
FastMail is a popular alternative to Gmail for hosting a domain name based email address. The service is an economical option that begins from $39.99 per year for a single email address hosted on a unique domain. There has been some improvement in the web apps but there is still a long way to go. The service does offer an IMAP and POP3 sync and there are options to increase the number of users on a domain.
Rackspace offers two options for users. A $2 subscription per user will give access to the providers own service while a $10 per month subscription will allow a user to access their Exchange powered email. A user can switch between these two options on one domain. The downside is that there needs to be a minimum spend of $10 each month which translates to at least 5 users.
Hushmail is designed to offer great privacy to its users. This is achieved through HiPPA-compliant privacy, built in OpenPGP encryption, unlimited email aliases and other features. The subscription is $5.24 for each user every month along with a one-time $9.99 setup fee.
Zoho is a little known office suit company that provides a lot more to its users. The company has an impressive array of web applications that range from office to CRM together with professional email hosting. There is a free option while the paid options allows extended storage and features. There are also no ads, push email and full sync support. The subscription is $2.5 for each user every month.
MOST SECURE EMAIL PROVIDERS
There are increasing concerns about email services not being private and fears of surveillance and intrusive data mining. For users concerned with these issues, there are several services that provide a more secure environment for their users. A few of these services include:
- : Though the interface appears outdated, the service uses up-to-date technology to ensure security of online communication. The service ensures that documents and files sent are not stored on any servers through a process where unlock keys are used for any email address. The messages sent are unlocked through the receiver’s unique address and electronic signature.
- Hushmail: This service encodes all messages automatically using an encryption technology. A special key code is required to decrypt and read messages. The service is free initially with the option to upgrade to access more storage and features.
- Lockbin: Messages on Lockbin are sent using an AES-256 bit encryption method. An unlock key needs to be provided to the receiver after the email is sent. This is a bit cumbersome but also a guarantee that the intended recipient is the only one who can access the email. Once viewed, the messages are deleted from servers.
- NeoMailBox: Another secure and reliable service, NeoMailBox also provides IP anonymity and SSL protected internet surfing. These services are hosted in Switzerland which is a country supportive of privacy issues. There are also disposable email addresses available among other features.
- Proton Mail: Created out of concern by a group of CERN scientists, Proton mail is protected from any efforts to read emails intended for someone else. The service uses end to end encryption. Data is encrypted before it reaches the server and the encryption key is separated from the encrypted message to provide the necessary security. Servers are hosted in Switzerland for additional layers of security. The service is free with the option to upgrade for additional storage space.