The internet generation of today are used to having their free email accounts with Yahoo, Microsoft or Google. The simplicity of picking a username and password before being let lose to the world. Of course all of your data is being sold to the highest bidder in order to fund these services, and in turn advertise to you. Personalised email and business email solutions are a different kettle of fish. Most domain name registrars or webhosts offer email services with your own domain name but usually at a cost.
Over the past few weeks I’ve had several queries with regard to email hosting for small businesses. People want email for their own domain names, with the ability to store (large) attachments but are shocked to find out the costs involved with setting them up with a provider or their own VPS. The email they get at home is free, and they know this, so seek justification for paying when it’s this “simple” thing that is provided to them without cost at home. It can take some explaining that their home email is not infact free, but is paid for with their data and adverts or alternatively subsidised (often a “loss-leader” with hosting providers just to get you in the door).
But why exactly does it cost so much money to run a personalised email address over one provided under a third party domain? Well there are costs involved, potentially the biggest being support. Email, for something so simple seems to cause all manor of headaches for users. Problems setting up the account on a phone or PC, attachments aren’t getting through, excessive spam, viruses, bounces, or emails just plain disappear. Google’s approach is to avoid any form of direct contact with the clients, something most companies wouldn’t get away with. Beyond the support lines are maintenance costs of keeping the system running in tip-top shape, as well as any commercial anti-virus or anti-spam applications that are designed to protect you before the email gets to your inbox. The other big cost with email systems is security, specifically SSL certificates. These require renewing every year and need to be set-up for each domain on the system. Each SSL certificate will need it’s own IP address, once more adding cost to the set-up. All this starts adding up, though it does not justify the price of some solutions that can be found online.
So what options to businesses, or those wanting personalised email have? The first step should always be to interrogate your current providers for domain names or webhosting. It’s practically unheard of for a company offering those services to not provide email as well. If you’ve been with them for some time you may be entitled to a discount, if not it’s worth arguing your case. If that fails there are alternative providers, but there is often painful scenarios were you can’t use their services without transferring domains or webhosting to them. It is very important that you check to make sure that only MX records need to be pointed to them to avoid disruption over your website. Some of the providers that seem to offer good value for money, depending what you’re looking for are outlined below:
Google – Google actually provide personalised email addresses for free up to 10 users. This email is free from advertising and uses the familliar Google Mail interface. For more information visit the Google Apps website. At the time of writing the “free” accounts for up to 10 users are found under the “pricing” tab. Exceeding the 10 users will, once again, require investment.
123-reg – Often there are mixed reviews of 123-reg, one of the bigger domain name providers in the UK. If only their advertising budget was better spent on training technical support, or fixing broken parts of their system behind the scenes. Somewhat negative opinions aside, 123-reg offer bargain-basement email solutions to those who don’t want to spend a fortune. With personalised mailboxes starting from £0.99 with up-to 2GB storage and hosting in the UK, it’s easy to see why their a popular choice for small businesses. One thing to note is that they do not seem to provide SSL security for their email accounts, which leaves them quite vulnerable to hacking. SSL itself costs money, but since they offer that service themselves you’d have thought their own email system would include it. You can find out more about 123-reg’s email service by visiting their website.
fastmail – From the friendly company that brought us the Opera web browser, fastmail is supposedly well respected. Having never interacted with them personally, I shall refrain from praise or otherwise. For more information drop by the fastmail.fm website.
Run your own – You can provide your own email on your personalised domain if you’re willing to get technical. Free, open source programs that run on Linux operating systems such as Postfix and Dovecot allow you to host your own email on your own server somewhere. There are of course many considerations if you go down this route, but sites like workaround.org do have tutorials worth investigating.
So, email isn’t free and shouldn’t be expected as such. A good email provider will always cost money, but a bad email provider will charge too much. Make sure you understand what you want from your email service provider before handing over money to anyone.