Thinking about email services

Seeing the changes to OtherInbox Organizer this past weekend got me thinking about email in general. I’ve been using Gmail for more than ten years, and I’ve been using Organizer since 2011.

Every once in a while, I consider switching from Gmail to a non-free alternative. I last looked into paid email services in 2014. Not much has changed since then, but a few things have. Generally, the trend seems to be towards offering more space and charging a little more.

FastMail is probably the best example, and the likeliest candidate, if I were to switch. Their basic account is $30/year, for a 2 GB mailbox. That’s probably not enough for me, since I currently have about 2.3 GB in my Gmail account. (Of course, if I switch, I don’t need to bring all of my old mail over, but I’d like to, if I can.) Their standard account is $50/year for a 25 GB mailbox, which would be more than enough. That also includes the ability to use your own domain. (When I last looked at FastMail, a few years ago, the standard account was $40 and included 15 GB of storage.) They’ve got pretty much all the features you’d want in an email service: a nice web interface, IMAP support, an iOS app, two-factor authentication, calendar/contact management, and support for importing old mail from Gmail (or wherever).

I signed up for a free ProtonMail account back in 2014, when the service was still in beta. At the time, I found it to be too limited to be really useful. Looking at it again now, I see that it’s improved quite a bit, and it’s seriously worth considering for use as my main email account. The main selling points for ProtonMail are security and privacy. So if those are your main concerns, definitely take a look at their service. They have a pretty good web-based interface (much better than it was during the beta), and an iOS app (that I haven’t tried yet). They don’t support IMAP, though, since that just wouldn’t work with their secure architecture, so you’re stuck with either their web interface or app. You can’t hook your account up to Apple’s mail app, or Outlook, or anything like that. Free accounts have a 500 MB limit. Paid accounts are $5/month for 5 GB. One other downside with this: they don’t support any easy way to import mail from another account. (And since they don’t have IMAP, you can’t use an IMAP-based migration approach either.)

I host this blog at 1&1, and I have access to 1&1’s mail services as part of my hosting account. Occasionally, I think about switching from Gmail and just using my 1&1 account for mail. There would be a couple of advantages there. First, I’m already paying for it, and second, I can easily use one of my own domains, which are all hosted with 1&1. The included mail service gives me an IMAP account with 2 GB of storage. They have a web interface, which is OK but nowhere near as good as Gmail’s (or ProtonMail’s or FastMail’s, from what I’ve seen of them). And they have an iOS app, though I don’t think I would ever use it. The 2 GB limit is a little low; you can up that to 50 GB by signing up for a “business” account at $7/month. They also have Exchange 2013 hosting for $10/month, including a 25 GB mailbox, which is kind of interesting.

Of those three options, FastMail is the only really good one for me, I think. The 1&1 basic mail account has that 2 GB limit, and bumping it up costs a bit too much. And their web interface isn’t great. The ProtonMail service is pretty cool, but without IMAP support, there are too many things I just wouldn’t be able to do.

Well, I guess I still haven’t talked myself into switching away from Gmail. At this point, the one thing that might push me into doing it would be if OtherInbox Organizer becomes a problem. Then, I might be able to talk myself into switching providers, as part of an effort to switch to SaneBox or some other system for organizing my mail.


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