Email Hosting Explained

Email Hosting Explained

Email hosting is a service provided by some companies which offer users email services. The exact nature of the email services provided can vary greatly. There are many email hosting companies which offer everything from free email accounts to premium bulk email service facilities.

To many of us, the term email is so ordinary that we hardly stop to think about it. It has in many cases replaced post mail, also now lovingly referred to by many as snail mail. The reason for this is simply that email is so much faster and easier to use.

Not All Email Hosting is The Same

If you were to ask a few people about email, the first names to come into their mind are likely to be Gmail or Yahoo Mail, two of the largest names in the webmail business. However, this represents just a fraction of the entire email hosting business.

There is also hosted email which is another big chunk of the industry. As an example of this, web hosting service providers offer email services in two ways; Either packaged in with web hosting plans or as standalone products.

On top of that, you also have Cloud email hosting which is offered by Software as a Service (SaaS) companies such as Alibaba and Google. As you can expect, prices can vary greatly between the different types of email hosting.

In this article we are going to look at three main types of email hosting and their differences and primary uses; Free Webmail, SaaS Email Hosting, and Dedicated Email Hosting.

Free Web-hosted Email Services

ServiceStorage (GB)Attachment Limit (MB)Ads?ProtocolsEncryption
Gmail1525YesPOP, IMAP, SMTPSSL, TLS
Yahoo! Mail1,00025YesIMAP, SMTPSSL
Outlook.com1525 YesPOP, IMAP, SMTPSSL, Exchange Active Sync
iCloud520NoIMAP, SMTPSSL, TLS
Mail.comUnlimited50 YesOnly for paid versionSSL

Web-hosted email services or webmail was originally designed to allow people a quick and easy way to access their emails from any location. In the early days, software applications were more limited and there were not many good free or freemium email clients around.

Webmail allowed anyone with a computer to browse to the webmail site and use email services. You could send and receive emails – usually for free. As time passed and email clients developed, webmail services began to allow their users to use POP and IMAP to handle their accounts.

The examples I’ve shown in the table above are but a fraction of the free email service providers in the market. It is important to remember that with free email services, you are often forced to use the domain of the provider in your email address.

Pros:

  • Usually completely free
  • Decent storage space for emails
  • Hassle-free and low maintenance

Cons:

  • Usually ad-driven which might be somewhat irritating
  • Not able to use your own domain name
  • Minimal dedicated support
  • Limited to no control over the interface

Professional Email Hosting

ServicePrice (/year)Storage (GB)Attachment Limit (MB)Outgoing Email (Limits /day)Encryption
G Suite$5.40 - $2530 - Unlimited503,000SSL, TLS
Alibaba Mail$1.125100502,000Unknown
Zoho Mail$1.00525300SSL, S/MIME
NameCheap$0.8235512,000SSL, S/MIME
Interserver$5253548,000SSL, S/MIME

For most email users, free webmail services are fine. It’s fast, easy, convenient, and best of all, free. However, for business, it is an entirely different ballgame. What happens when your emails become a part of your revenue stream?

Businesses today often use emails not just to communicate but also to transmit documents such as invoice, purchase orders, and even contracts. These documents are both important and, normally, confidential. 

In a world driven by image, email has also become part of a company’s branding and needs to be customized in line with the company’s image. How would it look for a business to use a Gmail or Yahoo Mail address?

Let’s consider the key advantages of professional email hosting here;

More robust security 

With cyber threats increasing all the time, it has become imperative for businesses to work with partners who take their security seriously. Email hosting is something that’s provided by a business partner and if not taken seriously can cause significant damage.

Even if the issue were not on your end such as a stolen password or hacked PC, will your email service provider have put into place enough precautions to mitigate potential disaster? Are you quickly and easily able to ask for help in recovering files and other data from your service provider?

Personalized domain name

Much of business today remains in branding and presenting a solid front to your customer. Companies work hard at building their brand to reassure customers that they are working with a reputable and reliable source. It would be a difficult line for customers to swallow if they tried to email your sales department and found out it was a Yahoo Mail address.

The branding also helps your customers know that if there is an email reaching out to them, that the domain name is really your company and not a fraudster who is merely making use of your brand.

Other business tools

Email today has grown more complex and much more has been added in terms of features. While free webmail usually provides the necessary basics, professional email hosting services often go the extra mile in offering extended business features.

This can include everything from collaborative tools to calendars, extra document storage space, and much more. These features help people in companies work more closely together and can increase efficiency if used in the right way. 

It has only been of late that Cloud applications have really begun to take off. Companies are starting to deliver very useful and powerful applications through the Cloud at a fraction of the prices they used to sell for.

SaaS providers focus on individual products and work hard on them to deliver feature-packed and powerful applications on a broad front.  For email services, this means offering a great mail experience along with many extra supporting features. 

Since the service is still provided from a source outside your company, there is no need to worry about capital expenditure on equipment, not the regular development and maintenance costs usually associated with specialized in-house services.

It also allows you to keep the focus on your core business while outsourcing to professionals.

Pros: 

  • Multiple authentication possibilities
  • Mail management schema setups such as routing, filtering, and blacklisting
  • Powerful contact management
  • Large attachments and storage
  • Extended backups management
  • Customized aliases and autoresponders

Cons:

  • Some security and data concerns
  • Application range limited to specific providers products
  • Can be slower than dedicated hosting

Dedicated Email Hosting

If you really need something that is much more powerful and configurable, your last remaining choice would be to opt for hosting your own emails. This lets you control every aspect of your emails right down to exactly where you want to locate your email server.

This biggest issue with this option is cost. In order to host your own emails, you’ll need a couple of things that will not just result in initial capital outlay, but also ongoing maintenance cost. To begin with, you’ll need a server.

To work, that server will need software licenses for everything from the operating system right down to each program you’re running, including the email server application, spam filters, antivirus, firewalls, add-ons applications, and more.

One that is in place, you’ll also need to rent space for the server in a data center. Housing your email server in your office isn’t a good idea it will take up part of your bandwidth and will be reliant on power and other facilities at the location. A data center will be a more reliable option.

Finally, you’ll need to on-board staff with the necessary expertise to configure and maintain both your hardware and software. At the end of the day, you’re responsible for everything about your email, lock stock and barrel.

Verdict: Professional Email Hosting is Fine

Although these options may seem a little daunting, keep in mind that, most professional email hosting options are just fine. They are for the most part reliable and efficient and don’t bring the burden of heavy overhead expenses to your business.

Because they are normally priced on a per-user basis, you can also scale your email needs easily whenever you have staff movement. Dedicated email hosting is usually only required in very special cases or where the company grows too large for external solutions to become viable.

Ultimately, match the basic parameters of the email host with your requirements and see which provider can fit your needs best. Remember that this article covers general emails and email marketing has different requirements altogether.

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Jerry Low has immersed himself in web technologies for over a decade and has built many successful sites from scratch. He is a self-professed geek who has made it his life’s ambition to keep the web hosting industry honest. For latest personal updates and news, follow Jerry on Facebook and Twitter.