How I picked picked my email host

This is the third post on my switch from Gmail to email hosted at my own domain. You can find the first one on how I did it here. And the second one on why I did it here.

So when I was trying to decide on an email provider I looked at a few options before settling on FastMail.

The first was actually Google! Google provides email to corporate customers and such for a fee that lets you use your own domain. I actually have some experience with this at work, so I was aware of the offerings, and they’re actually pretty good. This was tempting because it would be familiar and it would let me more seamlessly keep using the google services I wanted to keep using (though with a different email address/account, which would mean some transition too). This being a paid account you do get a bit better customer service and some extra control over things, and your relationship with Google changes at least slightly more to that of a customer, rather than a product. But this would still leave me in a situation where I’d be giving Google all that data. It would change my relationship with Google slightly, but only slightly.

Another option that was mentioned a number of times was actually Microsoft. Like google they offer businesses hosted email plans that let you use your own domain. As I understand it these work mostly via Exchange, which is proprietary, but thanks to Microsoft’s major influence in the corporate world most things know now to talk to Exchange for email, calendars, contacts etc. It wouldn’t be any problem to use this option with my iOS devices or my Mac at home or anything else I expected to use. If you had told my younger Mac-partisan self in the 90’s that he’d be considering using Microsoft for something like this he would not have believed you. But Microsoft is a different company today. I also like that their business model is just based on customers paying them for products, and not on data collection and advertising. The company is big, boring, and stable. So I could feel pretty confident that they were going to be around for the long haul and that changes would mostly be slow and predictable, and that all my stuff would likely continue to work with them for a long time to come. This was an option I seriously considered. But ultimately I liked the idea of a company that focused more on email. But if at some point I decided I don’t want to use FastMail anymore Microsoft is a pretty strong contender for a second choice.

Another option I didn’t look at too closely (in part because at the time I didn’t realize that paid accounts would let use a custom domain) is ProtonMail. Their whole selling point is security and privacy. FastMail is very privacy and security focused too, but it’s not their primary selling point. I didn’t look too closely at ProtonMail during my search as I didn’t initially realize you could use your own domain with it, but if I ever decide to switch, or get really paranoid, I’ll be looking closely at their offerings too.

The last option that got mentioned by people a lot, is a company called FastMail. This is the choice I ultimately went with. A few pod-casters I listen to have mentioned using and liking FastMail for years, and it was recommended by a lot of other folks I talked to. They focus on email and things related to email (like calendars and contacts), and that’s about it. I like that focus. They also offered some nice features like sub-domain addressing which helps with sorting email on different topics and tracking who may be selling your email address and such. I was also impressed with how polished their help documents were and how easy they make it to use your own domain (in fact they kind of encourage it). They offer a no-credit-card 30 day trial which lets you use almost all the features (it mostly just limits you on how many emails you can send in a day during the trail), and I was able to get a 10% discount if I decided to sign up by using a referal code I got from a current user, so it seemed like a safe bet to give it a try.

Once I did I was even more impressed with FastMail. I was able to use them to handle the DNS for several of my domains which let me set up redirects and such from my old blog to my new one. I was able to set up several domains I own to work with my FastMail account for not extra charge, which let me set up aliases using those domains and other such things. All of that for $5/month (or less if you buy a year or more at a time, plus I had that extra discount!). The company seems very stable, they seem to offer all the latest tech, and you have an easy to understand customer relationship with them. You pay them, they provide you a service. There’s not advertising or tracking going on there. I was also happy that everything works through standards based protocols (Like IMAP, and CardDAV), so I can use my FastMail account with pretty much any email client I might like. I even like the web-interface!

Anyway! There are lots of good options out there for email hosts that let you use your own domain. Your needs or preferences might be different from mine, but I would encourage everyone to look into making the switch to email at their own domain. Controlling your own domain means you have more choice and you’re not locked into any one vendor, and it generally gives you a lot more control over your email than using an address provided by your email provider.

If you’re thinking about making the switch I’m happy to talk and answer questions!

And if you’re interested in giving FastMail a try you can use this referral link and you’ll get 10% off for the first year. (That includes buying multiple years up front). Full disclosure: I’ll also get at small credit on my account for anyone who signs up with that link and pays for a plan.

Stephen B's Blog @DrOct