Almost all of us rely on email in our daily lives, but relatively few of us take much care over how we choose our provider. In most cases, email providers are like electricity companies or cell phone contracts: we just stick with one for convenience, even if it’s not the right fit for our needs.
However, when you dig a little deeper, it’s obvious that there’s plenty of choices when it comes to email. Some companies offer exceptional security, while others offer huge amounts of free space. And some are optimized for business users. So how should you go about picking the perfect email company for your requirements? Here are some things that should always be at the front of your mind.
1. How much are you willing to spend?
As with any online service, there’s a big difference between what you get with free email providers and their paid-for cousins. So the first thing to ask yourself is whether you are happy to spend a little on extra features and capabilities, or whether you’re dead set on a free service.
As a rule, if you intend to use your account for any professional purposes, it’s worth investigating paid-for options. With free accounts, you’ll receive far fewer tools like templates, editing suites, and planning apps; the support provided probably won’t be as comprehensive, and the API won’t be as adaptable.
None of this really applies for everyday email users. If you simply want to send a few messages per day with a photo or video attachments and HTML links, or you simply want to manage a short contacts list, there’s no reason to pay a cent.
2. Encryption and security
Security should be one of your top priorities when choosing any online services, but this applies particularly to email accounts. Good providers will be on top of emerging malware threats, have protocols to handle phishers and solid spam filters which keep away most digital nasties before they can cause any damage.
Beyond that, reliable providers will also offer secure encryption. Why use encryption? Well, in today’s online environment, cyber-criminals are constantly seeking access to payment and identity information. Unencrypted emails are a key source of data for their attacks. Even if they only contain accounts of your activities or greetings to friends, they can be used to build up fake identities. But messages are encrypted, these kind of attacks are much, much harder to mount.
If your provider doesn’t foreground encryption as one of their key features, ask them why not. If they don’t offer PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) or end-to-end encryption, those are the kind of red flags that should cause you to think again.
While you’re at it, you might want to ask about secure payments as well. Many people aren’t comfortable with providing their payment details to email providers, and rightly so. You can only guarantee total privacy by using forms of anonymous payment like cryptocurrencies. Unfortunately, relatively few email providers accept these currencies, but some do, such as Mailbox.org.
If you have ever run up against storage constraints while using free email accounts, you’ll appreciate how annoying it can be. Thankfully, main prominent providers offer attractive free storage limits for new sign-ups, so finding a generous allocation shouldn’t be hard.
Even so, there can be huge variations. For instance, Google’s Gmail service offers 15GB, while Microsoft Outlook only comes with 5GB of free space. But both are blown out of the water by companies like GMX, who offer free accounts with unlimited storage (although they do impose a 50MB limit on attachment sizes).
So if you know that you’ll need a vast amount of space for marketing campaigns or personal photos and attachments, think carefully about how much storage you’re getting. But remember: everything comes with a price. In the case of free email companies, that often means generous storage limits are accompanied by prominent ads. So keep that in mind as well. Not everyone likes having their client covered with targeted advertising.
To some extent, email providers are only as useful as the tools they include. And modern users demand more than a text box to send their messages. They expect address books and calendars, as well as in-depth marketing tools to create and manage email lists.
If you’re picking a provider for business use, you’ll probably need a client that synchronizes with your management tools or CRM systems. In that case, smaller providers often aren’t the way to go. Instead, Outlook, Zoho, or Gmail tend to be optimized to synch with enterprise systems.
However, that only applies to a minority of users. If you just need a calendar and address book, there’s no need to pay for specialist services like Zoho or to opt for slightly less secure mainstream providers like Gmail. Instead, look for companies like ProtonMail, which blend strong encryption with user-friendly (and simple) interfaces.
Finally, choose an email provider which is happy to assist when things go wrong. No software is flawless. Email clients will sometimes fail, or you’ll find a feature that needs a little explanation. When that happens, it’s extremely annoying to find that all your provider offers is a badly worded FAQ.
Some of the best customer support can found with newer, privacy-focused email providers. For instance, Tutanota has a strong reputation in this area, running a vibrant community where users can exchange ideas. And the Knowledge Base at ProtonMail is a good example of how to do online docs right.
Before you sign up for an email service, it’s worth contacting the company to try out their Customer Service team. If they reply quickly with the information you need, that’s a very good sign. If they delay for a day or two (or don’t get back at all), you know they aren’t to be trusted.
6. Choose the perfect email provider from the world’s elite companies
If you’ve had a bad experience with your current email provider, why not migrate to a service which has your interests at heart? It’s easy to find high-quality providers who foreground customer service, great features, storage space, and security. You just need to summon up the will to leave your current provider.
There’s certainly no shortage of options in 2018. From ProtonMail, GMX, Tutanota, and Run box, to Hushmail, Posteo, and Countermail, there are plenty of excellent contenders. Most of these services are free (or very cheap), and much more secure than giants like Microsoft, Yahoo or Google. So why not make the change today?