If your free email account isn’t cutting it anymore, it might be time to explore other email hosting providers. You want to put your best foot forward at all times, and paying for an email hosting service is an effective way to do so as you grow your business. However, it’s important to be sure it’s the right step for you before you make a commitment. It’s also important to consider all of your email hosting options and determine which provider will meet your needs.
- Free vs. paid email considerations
- Email hosting options
Free vs. paid email considerations
Free email accounts have a time and a place. They’re great for solopreneurs or businesses that are just starting out, but if those descriptors don’t apply to you anymore, it’s probably time to consider paying for email hosting.
Although it’s not the most obvious difference between free and paid email hosting, privacy is a major concern when it comes to protecting your business data. Free email accounts aren’t actually free—you might not pay any money, but email providers profit off your data.
If you receive ads in your inbox, it’s almost guaranteed that your email provider is using your data to attract advertisers. By paying for your email hosting, however, providers don’t need to subsidize the cost of maintaining your account by selling ads.
Having your business name in the domain of your email address adds credibility to your business in customer-facing settings. The only way you can create an email account with a custom domain is to pay for hosting—otherwise you’ll be stuck with the domain name of your provider.
It’s worth noting that a branded domain is also less likely to be targeted by spam and phishing attacks. Free email accounts with domain names like @gmail.com, @outlook.com, or @yahoo.com are favorites among cyber attackers, so using your own domain name instead of the email provider’s domain adds a layer of security by default.
Of course, the most significant distinction between free and paid email hosting is cost. Free email accounts are appealing because they don’t require any financial commitment, which is great if you’re already working with a limited budget. It also means you’re able to switch to a different email provider the moment you decide that’s what you want to do.
Paid email hosting usually requires a contract and a monthly or annual subscription fee. The actual cost will vary depending on the provider you choose. It’s not impossible to switch providers once you’ve committed to one, but it’s not as easy to do as it is with free email accounts.
Email hosting options
Once you’ve decided to ditch your free email account, there are a few different email hosting options to choose from. Some options are friendlier for small budgets, some come with additional productivity tools, and some come included with a website hosting package.
Web hosting providers
Many web hosting companies offer email hosting services as a standard feature or an optional add-on. This approach makes it easy to manage your website and email hosting from one place. However, it can sometimes lead to integration challenges with popular email clients like Gmail and Outlook.
Popular web hosting companies that also offer email services include:
- A2 Hosting
If you’re also in need of applications for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations, consider a bundled productivity suite that also offers email hosting. This solution makes it possible to manage notifications about feedback and status updates directly from your email inbox, which is ideal for real-time collaboration and project management. However, this benefit won’t be as impactful if you don’t need these applications to run your business on a day-to-day basis.
Popular productivity suites that offer email hosting include:
- Google Workspace
- Office 365
- Zoho Workplace
Open source email solutions
Open source email hosting solutions are typically more cost-effective and customizable than other options. The very nature of open source software means you can modify it to meet your unique needs, though it’s usually not as easy as configuring pre-determined settings. Most open source solutions require extensive technical expertise, time, and effort to maintain.
If you have the resources to maintain the system, open source email accounts provide better control over email data. But they also come with a lot more privacy hoops to jump through. There’s a long checklist of protocols and security requirements you need, including DKIM, DMARC, SPF, and a static IP address. These measures might seem like a headache, but they ensure that your email data is safe and minimize the risk that your outgoing emails will end up in your recipient’s spam folder.
Popular open source email solutions include:
To compare these open source vendors, check out our list of Top Open Source Alternatives to Microsoft Exchange.