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Comparing email services

I’m intending to move to a new email provider (preferably a free one but would be interested in a paid one if it rated really well) so I’d like to know if anyone has compared or has experience of multiple email providers, such as gmail, yahoo, fastmail, hotmail.

Feedback on how they rated on aspects such as cost, performance, storage size, privacy, support etc. would be of interest. Also any limitations or issues with set-up or ongoing usage.

Thanks in advance

Hello @PaulSAFC and welcome.
Does your Internet provider not have an email system?
Or is your question around having an email provider that is independent of any Internet provider?

Hi and thanks for the response. Yes I currently use my ISP for my email but a) it’s had occasional issues and b) I’d like to be free of software lock-in.

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Hi @PaulSAFC, welcome to the community.

There is thread which has looked at portable email but covered email addresses independent of ISPs, which may be a useful starting point for you.

Having non ISP email account has its merits and allows one to readily change ISP.

After reading this thread, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate in asking.

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Hi Paul,

I’ve been using fastmail for a couple of years. I’ve been a gmail user since the days when it was ‘invitation only’, but now only use gmail for communicating with Google itself, and a couple of other organisations that don’t give me the option to change the email adress I used to create my account. I also used a free bigfoot email account for many years before some of their servers started to be identified as malicious agents.

I’ve occasionally used email addresses provided by an RSP, but am not using any currently.

I’ve found fastmail to be consistently reliable and fast (surprise !). The basic 30GB storage is more than ample for my needs. I quite like their web interface, and their android app. I don’t use their Calendar, Notes, or Files. It was very easy to set up, and I’ve not needed any support from them.

I’m a firm believer in “you get what you pay for”, and from my perspective, I’ve found that ‘free’ email is increasingly anything but.

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Although it is a Melbourne company, be aware that Fastmail’s pricing is in US$. The Basic account is US$3/mth with 2GB/user. The Standard is US$5/mth with 30GB/user.

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Business or personal?

You do still have to be aware of the fact that email on someone else’s domain is still lock-in, whether it’s an ISP or a mail service provider.

A mail service provider - particularly a free one - can introduce unpalatable changes to the Terms and Conditions such that you would contemplate changing provider, and that is exactly as much hassle as changing an ISP-based email address.

Any mail service provider can be the target of a corporate takeover and go downhill rapidly.

No can do. If you are not paying for the product then you are the product.

That’s how the free providers make their money.

(OK, some of them may provide an entry level free service as a loss leader, in the hope that you will one day upgrade to a paid service. So it is worth checking whether such an upgrade path even exists.)

As most providers will be foreign, it is worth thinking about which country’s privacy laws govern the operation of the service. As a generalisation: EU good, anything else not as good.

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Thanks for the recommendation and clarification.

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An interesting thread. However they don’t seem to have any particular recommendations on which service is preferred?

It’s just for personal use. I understand the point about corporate takeovers as that’s exactly what happened with my ISP, was great for the first few years but then has gone downhill as the takeovers took effect. I’m not aware of any email providers that are based in the EU, are there any you’d recommend?

Personally I use gmail (have done since invite only).
I like the interface just not the vanilla one (now) it needs customising for sure to get it back to its origins :wink: i.e. compact view, turning off several things in the sidebars and the like.

I’ve found their spam filtering to be very effective, even for the non spam spam it doesn’t take much to ‘train’ up the AI by manually reporting a couple of emails (say a company suddenly decides its a good idea to send out unsolicited marketing emails and you probably don’t want to hit the ‘unsubscribe’ link).

I would recommend however having multiple accounts. (the extra tiers of spam filtering really do seem to pay off).

1 Main one you log into and read/use: For close (trusted) family, medical GP, accountant, Bank. (you can setup and reply from a secondary account if you want/need)

At least 1 ‘filter’ email account (I’d recommend 2 though) with virtually no info about you other than bare min for security.Just use the forward emails feature to send to main account (probably log into these every 3-6 months for some basic housekeeping).

  1. is for the less dodgy places (i.e. for me its what I am using for my choice login) that want your email address (they probably won’t spam you but if they have bad security it could leak out)
  2. is the throwaway where use to sign up for competitions/raffles anything that has a chance of being dodgy or creating spam. If it gets leaked/has too much spam hitting it then just stop the forwarding, delete everything (or don’t) and walk away never to login again.
    Then just create another ‘2nd’ account … probably have to create some new accounts on websites and the like but its not like these places value customer ‘loyalty’ these days.
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worth noting that everything in your Gmail account a ‘google AI’ will be ‘reading’ and collating (there’s no ‘privacy’ ultimately with these free services).
I live with this because Google are pretty serious about their security and are probably one of the few who haven’t leaked massive portions of their customer bases info.

Only way to avoid that lack of privacy is to pay for your own personal web domain and run your own server, there’s a whole host of other issues that you’ll face with that.

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Proton mail has a free account but limited to 500MB storage, paid for accounts have more storage and other benefits. Swisscows had paid email account options. These are encrypted accounts for both providers and are based in Switzerland, both for free and paid accounts.

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Thanks for those insights

Good to know, thanks

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There is one absolutely enormous problem with the promise of encrypted email (other than the fairly weak guarantees provided by existing email standards). You can send and receive encrypted emails within the secure environment (e.g. ProtonMail), but as soon as you send to someone who does not use that encryption you have to either drop the encryption or provide the recipient with some form of key to read your encrypted email.

So for ProtonMail:

We support sending encrypted communication to non-ProtonMail users via symmetric encryption. When you send an encrypted message to a non-ProtonMail user, they receive a link which loads the encrypted message onto their browser, which they can decrypt using a passphrase that you have shared with them.

In other words, there is no tool that allows you to easily send encrypted emails to everyone in your address book. You may be able to get everyone in the family to sign on to a specific email provider, or if you deal with people who have some technical proficiency you could potentially get PGP/GPG working with them regardless of email provider. (The latter was how Edward Snowden initially tried to communicate with Glenn Greenwald, but the latter found it ‘too complicated’.)

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Benefit for most is that all messages are stored with your personal key on your email provider’s server. This can mean that secure communication remains secure, and emails sent to insecure accounts may be (and likely would be) insecure. If the information is sensitive enough then requiring the recipient to use secure services for sending and receiving would be of paramount importance. This would then mean that you use their public key to encrypt to them and they send to you using your public key. Not much different to sending now except two fairly simple steps to encrypt and decrypt at either end.

One public key keyserver that many organisations use is

https://keys.openpgp.org/about

Another is http://pgp.mit.edu/

https://zimmermann.mayfirst.org/

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I’d like to echo Scott’s praise for Fastmail. I was a longtime user of Gmail’s paid version (GSuite) and found it costly to extricate myself from Google (e.g. I couldn’t cancel GSuite without also losing all the Android apps I’d paid for over the years).

Fastmail’s support and feature set is excellent. I particularly like their comparatively new Masked Email feature that creates unlimited *@fastmail.com aliases for my primary address, saving me giving that address to entities I don’t fully trust.

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The alias feature interests me. Presumably all emails using different aliases wind up in the one mailbox. Is there an indication of which alias was used by the sender?
So you can block, or delete the alias?

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See @grahroll’s post.

The ABC uses Protonmail to receive confidential communication via email, for what it’s worth.

All true. The only real way to do encrypted mail is end-to-end in the mail client itself between cooperating users.

For most Protonmail customers, most of the mail that they send ends up being unencrypted. However that is no worse than just about all other providers where all mail will always be unencrypted.

… well except to their paying customers. They may well not have been hacked (involuntary release of data) and may well not have had an accident (unintentional release of data) but their business model is the collection and use of personal data.

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