Why you should never host your own email

5 reasons you should not host your own email

Are you hosting your emails on your web server, or planning to do so? Don't. Read our reasons first to see why it's such a bad idea and you should avoid it at all cost.
by Vu nguyen
May 30, 2017

For a business, it's really important to use emails under your own domain name. For example, consider [email protected] vs [email protected], the 2nd (free) email address just makes you look unprofessional. How can your potential clients trust you with their hard earned money if you don't even invest into your email?

Most of the time when you contract a web development company to do the website for you on Wordpress for example, they will deploy the final website on a third party hosting providers such as GoDaddy, BlueHost etc... These hosting providers often bundle many essential services into their packages including email hosting services so you automatically get unlimited email accounts (on your own domain) without paying anything more. Isn't that sweet? Well, there are some reasons you should NOT consider hosting your own emails, and below are a few of them:

I. Setting it up correctly is very time-consuming

Your web design company will probably not help you to set up your emails. Well, sometimes they do but most of they are not well-equipped with the essential knowledge to set it up correctly. Most web design agencies only have designers and web developers in their teams and they do not have the knowledge to setup the mail server properly. It means that you may:

  1. receive tons of spam in your inbox
  2. get exposed to security vulnerabilities
  3. have tons of your sent email landing in the receivers' spam boxes.

The last point is serious and can affect you in LONG term. One of the criteria that many Spam Detectors use is the IP address of the origin server (your web server if you send emails directly from there). In most cases, small businesses opt for low cost plans that often have everything readily available so anyone can start using right away. Unfortunately this also put you on a server that is shared by many, many other websites. The chance that one of your neighbors is a spammer is really high in this case, and as a result emails coming from you will also be marked as spams by Spam Detectors. Many hosting providers are proactively blocking these spam messages before they are even sent out, but due to the nature of this it's very difficult to completely prevent it.

Don't take our words for it, check out this article regarding shared hosting issue with emails for example.

What about dedicated servers, servers that you can be sure that you don't have any bad neighbor? Don't forget that you need to keep your email software (on the server) updated and maintained all the time as well. Imagine a number of extra tasks you need to do. Most business owners are not aware of this, it's like blindly use Windows XP in the year 2019 until you get a ransom malware one day and it's too late to do anything other than paying. This article on Digital Ocean describes the complexity of setting up mail server, check it out before attempting to run your own mail server.

II. The challenges of securing your emails

Your email is your online identity, sometimes it is even your single contact to the online world. Can you afford to have it hacked? Remember Snowden? Remember Hillary Clinton? What happens if someone can read all the content inside your mail box? What happens if someone can send and receive emails to and from your business partners under your name?

Most small businesses do not have in-house IT teams so the website (and the email service) is usually set up once and forget. The hosting providers normally will NOT do any software and security upgrade for the software you install on the server, which means these businesses are exposed to a very high risk of being hacked.

Email encryption is sophisticated and should not be taken lightly. Companies that offer email services such Google, Microsoft constantly invest heavily in protecting their customers' data (and they still get hacked sometimes). What makes you think you can do a better job?

Note: it's important to stress that Gmail. Hotmail etc are not meant to be a 100% secure message channel. There are many "encrypted messaging services" out there if you really need to send your private messages securely.

III. Emails can take up space, lots of space

Most hosting providers will limit your storage space on the host (the ones that don't are usually scammers because nothing is free :)). Since most of us do not delete old emails unless we really have to, our emails can quickly take up the precious hosting space and you will have to end up paying more for hosting service each month.

IV. Migration can be a pain

Migrating from one host to another is a common thing to do. Most businesses actually change the hosting company every time they re-do their websites. Now imagine that you have to migrate all your emails and email configurations whenever you change your hosting as well. That's just a lot more works to do (and obviously, overhead cost).

V. Don't put everything in the same basket

Sh** happens, your website can go down and it will go down. No service provider on Earth can promise 100% uptime. Even Amazon, Google, Yahoo, Facebook goes down from time to time due to various reasons from human mistakes to hacker attacks, etc... Your clients come to the website, which is down, now they want to contact you via email but since your email is hosted on the same server, it also goes down. Great. Do not let this happen to you. Hosting your email separately from your web server lower the chance that everything sinks together when you hit the iceberg.

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A few email service providers you can consider

  1. Zoho You can get 5 email accounts for free, then if you introduce your friends you can get up to 15 for free. (Updated: Zoho stops providing IMAP and POP for free accounts, which mean you can only check emails directly on their website and web app).
  2. Namecheap is my favorite domain registry, and they do email service as well. The basic 10USD/yr package means you pay less than 1USD/month for your email. Nice.
  3. Hover is another nice option. With their 5USD/year forward package you can simply forward emails straight to your GMail for example.
  4. G Suite (from Google) is another sweet deal. 3USD/month is not too much comparing to the services they provide.
  5. Runbox provides private, secure email hosting service in case you really want to go stealth (as they claim)
  6. Office 365 (From Microsoft) if you have no more than 6 users, the personal package is unbeatable with the amount of space and the apps they bundle together. Highly recommended.
  7. GoDaddy yup, even one of the biggest shared hosting providers realize the issue with hosting your own emails yourself, so they offer Email Hosting as a separated services as well.

about the author

Vu Nguyen
Vu Nguyen is an entrepreneur, a developer, and a founder of nilead.com. While his love is in the backend website development work, his experience covers eCommerce (being both a real online store owner and a developer), Search Engine Optimization, UX Design and Content Strategy.

Since 2005, Vu Nguyen has led and directed UX design, full-stack development teams on projects large and small for corporations, start-ups, individuals and more. He was involved in every task of each project, from idea to concept and vision, prototype, detailed design, build and deployment.

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