Email Hosting


There was a time when I was hosting all my customer's websites and, of course, that included their emails. I also hosted my own emails on my own dedicated servers and later on a server at home connected via VDSL. While I'm still passionate about hosting in general (especially dynamically scalable cloud servers), the conclusion of about 10 years of running my own email servers was: never again!

You are the Product

Certainly, I knew it form the start: if a product is for free, you are the product. Still, the features Google Apps provided were just too tempting. Maybe a year ago I made the switch and moved all my emails, calendars and contacts to Google Apps for Business. My email addresses immediately became usable again: instead of about undetected 200 - 300 spam emails in my inbox, I only received two or three - in a whole week! I was also medium-happy with the CardDAV and CalDAV synchronisation (it basically worked).

But I also knew that I didn't want to be the product in the long run. While I certainly can't hide from any secret service, I want at least to make it a bit more difficult and make sure that my data is not commercially used.

Alternatives

So I tried a few other options. My goal was to find the balance between privacy / functionality and the amount of work / money I have to invest.

Owncloud

As for the calendar and contacts synchronisation I now switched to Owncloud, hosted on my own virtual server. I was a bit scared when I looked into the source code and in general, the user experience is not the best. But CalDAV and CardDAV are working nicely with my Macs and iOS devices. A warning though: don't fiddle around with the setup once it works - for example, don't try to rename a calendar. It will break beyond repair.

Rackspace UK

Rackspace offers some great professional hosting products and with their subsidiary in the United Kingdom they also provide hosting locations under EU laws. Question is how much that is worth in practice. And: email hosting is, as far as I could see, still exclusively done the United States.

Mailgun

Not suited for hosting my emails but something I stumbled upon: Mailgun (now a Rackspace product) provides some very neat API and SMTP based services for sending small or large amounts of emails. That also includes bounce management, opt-in / opt-out handling and much more. And the price is ridiculously low compared to services like Mailchimp. They even provide a free plan which is well suited for sending notification emails from all of your own sites.

Domain Factory

I use Domain Factory's Jiffyboxes a lot for web hosting and they also provide email hosting. So I switched my accounts to Domain Factory. What I didn't realise before I made the move: even though I have 25 GB in total for my account, I can only have mailboxes with 4GB maximum size. So I immediately ran into space problems. An alternative would have been booking their MS Exchange product. But MS Exchange isn't for me really.

Uberspace

To make a long story short: after checking out 8 other email providers in Germany, I ended up at Uberspace. This is not your average hosting company. They provide servers which you can use for web hosting, emails and more - but you need to be able to run some command line commands in order to do so. They provide their services with a great philosophy behind which is based on fair use. And that includes: pay what you think it is worth!

Right now my IMAP Sync tool is working again, pushing my emails over from Domain Factory. Let's hope I'm safe now for a while and can focus on ... well, some work? Coffee? ;-)



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