For many of us, we don't go a single day without interacting with our email at some point in the morning or evening. Whether it's a notification on our phone, or checking it at work, our professional and personal lives revolve around the email service we use. There are plenty of free and paid email options to choose from, but with all of the free providers out there, is it even worth switching to a paid email solution?
A paid email account provides a professional appearance
When we were discussing how to manage your online presence, we looked at the importance of legitimising your business. A free email account will generally only allow you to use a specific domain as part of your email address, such as email@example.com. If you're corresponding as a business, the presence of a free email address can, at best, look unprofessional, and at worst, look 'fake'. This can lead to email recipients or potential customers lacking trust in your business.
A paid email provider, however, will allow you to use your own domain in your email address. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org, which displays a more professional image. It can also make for a more memorable address for your customers. With all of the domain extensions available, email recipients can see what your business is about at a glance.
Paid email providers offer a spam-free email address
Another negative aspect of using free email account providers is that, as there's no cost, you're sharing the same service with malicious users, bots, and spam networks. This lowers the reputation of the IP addresses you send emails from, which can cause other providers to blacklist them. Therefore, your emails could be sent straight to the spam folder of your recipients and customers. There are ways to stop spam emails with a free email account, but this requires you to take far more action than with a paid email account.
Paid email solutions, on the other hand, provide an obstacle to malicious users. Therefore, email providers are far more likely to recognise emails coming from your business as legitimate and place them in your desired recipients' inboxes. Alongside this, a free email account might receive a disproportionate amount of spam themselves. As the second half of the email is obvious, bots which 'guess' email addresses have a much easier time working out a whole address. So, despite spam filters constantly improving, if you use a free email, you run the risk of missing important communications in a sea of spam.
Paid emails are for your eyes only
With the largest providers of free email services being search engine giants like Google and Yahoo, there are ongoing concerns about whether these providers are in fact helping themselves to the contents of your emails. With almost everything we do online being scrutinised by bots and turned into targeted advertising; this is a valid concern. Fortunately in 2017, Google announced it would stop looking at the contents of emails for advertising purposes.
However, just using its email services shows that, to an extent, the Google Assistant is still 'reading' its contents. If you receive a confirmation of a flight booking, for example, Google will helpfully remind you a week before you're due to fly – without you telling it to As well as this, you'll often need to deal with advertisements when using free email accounts. These often appear as banners somewhere on the page or even as sponsored emails within your inbox.
While these are helpful features by and large for a free email account, if you expect you'll be using your email to discuss confidential or financial matters (or you're just privacy-minded), you'll want to ensure there is no risk of this happening. The best way to do this is by using a paid email service. Paid email providers don't need to sell data to advertisers, as their users are paying them directly.
Paid email provides a better customer experience
If you spring for a paid email solution, your provider will often give you extra features to improve your email experience. These include increased storage for your mailboxes and a higher limit on file size for attachments. You might also get access to other programs that come with the email package.
In contrast, free email account providers will serve their purpose when everything is going well. But if something goes wrong, their support can be very difficult to get hold of, or non-existent. This makes it difficult if your emails aren't sending or receiving properly, or there is a usability issue. You'll either have to wait for it to fix itself, or switch provider if it's ongoing. After all, a free email service doesn't owe you anything.
And this problem is even worse if your account is compromised – whether you lose your password, or if an attacker gains access to your account. Going to the support of a free email provider if you lose your account often gets you nowhere. You'd need to rely heavily on extra methods of security, such as 2-factor authentication (if this is offered) and having a secondary recovery email account.
With all that being said, free email account providers have made great strides in the past few years, with their offerings being fairly secure, user-friendly, and providing everything a normal user might need.
However, if you're security-conscious, use email often, or have a business, then a paid email solution offers a better package. The ability to personalise your email address gives your business or personal brand another layer of professionalism, and the increased support you receive makes for a more tailored experience.
In short, you can either pay nothing for a little, or pay a little for a lot.
At Fasthosts, both our Standard and Exchange Email customers have access to our 24/7 support helpline, which is always there to offer help if you need it. If your account is compromised, our support teams will be able to help you through the process of recovering it.
You can get all of the above benefits and more from as little as £0.99 for the first 3 months when you choose to sign on with Fasthosts. For even more guides and tips on how you can get more from your email provider, or for advice on cloud services in general, you can find it all by visiting the Fasthosts blog.