Last updated 15 December 2010
ISP-independent email is one of my pet hobby-horses.
Most but not all ISPs offer you free email and possibly web space. At first sight this looks attractive - in fact it is attractive.
A minor drawback is that ISP email tends to give you long and ugly email addresses including the name of the ISP. The length itself can be a nuisance when entering or writing it anywhere.
The major drawback is if and when you want to change ISP, (migrate). Most of us rapidly develop many personal contacts and possibly even more banking, shop and website registrations. Having to change these on migration and notify everyone is a nightmare. Apart from which it has to be done in a panic on migration day - some necessary notifications and email may be missed or irretrievably lost.
The answer is to get ISP-independent email. The well-known free mail hosts are Hotmail and Google (gmail). Personally I always found Hotmail a bind, though lots of people seem happy with it. I don’t fancy having it all going through Google.
There are many pay services. A well-known one is 1 & 1. I looked at them and two or three others before choosing Purple Cloud, but as at 15 December 2010 they are not accepting new customers.
Early 2010 I moved to Tsohost and find I prefer them. This site responds more quickly, the support is very fast and good, and I haven’t had the occasional email unreliability that had crept in on Purple Cloud. They provide POP3/SMTP, IMAP and Webmail, but only as part of a web hosting package. Many others will provide email hosting without web space so are cheaper if you only have one domain needing email hosting. (Tsohost’s cheapest hosting package accomodates web space and email hosting for two domains, so is then cost-effective).
What you do is first register a domain. Such as robertos.me.uk.
“.me” and “.uk” domains registered through and hosted by Tsohost cost £14.38 every two years and are fully yours - registered in your name with the UK authority Nominet. Some other companies register the domain themselves and just let you use it, which can be messy and expensive if you want to change host.
Having got the domain you can now send and receive with addresses of the form xxxx@yourdomain. You can often forward incoming mail for free to your ISP email, (many domain hosts have a free forwarding service, Tsohost do not), but cannot send directly. You still have to send through your ISP email service, but you can make emails appear as though from your domain. (See below).
There is a drawback to this in that by forwarding email you have three possible points of delay or even failure, Host, ISP mail system, and your ISP connection, instead of just one.
Better than that is to buy email hosting from your domain host. You are not reliant on your ISP’s mail service and if your connection goes down you can access your domain webmail from any broadband or even dialup connection.
Tsohost (at the time of writing) charge £14.99 per year for website hosting for two domains, with 10 mail boxes and unlimited aliases included. See their site, (link above), for current information. Purple Cloud charge £10 per year for just email hosting with 10 mailboxes and unlimited aliases, or £20 per year for web hosting with the email included.
There is one technical problem sometimes encountered with non-ISP mail services. That is that port number 25 for sending email through SMTP, (the normal way of setting up email in Outlook or OE, Windows Mail, Thunderbird and other mail clients), is often blocked by ISPs as an anti-spam measure.
My own ISP does this. Good mail hosts provide at least one alternative port which is the neatest solution. All the above hosts do so.
A less elegant solution is to set your non-ISP E-mail Address and Return Address in the user Information or equivalent in your mail client program, then use the ISP’s SMTP server. The email as received by whoever you send it to appears to be from your domain email unless they go to the trouble of inspecting the detailed header information.
Finally of course you can now have a web site with your own domain - like this one.
Once again, there may be a free forwarding service so you can publish your domain site but visitors see your (free?) ISP-hosted site without knowing that. See this page.
Better in my opinion is to buy web hosting. This normally includes mail hosting.