What is email hosting service and why is it important for your business?
If you’re deciding between hosting your own email or paying for an email hosting service for your business, read this guide before you jump in.
Email is ubiquitous. Half of the global population uses email, and today, every business needs email to function. But it isn’t always as simple as just creating a Gmail account and firing off a few drafts.How email is hosted can have a significant impact on everything from credibility to security—but for most small business owners, peeling back the layers of this onion is simply not a priority. Email hosting is a service where a provider stores your messages and files on its server. The market is a crowded one, offering everything from free hosting services to expensive packages bundled with other tools. Businesses often opt to host their own email, taking their data out of the hands of a third party and making sure it’s truly theirs. But if your only exposure to email is through a user-friendly inbox, be prepared for the challenges that lie beneath. In this article, we’ll explore everything you’ve ever wanted to know (and some things you have never even considered) about email hosting so you can determine whether a DIY approach or a professional email hosting service is right for your business.
What Is Email Hosting?
We’re all familiar with email clients. These are programs used to interact with an email service so you can view your inbox and compose messages—think Outlook and Gmail. But the actual sending and receiving of messages, as well as the storage of emails and shared files, happens through an email host. Using a series of protocols, email hosting enables a message to be routed from one email client at an IP address to another client at another IP address, and then for that message to be stored on the recipient’s email server. It’s what allows you to access your email from your laptop, phone, or tablet. Without an email host, your email address has nowhere to direct the messages. If you’re using a free service such as Gmail or Yahoo for your email, you’ve probably never considered how it’s hosted. And why should you? You sign up for the service, start sending and receiving emails, and move on with your life. But if you’re a business sending invoices and other sensitive data, you need to be sure your email is secure and that support is readily available. Here’s a look at your options for email hosting.
Free Email Hosting
Free email services will host your email, let you send and receive email, and manage your accounts. While the cost is right and the storage might be enough for your personal needs, there are a bunch of negatives when it comes to using free email hosting for business.
You don’t own your data: The free email service can delete your account at any time, and you will lose all your emails.
You are vulnerable to data breaches: The security of your account is based on the security of the free email provider. If they are hacked, your account is vulnerable.
You have no control over spam: Many free services do a poor job of filtering spam, so your inbox will be filled with junk mail.
Your address will look unprofessional: A free email address from a service like Gmail looks much less professional than a custom domain name.
You have limited storage: Free email providers usually have lower storage limits than paid providers, so you will have to delete emails regularly to stay under the limit.
If you’re willing to take the hit to your credibility, risk the vulnerabilities, and think there’s enough storage with a free email hosting plan, check out these providers:
Not sure whether you want to take the risk? Let’s move on to something a little more robust.
Professional Email Hosting
The biggest business selling point for professional email hosting is often a custom domain. But depending on the package, there are many other reasons for a business to pay for professional email hosting.
Increased storage: Most email hosting providers offer more storage than free providers. This is important if you want to keep a large number of emails or attachments.
Better security: Email hosting providers usually have better security features than free providers. For example, some require two-factor authentication to log in, and others provide encrypted storage.
Reliable service and support: When you pay for email hosting, you usually get better customer service and support than with a free provider. If your email goes down, you can expect someone to help you fix the problem quickly.
Less spam: Paid email providers usually have better spam filters than free providers. That means less time spent sorting through junk mail in your inbox.
Customizable interface: Many email hosting providers offer a customizable interface. That means you can change the look and feel of your inbox to match your company’s branding.
Of course, these services can also have varying price points, meaning you’ll have to research and compare what you’re paying for.
Every professional email hosting service provides the above benefits; however, there are some other things you should keep an eye out for.
Branding: Does the provider allow you to use your own branding, or are they pushing their own? Using your own domain name is a must for a professional look, but some providers will also let you use your own logo and color scheme.
Integration: Can the service integrate with the tools you’re already using? For example, if you use Google Calendar, can you view your calendar events in your email inbox?
Scalability: If your business grows, can the service grow with you? Does the provider offer different plans for different needs, or are they a one-size-fits-all operation?
Support: What kind of support does the provider offer? Is it 24/7, or do you have to submit a ticket and wait for a response? Timely customer service is important when your email is down.
Uptime: On that note, how often is the service down? No email hosting provider has a perfect uptime record, but you should look for one that has a good track record and offers some kind of uptime guarantee.
For all these additional benefits (and more!), check out Titan’s professional email features. If you want to compare them to a few other options, here are some worth checking out:
Make sure you find a service that fits all your business needs and integrates with your existing tools so your team members feel comfortable right away.
Hosting Your Own Email
If you have servers, you can host your own email. While this gives you more control, it certainly has its disadvantages.
Responsible for security: If your email server is hacked, it’s your responsibility to fix the problem. This can be a big headache, especially if you don’t have IT staff on hand.
Managing updates: It’s important to keep your email software up to date to patch security holes. But this can be time-consuming, and you might forget to do it, leading to a devastating data breach or failure.
Backups are critical: If your email server goes down, you need to have backups to restore your data. That can be a lot of work, and if you don’t do it right, you could lose important emails.
Downtime is costly: If your email server is down, you will lose productivity as you allocate more resources to fix it. This can be expensive for businesses that rely on email to communicate with customers or partners.
If you do want to go this route, here’s what you need to know.
What You Need to Host Email
To host email, you’ll need a server, a business-class connection with open ports, and an IP address that isn’t blacklisted. You’ll also need a domain name. With your own server, you’ll need to consider the cost of the hardware, the network capacity limits, the amount of storage, and the software you’ll need to make it all work. There are also a handful of applications and protocols needed to send, receive, and deliver emails:
Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) is software that transfers emails from one server to another.
Mail Delivery Agent (MDA) is a server program that accepts incoming emails and distributes them to recipients’ mailboxes.
Mail User Agent (MUA) is also known as an email client; it’s a program used to read, compose, and send emails. Essentially, the MUA is the interface between the user and the MTA.
Linux is the most universally accessible and configurable operating system for email hosting.
Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is the standard protocol for email delivery. Once an email is sent, SMTP routes a message from the sender’s server to the recipient’s server.
Whether the message is delivered depends on the SMTP’s ability to query the domain name system (DNS) to find the recipient’s address and determine if that domain has a mail exchange (MX) record.
Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) is the Internet standard that helps extend the capabilities of email by allowing images, sounds, and text to be included in a message.
Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) is a text-based communication protocol that retrieves email from a server. POP3 emails are downloaded from the server and stored on the device you use to send and receive emails, giving you the ability to read emails offline.
Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) is another text-based protocol that enables email clients to access remote message stores as if they were local. Therefore, if a user accesses their email account via multiple devices, everything will be synchronized.
Mbox refers to a family of related file formats that are stored as plain text in a single file.
Maildir is an email format where each message is kept in a separate file with a unique name, and each folder is a directory.
Does that look like a lot of IT headaches you don’t want to deal with? Let’s take a quick look at some of the ways you can decide which email hosting route is right for your business.
Choosing the right email hosting option
Three options . . . three very different solutions. Which one is the best for you and your business? It depends on a few factors.
How many employees will be using email accounts? If you have a small business with just a few employees, you might be able to get away with free email hosting. But if you have a larger company, you will need to consider paid email hosting.
What is your budget? If money is tight, free email hosting might be the way to go. But keep in mind that you get what you pay for. Paid email hosting is usually a better option for businesses since it offers more storage, security, and reliability.
What are your email needs? If you need a lot of storage or security features, you will need to look at paid email hosting options. But if you just need a basic email service, free email hosting might be enough.
Are you worried about downtime? If your business relies on email to communicate with customers or partners, downtime can be costly. In this case, you will need to choose a paid email hosting provider that offers reliable service and support.
How much support will your team need? If you have a small IT team or no IT team at all, you will need to choose an email hosting provider that offers good customer service and support.
Do you need extra security features? If you are worried about data breaches, you will need to choose an email hosting provider that offers extra security features such as two-factor authentication or encrypted storage.
At the end of the day, it comes down to a simple calculation:
Are you willing to pay for peace of mind?
Do you value data ownership?
Does downtime hurt your business?
Do you need extra security features?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then free email hosting might be the way to go. But if the answer to any or all of these questions is “yes,” then paid email hosting is probably a better option for your business.
Titan—safe, secure, user-friendly email!
Now that you understand your options, take a closer look at Titan. It’s the world’s first email product designed to address the specific communication and productivity needs of small businesses. Titan also provides class-leading security features and advanced anti-spam filters that keep your inbox safe from viruses and malware. With Titan, you can create an email that matches the domain of your business and get up and running on business email in a matter of minutes. Try it out!