Time to Reassess Your Email Provider

If you have your email with your internet service provider (ISP), it might be a good time to take a look at what you’re getting, what you could get, and what you might lose.

First, ISPs provide email as a loss-leader service to keep your internet (and maybe cable TV) business. That internet business is critical to their success because more small businesses, home offices and consumers are using more data to run their businesses or live their lives. They’ve built the infrastructure to connect to your home or office. Now, it’s mostly a matter of adding capacity at a central location and using a few keystrokes to provide you with more internet capacity for whatever you need. As a result, they pay only enough attention to your email to prevent a catastrophic failure.

We saw the ISP-email problem firsthand during the past holiday season. Our client had email from Microsoft Hot Mail, but it was through their ISP. We thought it would be an easy fix, but when the problem escalated, the ISP erroneously blamed our client’s computer. We knew it wasn’t the case because we got right down into the system’s basic commands and identified a back-end issue at the ISP. That’s one place we can’t go.

The ISP didn’t do anything, but somehow, the problem disappeared. We think it was fixed either by a reboot to fix a server problem or by someone who actually saw a problem and fixed it. We’ll never know, but regardless, our client is ready to switch ISPs and their email service.

The switch is a two-step process. The first step is to find a new provider. They abound and offer features and capabilities not found in many of the current ISP-based email programs. Here are some of the more popular and more capable choices:

  • Gmail from Google has a friendly conversation-focused interface, powerful search and top-notch spam and malware filtering, which is critical. It integrates with other Google services, including Google Drive, which lets you send attachments over Gmail’s 25-megabyte limit. You get 15 gigabytes of storage, and it’s free, unless you want to create your own email domain. A downside is Google’s proclivity for collecting personal data, but you get some control through its privacy settings.
  • Outlook.com is a web-based email service that’s separate from Outlook in Office. It’s the successor to Hotmail, with a better interface. It also provides 15 gigabytes of storage and integrates with Microsoft’s online Office tools. Microsoft makes a big deal about not scanning emails to serve you ads, but it does scan them to filter spam and malware.
  • iCloud, Apple’s free email service, integrates with Macs and iPhones and doesn’t contain any ads, though it isn’t as feature rich as other options. It comes with only 5 gigabytes of storage, which is shared with other Apple products. You can buy more storage.
  • Fastmail is a paid service that touts privacy and control. For $3 to $9 per month per user, there are no ads, and you can create an email account at any domain you want, which is great for a small business. It’s a great option if you don’t want to tie yourself to one of the big tech giants.
  • ProtonMail emphasizes privacy with end-to-end encryption. However, it requires a bit more work to setup and requires your recipient to jump through the same hoops. Just remember, though, your security is only as good as the security of the weakest link among all the people you communicate with.

No matter which provider you choose, you’ll need to do a lot of preparation. The most important step is to make sure you bring all the messages you want to save to your new email provider’s service. Some ISPs will delete your address and account as soon as you end your service. Others claim they’ll provide unlimited or generous storage and long-term to lifelong access, but there are no guarantees the messages will be kept or open to your access. If someone accidentally removes your messages from a server or removes your login credentials, you’ll have little or no recourse if you’re no longer a paying customer.

Copying all your old email from your old provider to your new one can be complicated. While we don’t want to say it’s something you can’t do at home, we strongly urge you to let us do it or walk you through the process. We want to make sure you get all the messages you want to keep – AND we can help you set up a forwarding mechanism so that people can still reach you after you make the change. (See Tech DIY: Our Equivalent of Calling the Plumber or Electrician.)

One thing you will need to do on your own is make sure you notify everyone of your email change – and do it with your new email address. That will make it easier for people to change their contact list, and it will add your new email to most autofill functions.

Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss the best email options for you and to make an appointment to get you set up with your new email system.

Mail Services Make a Difference

Some people stay with their email out of loyalty or inertia. For some home-based users, we can find a few good reasons why you should switch. For businesses, we can’t find one why you should stay.

First, here’s a little history. Back in the early days, we accessed the Internet through dial-up modems, and some of you may remember CompuServe, which preceded AOL. They tried to have enough local phone numbers to handle traffic and differences in users’ modem speeds. A number of local ISPs (Internet Service Providers) sprang up to meet the demand. Some, such as Mindspring, became regional or national providers.

All of them offered email services under their own domains. You’re still likely to see addresses with AOL and Mindspring. You’re also like to see some small providers still servicing email accounts. Together, there are some problems, especially when you look at the capabilities of telephone carriers, cable companies, Internet-based providers such as Gmail and services such as Microsoft Exchange.

Let’s look at the smaller providers. Email is a 24/7/365 necessity today. Along with texting, it’s a huge communications tool that we use to conduct business and even find meeting places on a weekend day. This raises a critical question: What happens when email service goes down from, say, 7 p.m. Friday until 9 a.m. Monday?

A small provider may not have the capability to respond to outages in a timely fashion, either by having someone to fix a problem or the network to route traffic around a trouble spot. If you are a business, you simply cannot afford to stay with an email service that can’t recover quickly. If you are a home user who does not have a smartphone with email capability, you should still switch, but it may not be critical for you.

Everyone, especially business users, should be looking at their providers and their platforms. AOL and Mindspring, from what we’ve seen, are not upgrading their email-handling systems as fast as others, such as Gmail. We’ve seen AOL users couldn’t open files because their systems could support their needs. They had to save files and then open them outside of AOL.

We realize change is hard for many people, especially those attached to their AOL systems. However, email services from your ISP, Gmail or Microsoft Exchange are much more robust and give you better access from Internet and cellular connections. Keeping an AOL browser can be expensive as well as slow. You still pay monthly access fees for connections that others provide as part of their service. You can still access AOL email from Internet Explorer or Firefox, for example.

We can help you find the email service that’s right for you. Just send us an email or give us a call – 973-433-6676 to start the conversation and develop an action plan.