Yesterday I had to provide some tech support for a friend who only had one email address. He was trying to pay for some merchandise from a seller who was about to give him an invoice through PayPal. However, he did not want to give this person his primary email address which was also the email address associated with the PayPal account. I explained to my friend that he could just give the seller his other email address. They could send him a PayPal invoice and he could pay it without needing to log into a PayPal account. (This is good advice for all of you to because if a store offers PayPal as a checkout option, even as the only option, you don’t have to have an existing PayPal account. It just may be more convenient for you to have one if you do a lot of online shopping.)
So my friend said, I don’t have a second email account. He didn’t want to make another email account. Finally, I convinced him about the merits of having a backup email account. I think this is fantastic advice for all of you within the reach of this blog. What if someone hacks into your primary email account? What if you forget the password? While most modern and widely used email services have an uptime of at least 95% or better (and that’s probably very conservative), what if you are unable to send mail at a time when you REALLY need to send a message. It becomes a nightmare without a second email account. I’ve talked about enabling proper security on your email accounts in the past or making sure that at least one of your accounts has good customer service, but I want to be more general with you today.
Here are some of my suggestions for email services. Generally these recommendations have not changed over time, but I am consistently evaluating new options for you.
Free email services
I think Gmail and Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail by Microsoft) are the two best free email services out there. Yes, both of them sell advertising either above your message or somewhere on the screen when you’re in your inbox. However you are not paying for these accounts and they do offer two factor authentication which makes it quite difficult for a hacker to break into your account. Outlook.com does offer an ad free experience for a small fee of $20 per year. I am not big on Yahoo mail. For many years, it seems like they have the most hacked email service. However, they have started offering two factor authentication like the aforementioned providers. If you insist on using the Yahoo account, you must have the second step authentication turned on to protect yourself.
Although Apple made free iCloud email accounts available to everyone with a Mac or an iOS device, and now makes them available to anyone for free, I am not a big fan of their service. However, if you like using Apple everything and I mean everything, including the Safari browser on your Mac and the Safari browser on your iOS devices then you may want to rely on the iCloud account for everything. The reason why I put the iCloud account on a lower rung than Gmail or Outlook.com is that it cannot be deleted. You may not want to keep the same email address forever. You may want to make an email for a specific purpose. It’s possible that you get tons of junk mail and you just want to be done with a particular account. You could certainly change the password and forget and iCloud account but Apple will not allow you to delete it.
Paid email services
A paid email service offer you a sense of ownership and better customer service. Examples of paid email services that I like include
Fastmail.com : they offer inexpensive options for $10-$20 a year if you’re willing to make your email address @fastmail.com (or another domain that they own) or $40 a year if you want to use your own domain name (your own dot-com) and have a calendar that you can sync to your mobile devices. Fast mail has been in business for 15 years and has its servers positioned in New York City.
Google Apps: think of this as a Gmail experience on steroids. It will allow you to use Gmail at your own domain (your own dot-com) and provide an avenue for telephone support. It costs $50 per year and another $10 per year if you need to set up a domain name. If you really like Gmail and want a personalized email address, this is the way to go. You don’t have to be a business to use Google apps. Tens of thousands of school systems and businesses are pleased with this choice. You can sync your Google contacts and calendar to your mobile devices with a Google Apps account, just as you can with a free Gmail account.
Cotse.Net: this service has been based in Worcester, MA since 1999 and has backup servers throughout the country for added reliability. Cotse’s main focus is protecting your privacy and offering personalized support (via e-mail). They charge $25 for six months and allow you to use an address ____ @their domain or your own custom domain name. They also offer VPN services if you want to make your Internet connection as private as possible.