E-mail for your Startup, Part I

North Side Drive around Beaver Lake, Derry, N.H.

My first startup involved hosting websites and offering email accounts to users, so I had to set up an email server and programmatically add/remove email accounts, filter spam, and knock it with a wrench then mail got stuck in its innards.

These days setting up an email server is pretty easy. But just because it's easy doesn't mean you should do it.

editor's note: officially, I write "e-mail", but it looks better as "email"

Why NOT to host your own email:

  • if it's hosted on your web server, you risk DOS attack if you get flooded with mail
  • over time it becomes a pain to manage (software updates, security concerns)
  • if you are hosting IMAP, you have to back up a LOT of data over time since it keeps all your mail on server
  • if your web server's IP address is in a "bad neighborhood", your email will get bounced back a lot, forcing you to send through a different mail host anyway (called a smart host)

The Do-It-Yourselfer

If you decide you must host it on your own server, the easiest way to do it is with Qmail, a sendmail replacement. QmailRocks is the best tutorial from start to finish - including installation of web-based mail interface, antivirus scanning with Clam Antivirus, and SpamAssassin. Once you go down this road, however, it's all on you.

The Easy Life

For those who would rather spend their time building their business instead of babysitting an email server, I have a few solutions, depending on your cash and your organization.

For today, and continuing to tomorrow, I'll go over some hosted email providers, what they offer, and some pricing.

Rackspace Mail

After hosting my own mail on my server for about 4 years I dumped it and went to Rackspace mail. At $2 per mailbox per month, I have IMAP service (POP is an option), 10GB of space, and attachments up to 50MB. My email is backed up every night, and if needed I can restore it myself from the control panel.

I currently have 6 mailboxes (since I run different businesses), but have unlimited aliases.

They do the anti-spam and antivirus stuff for me.

I can check mail from my mail client (Thunderbird) and BlackBerry, and they offer a web-based interface that's nice, but I don't use it.

For those needing hosted Exchange, they do that also, but your mailbox will be limited to 2GB. Exchange is $10 per mailbox per month. Unless you know you need Exchange, you're not going to need it.

If you don't know the difference between POP and IMAP, IMAP is a protocol for handling mail that keeps all mail on the server and downloads it to your email client when you check your mail, but keeps a copy on the server and marks whether you've read it or not. So if you check mail on your main box and then go to your laptop and check mail, you won't see the messages you just read as "new" messages. The same goes for sent mail. It keeps the sent mail synced for you, too. With POP, on the other hand, your mail is downloaded to your mail client and then removed from the server (although you can keep a copy there), but mail clients will not be able to sync POP like it can IMAP.

Need Exchange? I'll have a cheaper Exchange option tomorrow. But if you need Exchange, you're probably not cheap anyway, amirite?

to be continued tomorrow...

Photo courtesy derrypubliclibrary CC BY 2.0

Next post: email for your startup, part 2

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