What is email hosting?

How and why you should set up email on your own domain

The Short Version

Email hosting is a service in which a hosting provider rents out email servers to its users. While there are free versions available with many hosting companies, many businesses take advantage of the flexibility and power of professional email services. Professional email hosting takes place when both incoming and outgoing emails are managed by a separate shared or dedicated mail server.

How do you use email? For many email users, paid hosting is wholly unnecessary, but what about when you have important documents like bills, invoices, client contacts or any other pieces of sensitive information stored on your email account? Additionally, can you afford to lose subscribers, customers, etc. by having a clumsy and unprofessional generic email like your.business@gmail.com over your own domain such as info@your.business.com?

In addition to the professionalism that having your own domain in your email provides, it’s advised to consider upgrading to email hosting instead of putting your data in the hands of a free email service like Google or Yahoo. Businesses pay for this service so that if something goes wrong, someone is there to help.

There are plenty of email-related scenarios that could cause significant damage to your business: someone steals a password, hacks your email, or you simply forgot your password. You will be able to recover access to email and its associated files, swiftly. Why? Because you are paying for a premium service.

Consistently maintaining and supporting email yourself or relying on in-house services will not only add to your expenses, but will also increase the probability of virus infections, as well as hardware and software issues. Such problems could cause email not to function from several hours to days, which is why more businesses are opting for modern email hosting plans.

Paid email hosting isn’t just advantageous if and when something bad happens. It’s an easy way to get more reliable and efficient service. Plans vary from one provider to the next; however, you can bank on additional features, such as bundled apps like Microsoft Office Online.

Even though all business professionals and organizations should have their own email, most people are unsure about email hosting, confusing the term with website hosting. Even if they understand the difference, they aren’t clear on how professional email can benefit them.

Although it’s not a topic on the tip of the average joe’s tongue, the basics of email hosting isn’t complicated. This comprehensive guide makes light work of explaining a service that could prove beneficial to your business. This rest of this page covers email hosting, what email hosting is, how it differs from domain and web hosting, which type can benefit your business, and most importantly, how to get it.


What is Hosted Email?

As an example, Namecheap offers free email hosting with our domain hosting packages. However, this entry-level service doesn’t offer the same features as our premium email. With premium plans, you get dedicated custom email platforms where your email host can manage an email linked to a domain name and implement any email authentication scheme that you want in place.

Unlike popular advertisement-endorsed free webmail, premium email hosting is free of ads and inclusive of advanced email management solutions and creation features. When done right, email hosting can revolutionize a business by offering a system to manage your emails well. With paid plans you can expect additional tools to target segments of your mailing list and facilitate successful email marketing campaigns, for example.


Differences Between Domain, Email hosting, and Web hosting

Since there’s a lot of confusion around the topic of domains, web hosting and email hosting, we’ll quickly review these three types of online hosting.

Domain Hosting and Registration

Domain hosts store domain names and facilitate their registration. First, you register a domain like yourdomain.com with a domain registrar, and just like a street address, the URL directs people to your website's location. If you’re using a domain registered through a third-party provider, that company is your domain host. For example, you may use Namecheap for your hosting, but have a domain registered elsewhere.

For your website to appear online, you need actual file hosting. You’ll often find domain and web hosting offered as a package, with most companies offering domain, email, and web hosting as a bundle.

Web Hosting

Web Hosting is a service that provides computer resources such as server space, memory, and bandwidth needed for your website files to live on the internet. Users can create and store website content on a web hosts servers so it can be viewed online via a web browser.

If you imagine a website plus all its content as a store, a web host simply provides the physical space to display the store’s products—in this case, the website content including the text, images, videos and anything else that make up the site's content.

There are different styles of hosting available to reflect the needs of different websites. Web hosting plans range from shared hosting with multiple sites sharing a single server to dedicated hosting, in which one customer uses an entire server’s space and bandwidth.

Recommended reading: What is web hosting? →

Email Hosting

Email hosting is a service in which your email messages and associated files are all stored on a server. When you receive an email to your website’s domain address, the email is routed across the internet and stored on the recipient server. At this point, the server administrators will determine which action to take (reply or ignore) bearing in mind any spam filters, re-routing requests and if the sender is on any blacklists.

The server hosting email can be the same server that’s hosting your website content, a server managed by another host, or two different servers managed by the same hosting company. Email hosting providers might specialize in offering only email hosting services, but it’s more typical for companies to offer bundled emails and web hosting packages these days.

Who Hosts Email?

We’ve mentioned the possibility to host a website and take email hosting from one provider, but you may prefer to choose individual providers to cover each task. Having a dedicated email server provides businesses with far more storage space meaning there will be less need to delete any emails. There was once a time when you got your email address from your internet service provider (like AOL) and that was good enough.

At some point, we got more comfortable with the idea of purchasing a domain and hosting plan with a branded email account added on (often for free). Most free email companies like Google offer basic email, but you’re stuck on their domain, which doesn’t project a professional tone for communication.

Traditionally, small businesses had their web and email hosting on the same server, while larger organizations had them split between dedicated web and email servers. Splitting the services like this used to mean you needed inhouse mail servers and IT staff, but over the past few years, many businesses have been getting the benefits of dedicated email hosting by utilizing cloud services.


Free vs. Paid Email Hosting Services

There are several types of email services that a hosting company may offer. The value of each service depends on your needs. Taking the time to evaluate your email needs today and how they might change as your business or team grows, will set you up for the future. Let’s look at the options available to you.

Free Web-hosting Email services

Web-hosting email services allow you to send and receive mail and manage email accounts through webmail (POP) and email clients (IMAP). Free email account include Gmail and Yahoo, to name a few. There’s an abundance of free email hosting options that you are probably already familiar with: Google’s Gmail, Microsoft’s Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL are household names.

  • Pros:

    • Free with no commitment or contract

    • Free email services typically include enough file storage to meet the needs of small businesses and individuals

  • Cons:

    • Might have irritating banners, or on/off page advertisements

    • Weaker security measures

    • Redundant help and customer support options

    • Visitors doubt your authenticity

    • Less cloud storage space

    • No personalized domain name (your.name@yourbusinessname.com) leading to difficult to remember, long and unbranded email addresses.

Professional Email Hosting

It’s not advised to use free email hosting if your business depends on email as a revenue driver — you get what you pay for. Free and standard email hosting packages don’t always deliver the kind of quality that professional users need. Professional (paid) email hosting services are most likely to fit the needs of a growing business better.

To deliver the best possible email experience, premium email services include additional features such as:

  • A personalized domain name. This will work towards building your business’ brand. Whom would you prefer to deal with? Someone whose email address read marcey@bankrestaurant.com or marcey@freemail.com. The former, of course, since the person communicating with an email of their company is more likely to be genuine than that of a free email hosting id user. We’re living in tech-savvy times, and people are wary of email fraud and spam.

  • More storage space

  • Robust antivirus and spam filters

  • Security measures should be powerful enough to keep kinks at bay in the event of network failure, and any other disasters to keep emails safe and secure. With business email hosting services, emails are secured in the host’s secure data center. Emails hosts keep up to date with the latest security threats.Therefore, their disaster recovery solutions are optimal.

  • No advertisements

  • Collaboration tools come bundled with many professional email services. While email sets the standard for email communication, its function is limited to an electric post-box. ‘Collab’ tools, on the other hand, are specialized systems created to deliver projects by exchanging project forms. They include features like shared calendars, folders, address books, task lists, etc. that can be viewed, shared and edited among a group of people, which can be useful for organizations and business to collaborate online.

  • Email synchronization across multiple devices, through webmail, smartphone and favorite email client (such as Outlook)

  • Using an outside hosting company allows you to reduce costs. Since maintenance and management tasks and other updates are handled externally, you’ll need fewer onsite management requirements and hardware resources.

  • Email authentication schemes — filtering, replication and rerouting

  • Folder and contacts management

  • Large attachments

  • Mailing, white and blacklists

  • Backups/archiving

  • Use of aliases, forwarders, and autoresponders

  • Mail rules

  • IMAP/POP3 services

Mail Servers: ISP, POP3, IMAP & Cloud

ISP Hosting

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide mail servers that work for standard personal email communication. This elementary service isn’t for sending mass emails. ISP servers often limit how many emails you can send. Any businesses looking to maximize on email marketing campaigns may run into problems Anyone looking to send a considerable amount of email should get their email hosting from a web hosting provider or a separate email hosting company.

POP3 vs. IMAP

There are two ways to receive emails: via the protocols POP (Post Office Protocol), or POP3 and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol). While POP has been the most popular protocol (ISPs promote it as the default, and preferred method), IMAP is viewed as the most efficient way to handle email. Email hosts recognize that IMAP is a more sensible way to use email, irrespective of the fact that it requires more resources on their side.

POP3 Email Hosting

POP3 downloads email from the mail server and stores it on your machine. It lets you read your email when you aren't online, but some or all of the email downloaded may no longer be available on the server. This can result in a confusing situation for anyone (most of us) who checks their email from multiple devices. For example, when you send an email from your cell phone, you might not be able to view it on your tablet.

IMAP Email Hosting

IMAP, Internet Message Access Protocol by its full name, works differently. Since the email client is constantly in sync with the mail server, emails can be accessed without an internet connection (providing the whole email message was downloaded before disconnection). For example, if I delete a message off my desktop email program, it then syncs with the email server, and all of my other devices (tablet, iMac, etc.) update their synced copy to reflect the changes. If your business uses a central mailbox that multiple people need to access, or you need to be free to check email from multiple locations, IMAP is the email hosting for you.

Cloud Email Hosting

Unless you're working in an enormous enterprise, with a budget to match, you almost certainly don't have the disaster recovery infrastructure and processes that the likes of Microsoft, Google, and other major cloud email providers have. So, if you truly are concerned about disaster recovery for your email, private email cloud providers are the way to go.

As with other cloud-based services, the advantages of using cloud-based email are operational efficiency and reduced costs. There’s no need to hire IT staff dedicated to managing internal email servers or any physical server equipment to maintain. Cloud hosting is the most scalable solution. You can take and lose resources as your user count changes, which keeps costs efficient.

Cloud servers are always kept up-to-date with the latest security patches and recent technological advancements. Benefits include increased bandwidth requirements, potentially higher costs and firewall requirements, amongst many others. A final benefit to consider is that email lives on the internet, so if your system goes down, everything is safely backed up.

Shared Hosting vs Cloud Server Hosting

The quality of email hosting varies with the hosting chosen, but we can make some generalizations. With email hosted on shared hosting, the email accounts associated with a website are usually stored on the same server as the website. Typically, the email services offered with shared email hosting restrict certain features from the number of email accounts included, such as how many outgoing emails can be sent, and whether your disk has space. Shared hosting plans include basic spam and virus protection.

On the other hand, when email is hosted with professional cloud hosting services, accounts are most likely to be on dedicated email servers. Further, users are often offered more premium features, from collaboration tools to more advanced anti-spam and virus protection services, larger email and file storage, full mobile support and greater security provisions, to name a few.

Email Hosting Software

We’ve discussed how email is hosted given the different protocols and servers available, but how do we access those emails? The difference between basic and premium email hosting interfaces and capabilities is noticeable.

Webmail or a hosting clients vary from provider to provider. Cpanel email is a type of web-hosting email service which lets you send emails and manage more than one email account through a webmail portal or email clients, such as Outlook and Thunderbird via SMTP/POP/IMAP connections and protocols. This service is a good fit for anyone using multiple standard email accounts.

In addition to email hosting, professional email services feature rich email software. Pro email tools meet all the needs of email and include a calendar and contacts, and document storage. Unlike free services, pro email includes advanced task management and collaboration tools. Thus, professional email software, such as Namecheap’s PrivateEmail is a great choice for organizations and the optimization of teamwork. You may create a public space in shared folders; set and control tasks; create and manage work schedules; monitor the availability of colleagues for participating in meetings/discussions; share data; control who has access to specific files; and far more beyond.


How to Set up Email on My own Domain

Custom email may seem like a small dot in the ocean with regards to branding your business, but it’s undeniably important. What do we say about first impressions? They count. In just one glance, you can make a meaningful impact on your, clients, customers and/or acquaintances. As a general rule of thumb, use a custom email address to give your business legitimacy, whereas a standard (e.g. @gmail.com) email is more appropriate for your personal stuff.

Creating a custom email address is similar to how you go about building your website. First, you need to pick an email platform to use, then install it to your custom domain. Let’s imagine Jamie’s bike shop. Shop owner Jamie wanted to distinguish himself from his rivals with a professional email address.

To set up a custom email address that matched his domain, Jamie would pick an email host. An email host will arrange that Jamie can email from jamie@jamiesbike.shop. Each host will offer a slightly different set of features, a different interface to access emails (a webmail client), and a range of prices.

Can I Host My Email on My Own Server?

Email hosting and web hosting are similar in the sense that neither has to be hosted by your registrar or web host providers. Emails can be routed to different servers and the routing is handled by entries in the DNS (Domain Name System) records.

By updating DNS records, it’s possible to direct different types of traffic to different servers. Making entries to CNAME records for example will create sub-domains to route traffic to different servers and/or services such as calendar, email and shared documents.

If you choose to host your own email, you’re going to need… a server. The fun doesn't stop there. Your server needs someone who knows how to manage it, so you'll want extra staff. Probably someone with an IT degree. And that's not all. You also need to consider:

  • The expense of hardware

  • Limited network capacity

  • Storage limits

  • Software licenses

The responsibility of backing up your email data. In addition to the labor costs involved in all this, these are just a few of the reasons that most businesses opt for the services of a professional email host, as opposed to running their own in-house server.

There are many challenges linked to in-house servers, including insufficient security, failed backups, difficulty syncing messages across multiple devices (desktop computers, tablets, and cell phones). These are things which can spell disaster for a business. Luckily, there are many alternatives available to avoid the challenges mentioned above.

There is a lot to be gained from choosing a hosted email provider rather than managing this yourself. With the number of options available today, there is a good fit out there for any size of business. It wouldn’t cost much to launch, but the time it takes to set one up, and effectively managing the console are the obvious reasons for subscribing to a service, instead of launching an email server of your own.

With a hosted email service, you don’t need to purchase any hardware, and it’s unlikely that you will have any software to set up. Setting up email hosting with a hosting provider is easy, you just need basic computer literacy and should be able to set the server up without much trouble.


Roundup

Many businesses run on email. It’s how communication happens between team members, customers, and vendors. If you rely heavily on email and want reliable email services without the hassle and cost of having an in-house server, go for email hosting. The demand for high-quality email hosting support has skyrocketed because these services negate the additional costs of finding the human resources to manage in-house email servers.

To keep the cogs turning, secure and advanced email hosting that matches your domain is a no-brainer. At Namecheap, we can help you with that. We offer three types of email hosting services, private, business, and business office, as well as our cPanel which comes free with domain hosting. Our services include web-based email with full browser support and a slick user interface, mobile support for business and business office plans, multiple email account accessibility to manage different providers from one place, plus easy collaboration features to securely and simply share documents, tasks, appointments and more with a group.

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