Where to put my personal e-mail?
August 29, 2008 3:34 PM   Subscribe

What should I use for personal e-mail over IMAP?

Soon my university will shut off the e-mail service I have been using for my personal e-mail over the last few years. I'm looking for a replacement through which I can quickly get e-mail through secure IMAP. It would be best if the service had some sort of server-side filtering, preferably with Sieve, or even procmail (slightly less preferred).

Gmail is pretty good and what I will switch to if I don't receive any better recommendations. Of course the search is great. I don't like two aspects, though. First, access over IMAP is slow, at least compared to other IMAP servers I have used. I would prefer something much faster. Second, I am somewhat concerned about Google knowing even more about me, although perhaps I should be just as concerned about any other provider.

I also probably could get an e-mail inbox through Comcast, although I am wary of Comcast in general.

I'm happy to keep using the university's forwarding service as my From: address, so getting my own domain isn't essential.

Cheaper is best obviously, but I'd be willing to pay for something that was superior to the free options.
posted by grouse to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Google Apps for Domains - it's Gmail except you can do @yourdomain.com for free. IMAP is very quick with Google, I'm not quite sure why you're experiencing slow speeds. Also, do not fear the Google; they'll know everything about you soon enough, do not delay the process.
posted by cgomez at 3:45 PM on August 29, 2008

check out fastmail.fm
posted by pdxpatzer at 3:50 PM on August 29, 2008

Response by poster: I guess the easiest way to see the slow speeds is to open the [Gmail]/All Mail folder (having the [Gmail] before everything is a big pain too). Headers take somewhat longer to download than a nearby IMAP server.

For Google Apps, you have to have a domain name. This costs money. Is there any benefit to Google Apps beyond vanilla Gmail?
posted by grouse at 4:01 PM on August 29, 2008

roll your own. this gives you the most control over the mailchain, your privacy concerns are mitigated, and while this may not be the cheapest solution, it's going to be the best (since you can tweak and customize most every aspect of the mailchain).

Postfix for SMTP, Dovecot for imaps, and procmail + spamassassin for filtering. There exists copious amounts of documentation on these topics - HowtoForge is a particularly good resource IMHO.

Plus, by doing it yourself, you're learning a potentially marketable skill.
posted by namewithoutwords at 4:12 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Friends of mine who've been through different approaches (including self-hosted) have moved to Tuffmail and liked it a lot. Not free, but you get what you pay for.
posted by holgate at 4:33 PM on August 29, 2008

Best answer: Another happy fastmail.fm IMAP user here. I've used them for all my personal mail over a year with zero problems.
posted by anadem at 5:13 PM on August 29, 2008

You're working for the UW, aren't you? They provide an IMAP mail store, even if you're also on the medical center's Exchange service. (For now, anyway. There's been a shakeup in the central IT organization, and the new management seems gung-ho to get everyone on Exchange.) There is a limited server-side filtering mechanism, although it's not as powerful as Sieve or procmail.
posted by hades at 6:32 PM on August 29, 2008

Actually, if you're working in the medical center, forget that. You're probably subject to all sorts of HIPAA restrictions on your UW email. Best to have your personal mail completely separate.
posted by hades at 6:34 PM on August 29, 2008

As cgomez said above, you can use Google Apps for your own domain. You don't even have to have a hosting plan, as I just have my domain's MX pointed to gmail as instructed. Very low cost to just buy a domain name for a few years.

I use the IMAP features constantly for my iPhone, but otherwise I stay web-based on my desktop and laptop. The biggest benefit for me is the server-side spam filter that is fantastic. Very few get through, and virtually no false positives.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:55 PM on August 29, 2008

Is there any benefit to Google Apps beyond vanilla Gmail?

Well, as far as email is concerned there is no benefit -- GApps email is pretty much the same as vanilla GMail. (If anything, GApps is a little worse, since new features are rolled out to GMail first, Google Apps users get them a few weeks later.) Of course the Goog offers other features through GApps that you may or may not be interested in -- putting up a small website, for example, without paying for hosting.

As far as I'm concerned, the real benefit is being able to use your own domain name. If you have a common name, having your own domain means that you can have firstname.lastname@mydomain.com as your email address instead of being stuck with something like funkyguy617@gmail.com. If your name is unusual enough that it's not already taken at Gmail, or if you're OK being funkyguy617, then you gain nothing by going with Google Apps. But if not, it's a cheap way to get a vanity domain online, since you only pay for the domain name (~$10/year), not for hosting. (I asked a question about this last year and having Google Apps handle email for my own domain turned out the best way for me to solve this problem.)
posted by harkin banks at 7:01 PM on August 29, 2008

Well, you have to examine what you're looking for. You indicated that your issue with Google Apps is that it requires a domain which does have a cost to it, but so does every other solution you'd be considering. It's $7.15 a year, a bit under two cents per day. Running your own mail server is horribly impractical and using a premium mail/webhost would have larger recurring costs, far more than a domain for Google Apps (which is a steal at the price of free). Using Google Apps (or any other premium provider if you choose) gives you the opportunity to have @yourdomain.com rather than being forced to be chunkylover69@yahoo.com. Also, you can have multiple users at no additional cost if your friends and family like your domain and want a better email address.

As for the IMAP speed, have you tried changing your DNS servers to OpenDNS or trying to somehow speed up your connection? I have never experienced this. Try using an email client that caches your IMAP folders to some degree.

Fastmail.fm is also very good as others have indicated, but costs significantly more than the cost of registering a domain name.

posted by cgomez at 12:00 AM on August 30, 2008

I use Thunderbird to get to my Gmail account with IMAP, and the speed is about what I'd expect from a mail server that isn't on my LAN; about 50 headers per second for my 512 kbit/s ADSL connection. Google's suggested tweaks (especially turning off copying sent mails to a folder - Gmail SMTP puts things in your Gmail "Sent Mail" folder automatically) made it work a bit faster. I've found it perfectly usable.

Your IMAP client will only see the [Gmail] prefix for Gmail's predefined folders (Drafts, Spam, All Mail, Sent Mail, Starred and Trash). If you define your own labels with Gmail's web interface, they will show up as unadorned folder names in your IMAP client. If you define your own folders using your IMAP client, they will show up as unadorned label names in the Gmail web interface unless they conflict with one of Gmail's predefined folder names, in which case the web interface will show them with an [IMAP]/ prefix.
posted by flabdablet at 5:13 AM on August 30, 2008

Another vote for FastMail, but I would add one more thing: your own domain, which from here on will be your permanent e-mail address. No longer will you have to change addresses when changing ISPs, enduring unannounced changes by the ISPs (Charter is notorious for this), etc.

You can forward mail from yerdomain.com to your FastMail account, and set up FastMail to send messages using yerdomain.com as the "From" and "Reply-to" addresses. Very slick.
posted by megatherium at 6:43 AM on August 30, 2008

Whichever way you choose to host your email (I went for a homebuilt system similar to that outlined by namewithoutwords, and receive the mail via 1and1.com), I'd n+1th the recommendation to get your own domain name and sort yourself out a permanent address.

Bear in mind that once you have an your own domain, you are free to create as many addresses at that domain that you like (subject to limitations by the hosting company, that is - 1and1 let you have 200 in their email host package). I create new addresses for most online services I use - if I start dealing with a new e-commerce company I'll create a "newcompanyname@mydomain.com" address. Easy to block, filter or simply delete afterwards if you suddenly start getting "random" spam to that address.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 10:01 AM on August 30, 2008

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