Recommendations for hosted business email (excluding Google Apps and Exchange)?
February 14, 2011 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Could you please recommend a reliable email hosting provider (non-Exchange) that provides excellent customer support? This will be for a business in the US with about 25 users, and we'd be switching over the mail server for an existing domain. We've looked into Google Apps for Business, but the support area comes up short. Here's a list of the things we're looking for...

  • Prompt, effective support via email tickets and phone. Ideally responses via email within 24 hours for general questions, and faster responses for critical issues. Immediate support available via phone (not just for emergency/service down issues). If phone service isn't available, then the email support needs to be especially reliable and fast. (I know good hosted email doesn't require much support when things are going well, but when there's a problem or I have a question, I would like to be able to communicate with a human and receive a reply asap.)
  • Access via IMAP, POP, webmail (must support all three); SMTP; all support secure access e.g. TLS/SSL.
  • Email aliases and email forwarding.
  • For mailbox quota and file attachment limits - this is somewhat flexible. e.g. 1 Gb should be more than plenty, and as long as the send/receive for attachments is at least 10 Mb that should be okay.
  • Spam and virus filtering, with notification if a message has been blocked. That is, if messages are determined by their service to be spam or a virus, then (1) the message goes into a spam/junk folder (or the message is marked as "Spam" in the subject), or (2) the message is blocked and an automatic alert is sent to the recipient. In other words, if a message is deleted or quarantined by the system because of a spam/virus trigger, then we can know what happened to it (it doesn't just get silently deleted with no notifications).
Big bonus points:
  • A way to test the email functionality with the custom domain (before switching the MX records) by sending email to a temporary test domain. This is a super bonus feature, and it's something I really like about Google Apps.
  • A trial option, or at least pro-rated billing so if we sign up to a service and it doesn't work out, we can cancel without having to absorb the full annual fee.
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) support.
I found a few references to Fastmail in the AskMe archives... I know they don't offer phone support, but I will be looking at it some more (e.g. if they offer a test domain), but I would like to hear about other suggestions, or even places to avoid. Links to relevant previous threads that I missed would be helpful, too (I did check a bunch but most of them recommend Google Apps). I also searched on some other forums but I would appreciate the advice of fellow MeFites. Thanks!
posted by macguffin to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm fairly sure Panix provides most if not all of what you're seeking.
posted by brainwane at 4:26 PM on February 14, 2011

Myself and several clients have had a number of accounts with Fastmail for up to around 10 years now and have never needed telephone support. Both of my support queries to them over the years have been answered promptly. You can use one (or several) of their domains, both before and after migrating your own MX records to their servers.

One client is rather keen on Google apps, but their lack of proper shared IMAP boxes is a show stopper for them, also Fastmail's admin interface is both very complete and nicely usable. No affiliation, just a very satisfied geek with a number of satisfied clients also using this service.
posted by dirm at 6:05 PM on February 14, 2011

In my experience, the support level you're describing just isn't realistic unless you're willing to pay way above the normal market price -- maybe that's why Google Apps support seemed lacking to you? Obviously critical or system down issues should be addressed quickly, but "answers to general questions within 24 hours" is asking a lot.
posted by telegraph at 6:09 PM on February 14, 2011

You claim Google doesn't meet your support needs, but in my experiences, they do. I've only raised a single ticked with them (paid, 3 seats), and it was answered in a few hours and I had repeated contact with the same agent for a few days following. I say this because I used to be very skeptical of Google's support, but the business offering seems to be a different beast than the consumer offering. They also have a phone support option, but I have not tested that.

Google meets all of your other requirements as well.
posted by ydant at 7:45 PM on February 14, 2011

Rackspace's hosted email offering might do it for you. POP/IMAP/webmail, everything SSL if you want it (and you can enforce it), spam/virus filtering with subject line tagging, 10GB/mailbox and 50MB attachments, and two bucks per mailbox per month.

Support is fantastic, because the culture bleeds over from their dedicated hosting support. We're a big multi-segment customer so I'm not 100% sure what interface an email-only customer gets for support but the people there are great.

They also offer a hybrid Exchange/non-Exchange thingy if a while down the road you find you need Exchange support (for Blackberrys or calendaring or something).

I don't think they support DKIM.
posted by mendel at 8:09 PM on February 14, 2011

Thanks for the suggestions! We're looking into Fastmail and Rackspace and hopefully one of them will be a good fit.

Obviously critical or system down issues should be addressed quickly, but "answers to general questions within 24 hours" is asking a lot.

This is a fair point, and I'm sorry for the poor wording on my part. Instead of "general questions" I should have clarified that it was for non-critical support questions, like, "We need to do ABC, but we checked the online help and forums, searched and found no way to do this. Is there a link we missed? How can we do it?" Asking for support and getting a reply within a reasonable time frame, say 24-72 hours on average, is more like what I'm going for. I agree 24 hours for every sort of inquiry is pushing it.

I'm glad GA for Business is working out for so many folks -- if it works for you, awesome! I also should have clarified that we actually did sign up for the trial version of GA for Business, and also used their enterprise support and got replies within 24 hours, but the actual resolution aspect took more time (actually it's still pending). To be fair, I now think it has more to do with support + bugs in the current Google Apps system, and not necessarily the support by itself. After posting this question, we kept testing out GA for Business but kept running into issues. We really wanted it to work for us, but it was sort of a snowball effect, and there were just too many things we had to deal with (including weird billing issues, bugs related to the recent Google Apps infrastructure transition, lack of official documentation on the transition-related bugs... searching the forums shows that we weren't the only ones who've run into similiar problems). The no-refunds policy combined with the fact that user accounts are charged for a full year at a time also wasn't attractive. We really just need good email, and while Google Apps email may be great, the other Apps stuff has thrown in complications for features that we don't need.

Anyway, thanks again for your input! I'll update this thread after we've decided on an email host.
posted by macguffin at 7:28 PM on February 23, 2011

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