Quality paid mail hosting service for three (3!) IMAP inboxes
March 12, 2014 8:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a new home for three IMAP inboxes. Each one should be able to handle up to 10-15 GB of stored mail. I want a reliable long-term service that is supported by fees rather than ads.

I've seen lots of recommendations for Fast Mail on Metafilter, but their website and product documentation look haphazard and unpolished plus you only get one IMAP inbox per account. With the storage levels I'm looking for three inboxes would cost close to $200/year.

Pobox.com looks much better from a product, support, and documentation standpoint but they also only allow one IMAP inbox per user account. This is frustrating because each account comes with 60 GB of storage, which would be plenty for the three inboxes I need. But since I need three accounts it will run me $140/year.

I'm not interested in Google because I don't like their tagging model, their mail GUI, or their simplified corporate motto ("Don't be evil.")

Mrs. alms uses Yahoo mail and her experience does not inspire confidence, plus I'd prefer a company that has e-mail a central focus of its business.

Is there some competent well-designed paid service that will let me go wild with IMAP inboxes as long as I stay within my storage limits? Or should I just suck it up and go with Pobox, getting three times as much storage as I need for three times as much money as I feel I should be paying?

By the way, I'll be bringing my own e-mail addresses from other domains but my needs there aren't complex and I'm assuming pretty much anyone will be able to handle it.
posted by alms to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Outlook.com does this, though they're vague about storage limits. You can upgrade to an ad-free version for $20 per year and they do support IMAP.

Obviously, Microsoft isn't strictly an e-mail focused organization. Not sure about custom domains. You may have to look at Office365 or something for that.
posted by cnc at 9:45 PM on March 12, 2014

Rackspace Email has 25Gb mailboxes with IMAP/POP for $2/user/month. Here's the spiceworks reviews.
posted by benzenedream at 9:47 PM on March 12, 2014

Fastmail has aliases, rules and personalities if you want to have multiple addresses that are all in the same account for one person to manage. I have close to 200 aliases set up in my account and it works well.

You can create you@yourdomain.com account. In that account create the aliases alternate1@yourdomain.com and alternate2@yourdomain.com. Create folders "Inbox Alt1" and "Inbox Alt 2". Create rules that mail sent to alternate1 are moved to Inbox Alt1 and the same for 2. Create personalities to send as alternate1 and alternate2. You can edit the folder order to put the two alternate Inboxes right below the primary Inbox.

Now mail is automatically routed into it's own folder, and you can send as each of the 3 accounts and you're using one $60/year account.

If this is for 3 different people then you simply need 3 different accounts.
posted by ridogi at 9:51 PM on March 12, 2014

I don't know of a service that allows multiple mailboxes to use the same base set of storage. Tracking space usage would be difficult since every e-mail system that's capable of being used at the production level tracks use at the mailbox level, not at the paying account level (e.g. alms pays for mailboxes 1, 2, and 3). If you are handy with Unix, you can do this yourself on a colocated or dedicated server--a $12/month one at OVH will do just fine--with postfix, courier, and roundcube but that's a lot of work (I know because I do it).

Office 365 for Small Business will do what you want. Mailboxes are $6/month or $60/year with a 50GB storage cap up to the first 25 mailboxes. You can use as may domains you like.
posted by fireoyster at 11:22 PM on March 12, 2014

I'm not quite sure what you need to achieve with the three mailboxes, but you can split one IMAP mailbox so that it appears to be three separate ones by just creating a folder for each "sub-mailbox" under the true IMAP root, and then setting the IMAP path prefix in your mail client appropriately when you configure each account. (Each account has the same credentials to the IMAP server otherwise.)

E.g., you'd set up the folders like so:
[root]  <-- actual IMAP root for your account
  /joe  <-- set your MUA to use "joe" as the path prefix for the Joe account/identity
  /sue  <-- set your MUA to use "sue" as the path prefix for the Sue account/identity  
From your mail host's perspective, you're still just using a single IMAP account. But to your mail program, each identity would have all its IMAP folders separated from each other.

Obviously this wouldn't provide any security, so it's not appropriate if different people are supposed to have access to each account, but it would allow you to use it for backup purposes while keeping various account separate, without the hassle of actually managing and paying for separate accounts.

It also won't show as separate when you log in using your mailhost's webmail interface; you'd have to drill down through the first layer of folders manually.

I've never done this with a commercial provider but I've done it on my own server with Dovecot running on the back end and it worked fine.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:59 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm not quite sure what you need to achieve with the three mailboxes

One is my personal mail. The other two are for two different businesses. I'm the only person accessing the accounts.

you can split one IMAP mailbox so that it appears to be three separate ones by just creating a folder for each "sub-mailbox" under the true IMAP root

Yes, that's one possible fallback. The thing this doesn't do is segregate the sent messages into distinct Sent Mail folders for each sub-mailbox. I could probably do that after the fact with scripts. I don't think it'd be possible to have it happen automatically when I send mail, based on what I know about the mail clients I use and the services I've looked at.

(I recognize that I'm being a bit obsessive about this, but if I'm going to what amounts to a big move I'd like to get it done right.)
posted by alms at 6:11 AM on March 13, 2014

I have Fastmail (a Personal Enhanced account) and when someone sends a mail to info@business1.com and I reply I automatically reply with that address. If I send a new email to someone I can select that address from a dropdown. I can therefore make a saved search (or "virtual folder") for "from:info@business1.com" that would effectively be a sent mail box for Business1 mail, since it contains all the mails I sent from the business1 domain. Maybe something like that would work for you? I use the web interface (not perfect, but good enough for me) but I think good e-mail clients will have a saved searches feature.
posted by blub at 2:31 PM on March 13, 2014

Response by poster: Follow up:

I initially tried PO Box, but ran into the problem that it can only send out-of-office messages from domains that it manages. Since I couldn't hand over my work domain to them I couldn't use their out-of-office messages. Fail.

I then took another look at FastMail. In that period of time they had updated and modernized their documentation, which had been my biggest complaint. So far it's working out well. Still a little more expensive than I'd like, but it's worth it to finally get my e-mail organized.
posted by alms at 7:04 AM on May 12, 2014

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