Plenty of people, when they hire a developer to build a new website, also request that they are provided with an email service that will work with their business domain name. And in response, many developers will spin up an email service that is linked to the hosting that they will use to host the website. It’s convenient and normally highly cost-effective. But, is this the right thing to do?
Email Hosting Overview
To the uninitiated, the way hosting and email works will probably be somewhat of a mystery! That’s entirely understandable and why you hire a developer in the first place. So, before we look at the pros and cons of using an ‘all-in-one’ hosting and email service, let’s take a couple of minutes to better explain how this works in practice.
In order to host a website you need a hosting provider who will load your website onto a server. This server ‘powers’ your website and performs all the neat tricks behind the scenes to hopefully ensure that when someone visits your web address, your website loads and does what it should. If you’re interested in taking more of a deep dive into this topic then make sure you check out our article ‘What WordPress Hosting Should I Use?‘
Now, when it comes to your email you also need a server. The server that powers your website is equally capable of running your email service (with the right software loaded, which is what your hosting provider will take care of). So, to save money and make things more convenient for their customer’s many hosts will bundle an email service right into their hosting package. It essentially costs them close to zero to do this and is a nice ‘add-on’ service they can then upsell to you.
On the other hand, you can purchase dedicated email services. These services exclusively focus on running email and, as a result, normally do a better job of it. It’s a bit like cars… a 4×4 is great for offroad but not so good for speed. You can buy a ‘crossover’ type of car that tries to do both (like hosting services that include email) but, if you want either a) raw speed or b) great offroading capabilities then you’re better choosing a vehicle that’s designed for this.
Drawbacks of Host Provided Email Services
Most hosts that provide email services tend to be much more focused on the hosting element of their offering. Email is normally an afterthought. This will result in a number of issues.
Poor Features and Functionality
Email that is normally bundled with hosting tends to be of a ‘bare bones’ nature. This means that you will likely be missing out on some of the cool features available from dedicated email services such as sophisticated filtering functionality. In addition, having a high-quality spam filter is now pretty important unless you want to find yourself bombarded with hundreds of unsavory emails all day long. Good spam filtering is hard to do and cheap ‘bundled’ email spam filtering services normally aren’t up to the job.
This means that not only might spam hit your inbox but you could frequently find ‘false positives’ occur whereby legitimate email is marked as spam. Bad news if it’s an email from a client and you end up missing it.
Problems While Migrating
It might not be something that you’ll be considering at the outset but there could come a day when you want to migrate your website to a new host. Perhaps your old host is closing down, or you begin to find the performance of the hosting is not what was promised.
Either way, being able to migrate your WordPress website is one of the great things about WordPress. The flexibility to do this means you’re never left at the mercy of one particular host. For a competent developer, migrating a WordPress site is something they will be able to do pretty easily.
Email on the other hand is a whole new ball game. It can be VERY hard to move, particularly if you’re running a business that is reliant on it. It’s one thing to have your website down for an hour or two but quite another to have a situation where you can’t send or receive emails.
Unfortunately, if you are using a bundled email/hosting service, you could find this is a real issue. Separating out your email from your hosting means that, should you wish to change hosts, you’re going to eliminate this issue. Your email will continue to function, even if your website isn’t.
As you may have noticed, hosting packages for websites will normally provide a fixed amount of space (for example 5GB). It’s perfectly possible to fill this up and if you have already encountered a limited space warning because of the size of the files on some websites you manage, you know that this is something that happens occasionally.
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Now if you have email bundled with your hosting, this uses the same space allocation (5Gb in this example). Email tends to chew through storage quite quickly as things like attachments can take up a lot of room. And, unlike websites whose usage often stays about the same, email storage requirements tend to go up and up (as you receive more and more email on a daily basis).
Some hosts will let you upgrade your package to increase the storage available fairly seamlessly (although they’ll charge you for it) whilst others will make you migrate to a new service. This is complex, time-consuming, and disruptive. Dedicated email services tend to have much larger limits on email and tools to help you manage the storage available meaning you are much less likely to run into this issue.
Hosting services sometimes go down (even the good ones). This can be annoying but, you’ll probably cope. The same can’t be said however if your email goes down. Well guess what… if it’s hosted on the same server as your website, and your website goes down then, yup, your email will go down as well. This means you’re unable to communicate with customers or perhaps even your web host itself if this is your only email account. A problem indeed!
Downtime on dedicated email services tends to be extremely limited. The providers of such services recognize that email is pretty essential and go to great lengths to ensure their service is robust. There will normally be fall-back systems in place to help prevent downtime and, if the worst should happen you can be assured that they will be working to fix the issue as quickly as possible.
So, Why Separate Email from Hosting?
Hopefully, as you can see, it’s normally pretty undesirable to use the bundled email service provided with your hosting. Unless it’s only ‘hobby’ email, you are much better investing in a quality, dedicated email service like the ones offered by Google and Microsoft. Yes, they are more money but this will seem like peanuts if you ever run into an issue!
Best Email Providers
So, who to choose? We’ve mentioned Google and Microsoft but there are others. Just make sure when you take a look that they are truly dedicated email services and not ones bundled with hosting. For a more detailed overview of the options check out our article ‘Google vs Rackspace vs Microsoft – Which Email Provider is Best?‘.
And, perhaps it should go without saying that at Pressidium we don’t offer email hosting for the reasons outlined above!