“What’s your email address?”
That question may be even more important than, “What’s your website address?”
Your email address is how potential customers, business partners or employers will communicate with you. What will they think if it’s
No! You need a professional
email@example.com email address. In this article, we’ll tell you the 3 options for your own personalized, professional email address.
Option 1: Self-hosted email
Web hosting companies typically include email hosting in their packages. If you already host your own website, you can also host your email there at no extra cost. The exception is managed hosting companies like WP Engine or Synthesis who don’t provide email hosting at all.
When you host your own email, the web server for
example.com also accepts emails to
firstname.lastname@example.org. The user would then retrieve the email from the server.
This option allows you to create as many email accounts as you need, so self-hosted email is a good option if you need more than one address. You can either send and receive your email through an application like Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail, or through a simple webmail interface.
- Included in your web hosting plan at no additional cost
- Easy to setup
- If your server experiences downtime, both website and email are affected.
- The email mailboxes contributes to the disk space for your hosting account.
- The webmail clients are really basic; you’ll be disappointed if you’re used to Gmail or Yahoo Mail.
- Expect less than great support from your web host for email-related issues. Email is a secondary product which may not be high on their list of priorities.
Option 2: Redirect to webmail
The 2nd option is to use your web hosting only as a forwarder to redirect emails to your webmail service (e.g. Gmail / Yahoo / Outlook.com). This diagram explains how this works.
email@example.com are received by the server which then forwards them to the user’s webmail account. The user then retrieves the email from his webmail account. The user can configure his webmail to send emails as
firstname.lastname@example.org – yes, even for Yahoo and Outlook.com!
This is a great option if you only need a small number of email addresses. You also wouldn’t need separate logins for your webmail and professional email. You can also redirect general email addresses (e.g.
email@example.com) to your webmail.
- Use your favorite webmail service to send and receive your professional emails.
- No need to worry about email backups on the server.
- If your server experiences downtime, you will not be able to receive emails unless sent directly to your webmail address.
- Email recipients will see that your email was sent via your webmail service unless you take a few extra steps.
- Doesn’t scale well if you need multiple accounts for additional team members.
It is possible to have Gmail fetch your email from external accounts but I find this solution to be sub-optimal. This is because Gmail only checks for new emails every 15 minutes. There are hacks to get around that, but they are usually rather complex to setup.
We have published 2 KB articles on how to use Option #2 with Gmail and Yahoo:
- Setup Gmail to send email from a different address
- Setup Yahoo! Mail to send email from a different address
Option 3: 3rd-party email provider
The final option is to use a dedicated email hosting provider for your email. Dedicated email hosting services can provide better features and support compared to free webmail services. Many also offer collaboration features like calendars and full-blown office suites.
With a setup like this, emails to
firstname.lastname@example.org do not even land on the web server. MX records at the DNS level tell the emails that they should be routed directly to the email provider’s servers. This option can serve a single mailbox for yourself, or for your entire organization.
Personally, this is the option I recommend even for those who only need a single email address. However, you can set things up so you can send and receive from multiple domains into a single inbox, so with 1 login you can be
The biggest benefit: Unlike the other options, your email is not a secondary or free product. If your email is mission-critical, you need a dedicated email host that is accountable and responsible for your email.
- Email unaffected by web server downtime
- You can choose the best solution for your requirements
- An additional cost for your business
- Slightly more complicated to setup
Choosing an email host
There are lots of options for email hosting. Fastmail provides an email-centric offering which is easy to setup and use. Many businesses also use Microsoft Exchange, another email-centric offering. Domain registrars like Hover and GoDaddy also offer dedicated email hosting. On the other end of the scale are full-blown office suites like Google Apps and Office 365.
In my experience, many people find Google Apps confusing. They end up with multiple Google Accounts (personal and work) and get their logins mixed up – “Did I upload that video to my personal YouTube or the work YouTube. I didn’t even know there was a difference!”
Microsoft Exchange usually involves high costs and a “IT guy” who takes care of the servers, though I think companies like Rackspace and GoDaddy are trying to simplify things with their Hosted Exchange product. Either way, find someone who understands how mail servers work and engage them to help manage and administer things if you go with Google Apps or other enterprise-level solutions.
If you’re a small business who wants dedicated email hosting but to keep things as simple and affordable as possible, I can’t recommend Fastmail enough. They’re easy to understand, have a great product and are much simpler to setup and manage. I have used Fastmail to manage email for 5 different domains (!) for 3 years now and am extremely happy with my decision to go with them.
Finally, keep in mind that you can mix and match the 3 options above. So you could have 1 mailbox with Fastmail for the really important stuff, and forward the less important emails to Gmail. (I do this as well).
If email is important to you, you owe yourself to find a reliable and professional email solution.
And finally, I leave you with this comic from The Oatmeal: What your email address says about your computer skills. Know a friend with an email address like
email@example.com? Maybe you should send them a link to this article.