Free vs. Paid Email

In order to reduce expenses, many businesses opt to use free email addresses when first starting up.  And while you can get some mileage out of free email addresses, there are some drawbacks to using them. First, free email lacks a level of professionalism that is typically expected of serious, established businesses.  Second, when all of your employees have personal email addresses at different service providers, there’s a real sense of disparity. Your clients are more apt to perceive your team as a loosely connected group than as a formal company.  Third, using free email could send a message to potential customers that your business is unable to afford the basic expense of email accounts at your own domain. Lastly, if you’re at all concerned about privacy, you may want to think twice about free email as the content of your inbound and outbound messages may be scanned for advertising and marketing to third parties.

On the flip side, using email addresses at your own domain helps establish your company’s brand, reinforces your company image as a “real” business and sends a positive message to your customers, “We’re serious – we are this business.” Partnering with an email provider that has an official privacy policy in place can provide some assurance that your email messages are not being scanned or data mined for marketing and/or advertising purposes.

Getting your own email accounts doesn’t have to be expensive either. All you need is an email provider and your own domain name.

What is a domain name and why do I need one?

A domain name is an identifier or descriptor for realms or sites on the internet.  Examples of domain names are,, etc. Registering a domain name for your business is straightforward. You will have to choose a domain name registration service or registrar and search for an available domain name.  Costs range from $10-$30 per year depending on the registration service you use.  Having your own domain enables you to have a web site for your business and set up email addresses for your team using personal addresses at your domain.

The hosting of email addresses at your domain, also known as email hosting, is usually included in web hosting packages.  Hosted email is also sometimes bundled with web based office suites.  Another option is to use an email hosting provider, a specialist that offers high availability cloud based email with varying feature sets, dedicated email support analysts and additional services you could use in the future like email marketing and web hosting.

Basic vs. Advanced Features

The most basic and affordable email service, POP3/IMAP, might be a perfectly acceptable solution for your company and more than adequate for a long time.  Without getting into the differences between POP3 and IMAP, using an IMAP service allows you to synchronize your email on multiple devices and computers.

For more advanced collaboration between users (shared calendars, contacts and tasks), consider open source solutions like Zimbra and OX Open Xchange.  Both of these applications can be set up and hosted using your domain. Another more costly option is Hosted Exchange which gives you all of the features of an Exchange server without the cost and hassle of managing the hardware and licensing.

The Hidden Cost of Free

Nothing is really free. Free email is often sponsored by advertising, and some free email providers actually scan your email content to place targeted advertisements in your email that you are more likely to click on.  It is no secret that Gmail users should not expect privacy using Google’s email service. While some people are OK with their email being scanned for advertising, others are more creeped out by the bigger picture of identity tracking. Even if the information in your emails is not proprietary, it is your business and shouldn’t that remain private?  Do you really want a third party to have access to all of the content and contacts in your business communications?

Ditching free email in favor of a paid email service buys you both privacy and freedom from marketing and advertisers.  A good, reputable email hosting provider should offer and have in place a Privacy Policy protecting your business from commercial monitoring and identity tracking. If you are concerned about email privacy and security, Greatmail offers a wide range of email services for businesses of all sizes and stages of maturity.