Should you use your website host for hosting your email?

This is a question we've asked ourselves frequently over the last year. And the conclusion we've come to is 'quite possibly not'.

The hosting and email hosting market has changed radically over the last few years with the proliferation of devices used to keep people in touch.

In the 'good old days', up to about 5 years ago :-) most people collected their email via POP3 from a single device - PC or laptop, and downloaded their mail to their email program - Outlook, Thunderbird or whatever.  Mail was just passing through, only temporarily stored on the server before being downloaded; and most hosting companies geared their infrastructures around that sort of usage.

Then along came email enabled mobile devices, first Blackberry, then iPad and iPhone, and Android tablets and phones, and the world switched from POP3 to IMAP. Web host mail servers went from being relay stations to long term storage, resulting in hugely increased data storage requirements being imposed on infrastructures which were not really designed, or optimised, for it.

The situation is aggravated by the average user remaining unaware of how or where their email is stored - buy a device, enter the email account details, send and receive email. Simple. But few are conscious of how and where that often 'mission critical' information is stored, and exactly how much data is now being stored - typical mailbox data storage is now being measured in GB not MB, an increase that has not gone unnoticed by hosting companies who have introduced caps on email data storage, or levying additonal data storage charges.

Many people are resistant to the idea of paying extra for email hosting - " I'm paying for hosting, why should I pay extra for email? " they say, without realising that their email now might easily be taking up 10-20 times the amount of storage space of their website, and grows daily. So it's inevitable that as mail storage increases, so hosting companies will want (and need) to charge for it.

This is what raises the question: "if charging for email hosting is here to stay, then is your website host the best hosting solution for your email"? It might be the simplest, but it may not be the best, and here are a few reasons:

1. Email deliverability - the chances are you will be on a shared hosting package, which means your website and email will be delivered from a server hosting tens, sometimes hundreds, of other domains. Spam filters often rely on the 'reputation' of the sending server, and all you need is for one of those other hosting accounts to be compromised, through a website hack, or infected computer, and the server ip address can end up on a blacklist and gain a poor reputation and your email blocked.

2. Portability - what if you want to change website host when you're upgrading your website? It's pretty easy to move a website as and when you need to. Moving a dozen or more email accounts, each with half-a-dozen GB of data is a much bigger undertaking.

3. Data security - what happens if your website host goes bust? Historically, web hosting has been an easy business to enter, and all too easy to exit for the wrong reasons. A website is easy to transfer to a new host (assuming you're keeping backups, yes?), but what about your email?

We provide website hosting through 3rd parties; also many of our clients use their own shared hosting providers. Over the last couple of years we have seen increasing problems for clients with email hosted on shared (website hosting) servers, nearly all of which would have been avoided through the use of dedicated email hosting, which is what has brought us to the conclusion that for most businesses of any size, decoupling website and email hosting is probably a better for reliability and scalability.

There are many good dedicated email hosting companies out there; the purpose of this article isn't to promote any of them, but simply to highlight the increasing benefit of separating web and email hosting and to suggest that any serious business should be seriously looking at considering the switch. 

Just some of the more popular options that you might want to look at: Microsoft Office 365, Google Business Mail, Zoho Mail