I’ve used var­i­ous plat­forms over the past 4 years for email, ever since break­ing up with Gmail and Google. Becom­ing more seri­ous about how I com­mu­ni­cate with clients, pre­sent­ing a pro­fes­sion­al image and not hav­ing my data mined for var­i­ous pur­pos­es, I decid­ed it was high time to do some seri­ous research into find­ing a suit­able replacement.

Below is my list of requirements:

  • Email — with own domain support
  • Fil­ter­ing rules
  • Cal­en­dars
  • Address book

Bonus points for:

  • Tasks
  • Notes
  • File stor­age
  • Col­lab­o­ra­tion suite (doc­u­ment / spread­sheet editing)

There are no refer­ral links below, I pur­chased these ser­vices with my own mon­ey and have received no dona­tions or pro­mo­tion­al mate­r­i­al. So with that out of the way, let’s dive in.

Fast­Mail

  • $3 — $9 per month, depend­ing on plan. Annu­al pay­ment dis­count offered — view prices

A sol­id prod­uct with advanced fea­tures for domain mail avail­able (own domain, catch all and alias sup­port). This means I can set­up all of my domain email to be man­aged via Fast­Mail — I cur­rent­ly use three dif­fer­ent domain names — all of which point their DNS mail records to Fast­Mails servers. When an email comes in for [email protected]​email-​xyz.​com (or for any­one @email-xyz.com thanks to the catch all rules), it will be rout­ed to a fold­er I have spec­i­fied with­in Fast­Mails set­tings for review later.

Catch all is effec­tive­ly if an email is sent to any address @email-xyz.com (for exam­ple) it will show up in my inbox. Great for mon­i­tor­ing what’s com­ing in.

Alias­es are addi­tion­al email address­es you can cre­ate that will also deliv­er to your inbox. It’s a great way to set­up mul­ti­ple accounts to help sort your email. For exam­ple you might have one for [email protected]​email-​xyz.​com and anoth­er for [email protected]​email-​xyz.​com — these are all deliv­ered to your inbox which you can then move to spe­cif­ic fold­ers or to a dis­tri­b­u­tion list, which is a group of con­tacts that is for­ward­ed the email.

As you can see just from those three fea­tures, Fast­Mail is incred­i­bly use­ful and pow­er­ful for a free­lancer. All of this and more is man­age­able via their web inter­face. Speak­ing of which, the Fast­Mail web inter­face is a lit­tle dat­ed, though com­plete­ly func­tion­al and gets the job done.

Oth­er note wor­thy fea­tures: Cal­en­dars (shared and pri­vate), con­tacts, notes, files (FTP, Web­DAV), app spe­cif­ic pass­words, 2 fac­tor authen­ti­ca­tion, spam fil­ter­ing, no ads and great support.

Mail​box​.org

  • 1 — €50 per month, depend­ing on plan — view prices

Anoth­er sol­id prod­uct with domain sup­port, alias­es, cal­en­dars, con­tacts, plus PGP encryp­tion, depend­ing on what pack­age you select. The soft­ware used by Mail­box is the OX App Suite, which I find has a fan­tas­tic inter­face that is high­ly use­able and func­tion­al. It also offers doc­u­ment, spread­sheet and pre­sen­ta­tion func­tion­al­i­ty, bonus points!

I would have hap­pi­ly ranked Mail­box at the top of my list, but the sup­port was ter­ri­ble to non-exis­tent. There is a tick­et from me in their sys­tem which has had no offi­cial reply. How­ev­er it is filled with var­i­ous oth­er users com­plain­ing about the same prob­lem — the lack of effec­tive spam filtering.

Open Exchange email interface

Luck­i­ly it looks like OX is start­ing to offer their own host­ed solu­tion. Cur­rent­ly it’s in closed beta, but I’ve signed up to the ser­vice to eval­u­ate it fur­ther. There are some impor­tant things miss­ing — like domain sup­port — but over­all I real­ly like what I’m see­ing and where the OX team is tak­ing the prod­uct. I feel this OX ser­vice is the one to watch for 2018!

Kolab Now

  • CHF 4.41 — CHF 5.38 per month, depend­ing on plan — view prices

The prod­uct I real­ly want to love but just can’t.

It’s a sol­id prod­uct that is offer­ing every­thing I’m look­ing for, albeit a lit­tle pricer than the com­pe­ti­tion. What real­ly burnt me though was not the com­pa­ny but more the soft­ware used, Round­cube. I’m a lit­tle more than pissed with Round­cube after their ill-fat­ed Indiegogo cam­paign I backed, have a read of the oth­er back­ers com­ments, it looks like I’m not the only one.

How­ev­er if you’re look­ing for a solu­tion host­ed in Switzer­land, that runs on green ener­gy and open source soft­ware, but don’t har­bour any ill feel­ings toward Round­cube, then give Kolab Now a spin.

Soverin

  • 3.25 per month

A rel­a­tive new com­er to the scene, Soverin showed some promise but ulti­mate­ly failed to deliver.

The email side is han­dled by Round­cube and while it’s com­plete­ly func­tion­al, I have a bit of a beef with Round­cube — have a read about it under the Kolab Now sec­tion if you’re curious.

How­ev­er the cal­en­dar func­tion did not work for me — as in it failed to load. The mail fil­ter­ing func­tion­al­i­ty is very rudi­men­ta­ry and sup­port — while respon­sive — was a lit­tle clue­less. It hon­est­ly felt like an over designed under engi­neered prod­uct. Some­thing a cou­ple of guys cob­bled togeth­er using var­i­ous open source projects.

I sin­cere­ly hope things have changed since I last used the plat­form. But the com­pe­ti­tion is stiff and they’ll real­ly need to sta­bilise and expand their plat­form in order to compete.

Oth­er ser­vices wor­thy of mention

Pos­teo

  • Email, cal­en­dar, address book
  • Pri­va­cy conscious
  • Green ener­gy
  • Great price
  • Round­cube
  • How­ev­er no domain email sup­port, only as alias’

Pro­ton mail

  • Email and con­tacts, no cal­en­dar (cur­rent­ly on roadmap)
  • Secure mail­box
  • Pri­va­cy conscious
  • Cus­tom domains
  • Open source
  • Vari­able pric­ing depend­ing on what you need

Ulti­mate­ly it’s up to you to decide which plat­form best suits your needs. I cer­tain­ly hope the insights above can help you along that journey.