This has been such a redundant topic it merits some attention. This article is to serve both as an explanation and recommendation.
First, let's explain what email is and what must be in place in its SIMPLEST form. While it is a 'simple' process and common task to send email it is also very cryptic and mystical. Email, by default exists on a MAIL SERVER. If you were to purchase a hosting account at some place like hostgator.com and you have a domain name like http://planettucker.com, then you can create email accounts that have your domain name as the root. If you don't then you probably use one of the popular mail servers out there, like hotmail, yahoo and gmail.
For example: email@example.com
The prefix is what is unique and you can have as many as needed (but not unlimited ;) This is the straightest and most efficient path to getting unique email accounts. By unique I mean one that is unique to your domain name and not a gmail, yahoo or hotmail account.
Just like gmail, yahoo and hotmail, you also can access your mail anywhere there is Internet. For example you go to: http://yourdomain.com/webmail The exact syntax may vary depending on where you host, but either way there will be a direct URL to get there.
Now for the confusion. Welcome center stage spam, spam filters, spam filter services, proprietary software, MacMail, Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Windows Exchange, personal preferences and tolerances, ect....
This is where the 'mess' of email comes into play. However, one simple concept we can carry through is that all of these complexities, configuration scenarios, IP addresses, MX records, DNS settings and expected troubleshooting, it comes down to a single fact - it all must communicate with an email address on a mail server - one that is always accessible through an online URL.
For me, this is all I use. I protect my email as best I can (i.e. don't have it in text form on the web or something...). I have a basic spam filter through my hosting account, and I use my mail for 90% of my communication using folders to organize as I go. I HAVE NO PROBLEMS WITH EMAIL - EVER!!!
Okay, not 100% true, sometimes there are server issues beyond my control, however through my hosting service I have solid email 99.99% of the time.
So if this is all you have to do then why do some have so many email problems?
The most common answer is "Windows". Windows has done a fine job of convincing businesses their products are needed. This couldn't be further from the truth, especially in today's market. As part of this Windows has proprietary software that must work - again - with the common denominator, a mail server. Some companies go the next worst step and get an Exchange Server, Microsoft's convenient profitable solution for the fact their proprietary 'stuff' won't connect to open source. So now you are painted in a corner with un-needed hardware, installation expense, and service fees for the "Network Guy" who installs it all. Now that you are on Windows, get ready... YOU WILL HAVE EMAIL PROBLEMS. If you don't, then as your online presence naturally evolves it inevitably requires a change that equates to a nightmare.
I have no monetary incentive to cast a shadow on Microsoft or their products and services or anyone who deploys their solutions. All I can do is tell you from mucho experience, that the word "problem" is usually in the same sentence as "Outlook" or "Microsoft".
In fact I often ask networking professionals what can a Windows network do an open source network can't. For a long time I was told nothing, however lately there seems to be some feature where you can wipe clean a company iphone or something remotely... not sure - just what I hear, which is cool... but certainly not anything to outweigh everything else.
So what is Outlook, MacMail, Windows Live Mail ect... ? This is how I get my email - doesn't email magic take care of the rest?
These are mail clients, that CONNECT to the mail server (remember the very first thing mentioned). I capped the word 'CONNECT' to illustrate a mail client is a middle man, a go between, a messenger, something that echos from somewhere else. In other words, logistically IT IS NOT NEEDED. Imagine you had someone that followed you around and echoed every word you said. This person was a verbal copy of you minus a second or two. Just echoing everything you do. This is what Outlook and other mail clients do... they simply echo what is already out there. Why get second hand what you can get right at the source?
The answer could be some of the following:
- Corporate network is Windows, I have no choice.
- Higher spam tolerance and settings needed.
- Collaboration of schedules between co-workers through extra features like Calendars
- Growing list of contacts
- Many more...
While these reasons may sound good, and while there are most definitely some business scenarios that merit no other way, for the vast majority of everyone else these typically are not issues for those like me who keep it 'simple Simon' and go just to your webmail through your hosting. For those who want to use Outlook you still can, and it can connect to your mail server WITHOUT an expensive exchange server, but again, with a middle man program in the way it is just something else to go wrong, and Murphy's Law says it will... and it does.
Some want one server to host their website, yet another server to process mail. Happens all the time, is totally doable, but again - now we have two servers. The more pieces you have, the more that can go wrong.
So, like Internet Explorer and everything else Microsoft, if you insist on using it, expect the problems that come with it.
So next time something goes wrong check the following:
- Hosting environment online
- Mail server also online
- Domain name is properly pointed
- Mail storage under quota
If these things are good then you are probably using something proprietary and that is where your problem is. Is you are a simple Simon webmail user like me, if these four things are happy then I have good email. This is what happens 99.9% of the time.
So, recommendation - get your setup as simple and efficient as possible. Get ride of proprietary software. Otherwise, get accustomed to paying for the problems it causes.