Topi Kettunen

Fragmented essay on computer science and art


Leap of Faith in Email Providers

January, 2021

When talking about the tools of the trade, almost regardless of the industry, email seems to be a vital tool. The same applies to me. Obviously, in the tech industry, everything goes by email. But also in music. If I happen to record, mix or master something, pretty much always these are shared with email.

Email is also a crucial part of my workflow, so I care about my productivity while using it. Recently I started to look for options for my two different GSuite accounts. One of those was used for my personal domain, and another one was used for my music publishing company. A big reason behind the migration was that I found GSuite to be a little bit too much for my needs. I don’t necessarily have anything against Google’s product, albeit I agree they have a little bit too big of a footprint on the internet, so I at least try to limit my contributions to it.

Requirements for Provider

I only have two requirements for my provider: IMAP/SMTP support and the ability to use my domain(s). Given these requirements, there are probably hundreds of providers that would fit these requirements. But after a while of skimming through different providers, I ended up with FastMail and ProtonMail.

FastMail

FastMail seemed like a good fit when I first looked into it. Easily manageable domains and reasonable pricing. I quickly tested it with their offered trial account and was overall pretty pleased with their product. Concerns about this then rose when I learned that the company is from Australia. Not that I hate Australia by any means, but their hostile and subversive laws regarding encryption are pretty sketchy. The assistance and access act allows, under Australia’s legislation, police to force companies to create a technical function that would give them access to encrypted messages without the user’s knowledge, which made FastMail pretty much a no-go for me.

ProtonMail

After finding Australia’s laws against encryption, it seemed like a natural choice. I had already heard of them before and their stand on security. ProtonMail doesn’t support IMAP/SMTP access, at least in the standard way, mainly because of encryption, which is why I didn’t want to go that route when I first heard of them. Nowadays, they do offer a kind of unorthodox solution for this via their ProtonMail Bridge. By my understanding, this only handles the authentication to your mail and provider localhost-only endpoints to IMAP4/SMTP. Then you can configure your mail client of choice with these new endpoints.

Interesting solution, and at least for me, it seems to work and doesn’t hinder my workflow that much. Still, I’m pretty happy with their product and decided to migrate my emails to there.

Honorable Mention: Migadu

Migadu Migadu is on the smaller end of the spectrum when talking about email providers, but overall they seemed to have great values. Why I didn’t go that route (yet?) is that I read that they have had some outages in their services in the past. This doesn’t mean that your email has been lost since the global mail system is pretty tolerant for that, but not being able to login into your mail, which can be pretty annoying. What made them not very suitable for me is their bandwidth-based pricing and daily limits on mail. I do work a lot with email and send and receive a lot of them, so they did offer pricing suitable for my needs, but it just was a little bit too expensive at that point.

Dishonorable Mention: Self-hosting

No.

Conclusion

FastMail at first seemed like a good fit, but due to Australia’s legislation, it just doesn’t work for me. ProtonMail overall seems like a pretty exciting provider, at least on paper and overall in practice too. Service seemed to suite me, so I’ll continue to use their service at least for a while.

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