Leaving Google: Alternatives to Gmail

I initially thought this post would be about alternatives to all of Google’s services that I use. Of course, like any project, this is a much bigger task than I anticipated, so I will just start with Gmail. Even given that, I will have to revisit this post over time, as I learn more. If anyone knows of other good hosted email solutions, please, please let me know.

Quite frankly, that Google offers hosted email for free is incredible. The service they offer is incredibly expensive on the open market, and as far as I can tell, unavailable anywhere for free. The closest competitor is Zoho, which offers a similar set of features (as well as a productivity suite). It even has a free version for 3 or fewer mailboxes. Unfortunately, it is missing some must-haves. Speaking of which, here they are:

  • At least 3 mailboxes (I could probably get down to 1, I’d actually prefer 5)
  • At least 3 GBs per mailbox
  • At least 10 Email Aliases
  • Automatic Contact Syncing across all devices
  • Webmail
  • Mobile access (very high preference for push email)
  • Domain Aliases (I have a misspelling of my name)
  • Catch All email alias enabled
  • Reliable
  • Not too expensive! (I’m converting from free, after all)

Ironically enough, I used Google docs to put together a spreadsheet of my findings thus far*. Here’s what I found: 

Zoho would be great; Even their paid version is very affordable (at $2/box for 10GBs). BUT, they do not offer push email or contact syncing.** That, unfortunately is a deal breaker. I use Google Contacts as a backup for my phone’s address book. Additionally, it is incredibly useful to have a single record for every person I know.

There were a couple services I looked at that offer ridiculous restrictions, like MyHosting.com which has low (1GB!) hard limits on email storage and doesn’t allow a catch-all email alias (I often use servicename@davemyersworld.com on sign-up forms).

Intermedia and 1and1 offer similarly priced packages, which both look like they would solve my needs. But I’ve never heard of them, know nothing about their reliability and $25/month is a crazy steep price to pay for 3 email addresses. Dataglide is cheaper, at $18/month, but they have heavily used spammy techniques to advertise their service. Just look through Google’s results when searching their name*, and you’ll see a ton of auto generated crap advertising their service. I’m specifically trying to get away from this behavior, so Dataglide’s not for me.

Then there’s Rackspace. I trust them, and they can put together a package that meets all of my needs. It would be about $20/month. However, they are currently rolling out Exchance 2010 which would actually make it cheaper (default mailboxes are much larger, mobile ActiveSync will be free, etc) at $16/month. But I’d have to wait until March, or later. Given how big a project this is turning into, maybe that’s not even a concern.

Right now, I’m leaning toward Rackspace. But I will continue collecting information and reassess when I know more. Again, if anyone knows of other hosted email solutions, please let me know! Also, I’d love to hear some creative solutions: One just came to mind, I could use iCloud contact & calendar syncing with Zoho… but then my contacts wouldn’t be on the webmail interface. 

* At some point I will just have to force myself to stop going to Google. I suppose I can continue sucking at the Gteet until I have picked reasonable alternatives…
** I have a call out to them, so I’ll update this post if I hear otherwise.