Free email hosting sounds like a dream, right? Well, the good news is it can become a reality. The bad news, however – there is always a catch. Ever since the beginning of online communication email is one of the most popular options. And for professional communication – it is definitely a must. According to statistics there are approximately 4.2 billion email users (Statista, 2022) and this number is only expected to grow. A good professional email with your custom domain can open a lot of doors to you and ease the communication with your customers. Is this possible on a budget, though? Let’s find out together.
Can email hosting really be free?
Generally speaking – yes, it can. But there is always a “but” – as we said, there is always a catch with free services. If they promise you a full scale of features 100% free, you can be sure that something will be lacking – either reliability, or security. In fact, you may even be blacklisted and end up in your recipients’ spam folder.
You also have to really pay attention to the security features offered in a free service, as you are trusting it with sensitive information. Encryption, malware protection, 2-factor-authentication are just a few of the important things to look for. Furthermore, it is sometimes difficult to use your own domain with the free email hosts and we know how important that is for a business. The email hosts we compiled in our list are worth to look into as they strive to be safe and reliable.
Let’s check out our picks
1. Zoho Mail
Zoho Mail is one of the leaders in free email hosting. Their clean, ad-free environment is perfect for newbies and experienced business owners alike. You can start with their Forever Free Plan and add up to 5 users with 5GB storage each, attach one custom domain, have access to a spam filter and antivirus protection. There are some downsides such as web-only access and limited features but it is really suitable for small businesses and startups.
Our Expert Rating:
With their focus on privacy, German-based company Tutanota promises and delivers great service in an ad free environment. In spite of its limitations, their free plan is not a bad option if you're just getting started. It is for one user only and you receive 1GB of storage, desktop client and calendar, alongside top security features. Built-in encryption protects your data at all times.
Our Expert Rating:
Mail.com is part of the European giant United Internet and is a great free option for beginners. If you are just starting your business and are not ready to shell out for a custom domain name, you are able to choose between 200 different names on their catalogue ranging from @lawyer.com to @toothfairy.com (no joke - check for yourself). This won't be ideal if you're already an established brand but a great alternative for newbies.
Our Expert Rating:
4. GMX Mail
Also part of United Internet, GMX Mail is a completely free service. They offer some great perks - ample storage, up to 10 email aliases, mail check, custom filters, online office. Additionally, your email is secured with 2-factor authentication, integrated antivirus and spam filters, and PHP encryption.
Our Expert Rating:
ProtonMail ranks amongst the safest email hosting platforms at the moment. If you are running a small business or a startup on a tight budget their free plan is a good choice for you. Although limited it offers enough to get started. You get 500 MB storage, end-to-end encryption and a short email domain option.
Our Expert Rating:
This entry in our list is a bit different than the others. If you are not ready or don't want to spend a lot of money for Google Workspace, then ImprovMX comes to the rescue. They let you create free email aliases using your personalised domain name and forward your communication to an email of your choice.
Our Expert Rating:
Pros and Cons of choosing a free email hosting plan
It all sounds great but let’s take a look into the good and bad sides of free email hosting:
- Saving money – the most important one, of course. When you are on a tight budget, every penny counts. Therefore, subscribing to a free email service let’s you splurge on the more urgent aspects of starting your business.
- It is a good trial – you are able to get a taste of the services offered and decide if they really suit you. You will easily decide what features best fit your needs and make a more informed decision if you want to upgrade or switch your provider.
- No commitment – you are not bound by a contract and nothing can stop you from cancelling your account or changing your host.
- Constant advertising – most free services come with a lot of ads and banners which flood the interface. Although, ads are the main reason this service can be offered for free, it can get annoying really fast.
- Insufficient security – the hosts in our list have good security practices, but this is not always the case. A majority of free providers do not implement good security measures. This can result in constant threat of data breaches. Someone may even hijack your account. This can be a huge inconvenience and even devastating for a small business.
- A lot of limitations – free plans often come with limited storage, daily sending limits, attachment limits and more. Your needs may quickly outgrow what is offered.
- No branding – having a good professional email with your own domain name is extremely important. In most free email hosting services you can’t add a custom domain. This may hinder your representation in front of your current and potential customers.
Is free email hosting safe?
We talk a lot about security, but honestly – it really is that important. During your daily communication, whether with your colleagues, or with your clients, you exchange a lot of sensitive information. You definitely would not want it to get in the wrong hands, right? Furthermore, email is one of the easiest ways for a hacker to access our company. Providers such as Tutanota and ProtonMail focus mainly on privacy and security even on their free plans. Free email hosting can be safe if you know what to look for. Do not compromise with your data’s safety.
SSL/TSL protocols are a standard in online communication. The protocol acts as an authentication between the sender and receiver of the message. It provides secure connection and ensures the information is encrypted and can’t be tampered with. End-to-end encryption is even more secure. It basically means that your email is encrypted on its entire way from your mailbox to your recipients mailbox. Nobody can read it besides you – not your internet provider, not your hosting provider, not even the government.
It helps you ensure no one can access your email even if they find out your password. Adding your phone number, in example, gives you the peace of mind only you can approve logins to your account. However, you should always make sure you use a strong password and change it regularly.
Built-in antivirus is a great perk. It can scan all emails and attachments for viruses or any malware whilst keeping your privacy. Of course you shouldn’t blindly trust it. Be careful and don’t open suspicious emails and attachments.
Another layer of protection for you. Spam filters are designed to scan incoming mail and recognize unwanted, suspicious or malicious content. There are occasions, though, in which a trusted sender is recognised as spam. A good way to avoid that is to add them to your address book or if your host offers that option – whitelist them.
GDPR and HIPAA compliance
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), active since 2018 in the EU, applies to all personal data which may lead to the identification of a person. Meanwhile, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is active since 1996 in the US. It deals with the protection of sensitive health information. HIPAA has a much narrower scope than GDPR but both are equally important. We recommend to look for a provider that complies with both acts.
Can I create a custom email domain for free
Using a personalised domain for your email or website is a sign of professionalism and creates a good impression with your clients. There are countless options to register your domain name but doing that for free is, sadly, not really possible. Plenty of registrars are available to choose from. It can cost you between $2 and $20 per year to reserve your custom name. Majority of email hosting providers will even offer you free domain for up to a year as a part of your plan. However, as you are paying for the plan itself and later for the domain renewal it is technically not free at all. Considering how important it is to be recognisable in order to establish your business, domain registration is not something to spare from.
A few brands that won’t break the bank
We’ve discussed the options for free email hosting already. But honestly speaking, we always recommend you opt for a paid plan. There are so many affordable alternatives that can fit in your budget. Let’s look at some great choices to consider:
$0.91 per month
One of the most affordable email hosting providers on the market. Add your custom domain, get 5 GB of storage, have access to ample antivirus and spam protection and even 2-factor-authentication. The best part is that any plan comes with 2 months of free trial. You can easily find the best one for you.
$0.99 per month
You can either bundle your web hosting with your email or choose a standalone email hosting service. 10 GB storage, antivirus and spam protection, mobile app, calendar and contacts are among the perks they offer. Migration is also swift and easy. If you are not satisfied Hostinger offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
$3.66 per month
With Godaddy you can easily register your domain and get access to professional email service. Some of the perks include 10 GB storage, shared online calendars, email aliases. You can even purchase additional security and email backup for maximum safety.
Choosing the right provider
With so many different brands on the marker choosing the right host for you may not be an easy task. In order to make the most informed decision you have to evaluate your personal needs and look for the provider that best meets them. If, in example, you open a law firm, you are expected to manage a lot of personal information for your clients. In that case, it is best to look for an email hosting service with really advanced security features. Below are a few steps to take while deciding.
1. Consider your current status and plan for future growth
Are you a freelancer, just venturing into your business or do you already have an established brand? Do you own a domain or are yet to purchase one? Make sure you are prepared for different situations.
2. Define your budget
Is it more important to you to save up or you are indeed willing to spend a few dollars for a paid plan? Knowing the limits will be really helpful.
3. Compare security features
Security protocols, encryption, malware protection – all important to have.
Check the uptime, delivery time, customer support availability and overall rating of the different providers.
Consider how easy it is to scale up or down. Check out the perks different providers include and what can you get with upgrading.
“You’ve got mail”
By now, you should be familiar with the best options for your free email hosting. In spite of the constant growth in social media and instant messaging, email remains as one of the most preferred options, especially in business communication. With a good email service you can keep constant communication with your friends and family, but also your colleagues and customers. It can help you organise and plan your day, grow your business and even send marketing campaigns. Sounds great, right? We’ve discussed all of the most important aspects of choosing the right host and how to remain safe. Now, it’s up to you to begin your journey. If, of course, you feel ready to invest in a paid option, you can always read our take on best cheap email hosting providers.