FastMail - professional email

Paying for email - free vs. fee?

A comprehensive and well researched review of FastMail was published in the Sydney Morning Herald in late 2002. Many of the points made in that article struck a chord with this long time user of numerous "free" email services, so with high hopes and nothing to lose I visited the FastMail site and registered a free Guest account. The service quality and functionality were everything I had read about and more, and I cheerfully signed up for an Enhanced account within days.

Now why would anyone choose to part with $$$s for a specialist email service when every Internet Service Provider (ISP) on the planet bundles at least one "free" email address with each subscription, and Hotmail and Yahoo addresses are available at no charge? A good question which I hope to answer fully here.

Let's begin by looking at how you get your mail from your ISP. In the following examples I have assumed that your primary ISP address is and that you have registered a domain called which is configured so that all mail addressed to your domain is rerouted to your primary ISP address.

ISP mail services use a protocol called POP for delivering messages to subscribers whereas FastMail uses a much more powerful and functional protocol call IMAP.

How POP mail delivery works

POP mail drawbacks

Because POP mail services are so ubiquitous it's easy to assume that their apparent popularity is based on features, quality, useability, reliability, etc. The reality is quite different. POP mail services are certainly popular with ISPs but that is because most of the onus rests with the subscriber rather than the service provider. Your ISP simply "passes the parcel" and it is your responsibility to continuously remove your mail from the server. ISPs can and do limit the size of your mailbox to encourage you to do this frequently.

Few ISPs provide virus checking at the server and many provide no SPAM filtering. Those that do frequently resort to sledgehammer tactics that are not in the best interest of their customers. I have personally had mail from a business contact deleted without explanation by my ISP on the basis that it was (supposedly) sent from a domain that appeared on a blacklist compiled by someone else. I was not warned or informed and neither was the sender. We only uncovered the problem when I phoned the company concerned to find out why they had not sent something I requested. How many other valid messages have simply disappeared without trace?

If you have a need to access your mail from more than one location, for example from home and work, then it would be good to have your mail stored on the Internet so you could access it from anywhere at any time. This runs 180 degrees counter to the POP strategy of downloading and deleting. It's true that you can set up your mail client at work to download and leave a copy on the server and at home to download and delete but this carries the risk that someone at home downloads and deletes before you get a chance to download at the office. It also means that you may download the same item twice. This can be a real waste of time when the item is large and you are using slow dial up links.

It is also a very annoying waste of time when someone sends you an email with a 5MB attachment that you have no interest in. Unfortunately, you have to download the whole thing, including the 5MB attachment, in order to find out that you didn't want it in the first place!

Other considerations

If you have your own domain then it's virtually certain that you are using your domain registrar's free mail rerouting service. Registrars like NameCheap, DirectNIC, GoDaddy, et al, are specialists in their field but they are not specialists in the field of mail delivery, so whilst their mail rerouting generally works well it does fail from time to time resulting in delivery delays.

FastMail benefits

The IMAP protocol used by FastMail was specifically designed to work efficiently with email messages and attachments and provide rich functionality to the end user. Here are just some of the many compelling benefits of FastMail.

FastMail Packages

FastMail offer a range of packages to suit all tastes and pockets.

FastMail is very reliable and the quality of support is nothing short of outstanding. Click here to go to the FastMail site. You can register a free Guest account to start with and upgrade later. This is a good way to try before you buy. Not all features are available to guest accounts but you will certainly be able to get a good feel for the service capabilities before having to part with any $$$s.


Additional Links

Last updated: 30th July, 2006.