Domain Emails vs. Free Emails for Business
There are a group of people who have never known a time without The Internet as we know it… but I'm not part of that group. That's right, I haven't grown up with the internet. But it grew up with me - I’ve watched it grow.
I saw the young internet grow up and hold places & services like Altavista, AOL, Hotmail, IRC, ICQ, public chat rooms and the like; and largely move on from them. I saw everyone and their dog (literally) having an email address at hotmail.com. It was free, so why not? Then Yahoo! jumped on board - all before Google even existed. These were the brand names where anyone could have an email.
Which of course led into phishing, impersonation and spam. Nowadays you have to think, does your friend only have an email at Outlook.com? Or do they also have Gmail? Is this email you're viewing legitimate? There's no way to tell unless you contact your friend out-of-band* to verify (*via a method outside of the current one).
So when I see businesses (even start ups) launching with business_name@free_email_service.com, I can almost feel a negative physical response in my body.
The idea to write this post came from multiple people. None of them seemed to understand the importance that email at your domain portrays as a business. So I have broken down why emails are they way they are, and what the downsides are to using different services in the wrong context.
The Anatomy of an Email Address
The portion of the email address before the @ symbol is known as the user or alias. It's the person or position your emailing. i.e. info@business_name.com.au, charlotte@business_name.com.au or username111@free_email_service.com.
And if you're weren't already aware, after the @ symbol comes the domain name.
When you register a domain name, you are required to provide certain business or personal information to be held at the registrar. For example a .com.au domain requires an ABN. There is a tangible link between business and domain name.
Free Email Accounts
Free email accounts at Gmail, Outlook.com/Hotmail.com, Yahoo (etc etc) are great for personal use. You can get one straight away, with very little effort. And therein lays the problem.
Because anyone can get business_name@ some free email service or another, you as a business owner would need to find every free email service and get your business name as a user there just to protect yourself from someone else pretending to be you. And if you miss one, someone else could get it. And that's not even considering internet provider emails (like Bigpond, TPG, IINet etc etc).
The only difference between the freely available email addresses we've discussed above and the email addresses bundled with an internet connection from their ISP, is that money is being exchanged and it's probably a dedicated email system.
Ok, we get it. Free emails aren't good for business. So what do we do then?
The word domain implies that it's an area that belongs to a person or group. As you'd be aware, the website is also present at a domain name. So when you want to contact a business, it makes sense that their email address is also part of "their domain". Extending that thought a little more, it also means that not everyone can have an email address at your domain. Similarly, I can’t get an email address at the Australian Defence Department - because I have no connection with them.
I mean, you don't see the Government, Telstra or Amazon emailing you from Gmail, do you? You don't even get Google or Microsoft employees emailing from their own companies public & free email services (Gmail & Outlook.com/Hotmail.com respectively).
Creating emails at your domain is certainly doable, easy even. If your current website host doesn't include email like our Linux + cPanel hosting, or you want to move up to a paid solution, one dedicated to emails, then there are many places that offer paid email services. If you're ready to move into enterprise level email hosting, then that's available too.
You said Free. I like free
Yes, I said the magic word, Free! But you should be aware that it often has limits. And while it's usually reliable, there are frequent cases where something outside of your control happens with another website on the same server that tarnishes the email reputation of the whole website server. Businesses often quickly outgrow email hosting services bundled with their hosting, and opt to move to a more resilient and appropriate email platform.