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Ask HN: Best Paid Gmail Replacement?
50 points by smaps 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 87 comments
I’ve been getting on the privacy and anti-tracking bandwagon big time recently and am looking to replace gmail. What are good email services that allow you to use your own domain name?

I've been using Fastmail [1] for around five years now. I've been pretty happy with their service and I use it with my own domain name. I find the pricing to be reasonable, and their webmail interface is really fast, and I've found their spam detection to be really good.

[1] https://www.fastmail.com/

Fastmail's web UI is incredibly good. I've also been using it for several years on my custom domain and have zero complaints.

The migration process was pretty painless. I did a one time import of my historical mail from gmail and then set up an autoforwarder --> specific fastmail folder that I look at from time to time and either unsubscribe from whatever sent an email there or update the address as appropriate.

Cosigned. I just leave a tab open, don't need an app except for my phone, and I've never been anything but satisfied with the experience. Since 2011, according to my archives.

Agreed. Their UI is the fastest web app I've ever used, bar none.

Also a Fastmail user with my own domain. Reliability has been excellent, their web-app is great, and their documentation is very helpful. I've never had to contact support (in over five years), so can't comment on that. Two minor complaints: (1) their spam detection is good, but not Gmail good; and (2) their file storage has a 50MB per-file limit, even though the total cap is 10GB. I have a small personal site hosted with them. I'd like to zip all my personal files and store them with Fastmail, but I can't because the file size limit is too low.

> I'd like to zip all my personal files and store them with Fastmail, but I can't because the file size limit is too low.

You could split the zip archive into smaller sized volumes, e.g. 45MB, and store those, assuming it's something you don't access too often.

Came here to say this. Fastmail is rock-solid, well-priced, and has basically every feature I find important for business or personal email. Been with them for years and never regretted it!

I'll add my 2 cents here and say I also love Fastmail. Everytime I contact support with a question or suggestions they respond in a day or two and with a real, live person. I've never had an outage that I've personnally noticed in 4 years, not that there haven't been any but I haven't noticed them at least. I also host my DNS with them so i can get email on all my domains and it works well, no automation API but the web UI is easy enough i don't need that for my tiny sites.

I started using Fastmail around a year ago.

Great web and Android apps, simple and fast. I contacted their support once and wasn't disappointed.

No issues at all until last week: they lost an incoming email (which was actually spam, as they could share with me the subject and sender info) due to a bug during an upgrade on their side. They credited my account with US $5 as apology.

I recently switched to Fastmail from a paid Google Workspace (née GSuite) account. Switching was super easy because of the way they keep the accounts in sync.

One thing that hasn’t been a problem but which causes me a little anxiety is that with GSuite I felt I had basically infinite storage; I sorta wish Fastmail had a tier that was a “you don’t ever have to worry about storage space” type thing. Maybe I’m worrying for nothing and I’ll never even get close to their limits.

I've been on Fastmail for several years since migrating off of Gmail. There are some UX papercuts in their web/mobile apps, but they're more than sufficient for day-to-day use. That's the big draw for me; I'm not happy with any of the desktop IMAP clients, so <whoever>+Thunderbird is off the table for me. Fastmail does a good enough job of offering what I liked from Gmail that I'm happy to use them.

Could you tell me if you’re using your own domain if you can route all emails to your domain to one inbox? I’ve been grandfathered into a free GApps account and use my own domain thru there. I’ve started signing up for services using a unique email address per domain. So hn@my.domain, reddit@my.domain, etc. I’d love to move to something non-google. But I can’t lose that functionality at this point :)

I do the exact same thing on fastmail and it works seamlessly -- I pretty much use domain@my-address.com for every site I sign up for.

The only trick is you do have to configure configure the addresses if you want to send (not receive) mail from $recipient@your-domain.com.

I use the standard plan.

Thanks! I’ll probably migrate here soon then!

Another vote for Fastmail here. They do IMAP right, so you can use just about any third party client without gaps in functionality or odd quirks (unlike gmail), and their webmail is light and snappy. They're also behind JMAP[1], which I think has a fair shot at eventually replacing IMAP.

[1] https://jmap.io/

I will also say that fastmail is super cheap if you buy 3 years at once. Like $3 a month

The Fastmail web interface currently hijacks the clipboard and "helpfully" appends the URL to your clipboard anytime you copy text from a link. It's absolutely maddening.

Aside from that, I have no complaints about their service.

I've been using premium Fastmail for a month now and brand new account is getting spam. Even coincidentally now I tried creating a rule to block this so we'll see.

I've been a happy user of Fastmail for over 2 years (and will continue to be), but their spam/scam detection has been worse than Gmail.

Do they have an equivalent to Google's auto filtering into primary/updates/promotions/forums?


Shame. I do find that feature very useful.

+1 on Fastmail. Been using it for years, supper happy with them.

I've been on Fastmail the same amount of time. tl;dr: I encourage you to switch.

One of the be things about fastmail is they've been rolling out noticeable improvements to their web apps over the last 2 years.

I'd say the downsides, at this point, are the labels model for emails is slightly different than gmail. If you've decided you really like how labels work, Fastmail's don't work quite the same. And their contacts app isn't good. Though given the pace of improvements elsewhere, I suspect they're working on a fully-featured contacts app.

I use ProtonMail and overall it works pretty good and the value is great. The product is focused on security first so I think user experience suffers a bit. It's works fine but if you previously used a mail client like Spark on your phone you'll definitely miss it.

The mobile app is okay, it's good enough for reading and sending short replies. The web interface is alright. I like to use the bridge application from ProtonMail on my desktop and use a mail client like Thunderbird or Apple Mail.

I like protonmail and consider it mostly a suitable replacement to gmail. I say mostly because some websites don't accept emails with the protonmail domain. Weird huh. My understanding is that protonmail might of been used by some bad actors and it's been labelled as the bad people email.


The solution for that would be to bring your own domain name: https://protonmail.com/support/knowledge-base/custom-domain-...

I just wish it had a feature to nest folders :(

I'm happy with Fastmail. It's certainly more pleasant to use than Gmail ever was.

I miss nothing, but absolutely nothing, about Gmail.

I looked at Fastmail and many others when I made this switch at the end of 2018. I moved my whole family's email setup from google. Fastmail is based in Australia, which is a five-eyes country so I ruled it out (sadly, as would have loved to use it). I wrote all of this up here: https://www.gtf.io/musings/moving-away-from-google-email/

Spoiler: ended up using Runbox (www.runbox.com). I disagree with them on this but I think the webmail UI is pretty crap. I don't use it though, and instead use neomutt (on Linux) and Apple Mail (on iOS). I've found it to be pretty reliable and the support is very responsive.

Runbox user as well. Their support is quite responsive and helpful when needing to troubleshoot. Security is great, number of alias available for the price can't be beat. I agree the UI is terrible in the browser, even their latest "Runbox 7" is slow and sluggish.

I use Fastmail (for work) and Hey and ProtonMail for my private mail. I pay for Fastmail and Hey (free plan on ProtonMail).

If I would pick one I would go with Hey, since I really love their Screener feature which helped me reduce a lot of noise. When they launch Hey for Work we'll probably switch from Fastmail (not that anythig is wrong with it).

Google Apps version of Gmail or the Microsoft equivalent?

You can use your own domain and I don't think data there is used for ads.

I am really scared to put my trust in a small provider from a data security and availability view. Security is really really hard and emails are a critical part of your online and offline identity. YMMV

I think too many people get up in arms about privacy but when push comes to shove, these smaller people will most likely cave to governments.

I think HN just dislikes the idea of google maintaining a service.

As much as I would want small players to succeed. Email is one of the spaces where it just doesn't make much sense to trust the small guy.


I'm on their cheapest 1€/month plan for three years and happy.

I moved to mailbox.org a year ago from Exchange Online after a lot of research and trying several other providers.

It's not perfect but I think it's the best out there for any price, including the consideration they are based in the EU.

I do wish they supported 2FA over IMAP/SMTP and CardDAV.

I also use them. Their web client is not the prettiest/greatest but it is OK and I mostly use Thunderbird anyways.

There's no great way to know that your emails are private when they're hosted by a SaaS email provider. It's easy to get around third-party audits if you want to.

The most private solution by far is to self-host, but that's also very challenging these days.

And any email you send to a non-private service (Gmail, Yahoo, anyone's work account) is instantly going to be just as insecure as if you yourself used that other person's service.

What I'm getting at is that email is inherently a not-very-private communication method and you should try to avoid it. The amount of time required to make it more private is not going to have much benefit for most people (whose contacts will be using Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.)

You also can't easily or meaningfully get E2E encryption with email, so there's a lot of surface area to lose your privacy.

The thing about self hosting too is that you then own your identity. I have had my own domain and email for 20 years now while many "free" email services have gone away or merged. The problem as you say with difficulty is that due to the centralization of email providers, it is hard to get your outgoing mail accepted everywhere. I now have no problems but it took a while. The worst were Yahoo and Verizon straight up denying my email as spam despite having DKIM/SPF/DMARC set up perfectly. These things too there are subtle problems that can make them invalid such as hostname differences.

> The thing about self hosting too is that you then own your identity.

You can do this without self-hosting, though. As long as you control the domain and MX records, you can just switch providers when you need to.

A lot of people are now doing the "your domain + Fastmail" approach, for example (or at least they were before Australia's government went completely insane).

I've also been self hosting since the last century, and as you point out, the big issue these days is making your email server play with all the other email services, including those that aren't always playing nicely.

Not to mention that not all hosters are too keen on having people run mail servers due to the danger of hosting spammers and getting blacklisted. With the last two or three hosters, I had to jump through a couple of hoops every time and get permission to run one.

I still think it's worth it, especially if you own a bunch of domains, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it to someone starting from scratch these days.

I'm happy with Mailbox [1]. Been around for a while. Cheap, but a clear business model. IMAP and SMTP (should be obvious, but apparently not anymore). Under German and EU jurisdiction.

It works well with my own domain, but my understanding is that it's not great if you have a lot of users with email on that domain (you have to pay more).

[1] https://mailbox.org/en/

Fastmail. If it’s helpful, I wrote a short guide to switching off of gmail here: https://www.justus.ws/tech/how-to-ditch-gmail/

I can’t recommend Migadu. I used them for a year, and I spent many hours dealing with delivery issues and somewhat frequent unannounced outages/upgrades which go unreported. Spam filtering is generally broken and ignores whitelists. They tend to respond to about 50% of support emails, the last one being rather petty when I left the service.

I should have seen the yearly plan fee as a sunk cost and moved on sooner. Hope this helps someone else.

If you're going with a smaller email provider, you kind of have to know what you're getting.

Keep in mind that several large email providers blacklist competitors by default and _literally charge an extortion fee_ to get off the blacklist. Migadu's issue is that they refuse to pay it.

I really wish Migadu had a very basic standards compliant contacts and calendar system to make it easier to switch away from the big suppliers. I respect the absolute focus on email, but unfortunately there is no equivalent style of provider for these services. There are some providers but they're expensive.

They've offered CalDAV and CardAV since June, they just don't advertise it particularly well. Check the Thunderbird documentation.

Oh and it's in Beta.

It's just much easier for me to host that myself, as opposed to email, so I do.

It's been a while since I last looked, seems like it was added over the summer. Thanks for the correction - I'll be checking it out very soon.

I can recommend Migadu too. They are great value - especially if you have lots of low traffic domains and email addresses.

ProtonMail [1] Plus user for the past 4 years now with my own domain. They've since added the VPN, which I find excellent and use all the time.

They have most recently added ProtonCalendar and ProtonDrive [2], which were the features I was missing the most. Thus, I moved everything over and pay for the bundle of all products which comes at just under EUR 8.00 a month (Mail, VPN, Calendar and Drive).

As mentioned by others, the webmail and UI of all 4 products is minimalist, but it is snappy and pleasing (to my taste, at least). The mobile apps on both iPhone and Android work very well, just missing threaded messages on the Android one.

Finally, of course, end-to-end encryption, hosted in Switzerland and abiding by stringent national privacy laws [3] and out of the US, 5 eyes network as well as EU realms.

[1] https://protonmail.com/ [2] I believe they're still in Beta [3] https://protonmail.com/security-details

I use mailbox.org, pretty cheap, super focus on privacy, EU hosted etc. The web ui is a bit dated, but works fine

Another happy ProtonMail user here. I've been using it for about 2 years now. You can also import you Gmail content to your proton account if you want. Their VPN also works really well.

I switched to Posteo [1] and am very happy with them. 1€ per month, based in Germany (but you can choose from many country TLDs [2]) and they take privacy very serious.

[1]: https://posteo.de/en/ [2]: https://posteo.de/en/help/which-domains-are-available-to-use...

I've been a Posteo user for over 7 years now and I couldn't be happier. I also use it for calendar and contacts sync. It just works. But I doubt it is a Gmail replacement. It is a great email service provider though.

Since this is HN, why not get some cheap managed server with email service? E.g. I'm using uberspace.de (shared server available for as low as 1€/month) and they run qmail. Big advantage: You can setup as many aliases as you like (one for each site you've signed up to) and also install whatever web frontend you like (Roundcube, Nextcloud, etc.). And you can keep as many mails and as long as you like (and pay storage for). You'll need to read a bit into qmail rules, though.

I am a happy user of startmail:


What's your experience with it? I haven't found any particular reason to switch from fastmail. The price is pretty much the same.

I'm a big Hey fan. Have been using it since launch. The screener feature is great, and I like being able to organize my feeds. They've also done a good amount of iteration in the ~9 months I've had it so I'm hopeful for a consistent release of features.

I do with it had better calendar integration, or maybe it's own calendar. I'm not sure, but that's the big thing that Gmail has that I really miss

I use Zoho Mail. They're not super popular but everything has been up to my expectations.

I also use their Invoice product for time tracking and invoicing.

Wow they seem to be a super deal for features (e.g. multiple domains, multiple aliases, decent storage) for <1 EUR/ month.

I guess some folks group this into "big corp" email perhaps compared to the smaller providers, but I think if one just wants to not give google the ability to end your online life at its whim Zoho could be a good option.

I've been using Mailfance (https://mailfence.com/) for around two years now and been very happy with them - the interface isn't the most beautiful thing ever, but it is simple to use and it works, and the pricing is reasonable (from free to 25,00€ a month depending on storage space needed).

I use my own domain and I do still have a separate Gmail account that I mostly use for newsletters, promotions, coupons, and other "semi-wanted spam" to keep things clean in my inbox.

Mailfence is in Belgium, so they're outside of the main Five Eyes but are still in a cooperating area and part of the Fourteen Eyes, which may matter depending on your precise personal privacy/risk levels, but for general personal privacy it's plenty for my use case.

Personally using https://soverin.net/ atm.

No idea if it's better than any of the other alternatives. I also still have my Gmail account, as it would take way too much effort to change emails on all the websites I use.

Fastmail is brilliant, better in every way than gmail. Great mobile versions, great web ui, super easy to import mail from gmail, super easy to setup local desktop clients to use it. I made the exact switch you are aiming for, for the same reasons, 6 months ago and I am very satisfied.

Ha, I was just like you, just recently starting to look away from GMail, though mostly because of all the incessant and obtrusive ads.

I am using protonmail now, which has the option for a bunch of aliases that I really like, the web interface works fine though it's missing bells and whistles - I do miss the smart grouping of GMail! - and you get to use custom domains. It also provides encryption and you can even get VPN to go with it. Here's all the options you get per tier: https://protonmail.com/pricing

Still an early user, but so far quite happy with it!

Fastmail is the best out there

They've definitely gone downhill since their peak, but Rackspace still has decent, US-based phone support. Called about a sub-account user who had had their mailbox frozen; re-enabling the account via the control panel was of course no problem, but the cool part was this: the support rep was able to find and confirm the source of the problem (a group message which had been flagged as spam by some number of recipients). I haven't seen many other email hosts that can provide this level of detail.

I use AWS Workmail. If you have a personal aws account then it's very easy to setup. The web UI is pretty basic but I just use Apple calendar and Spark for email anyways so it doesn't matter to me.

It's $4/month and you can very easily bring any domain you have registered in route53. They also let you create as many aliases as you want. It also supports both the microsoft exchange protocol and plain SMTP.

I'm on Exchange Online ($48/year) for Exchange push email to iPhone and iPads on my own domain - https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/exchange/compa...

Also a nice perk if you up to the $60/year "Microsoft 365 Business Basic" plan is 1 TB of OneDrive for Business storage (and a Teams license, if that's worth anything?).

I pay for ProtonMail and really enjoy it, but you have to appreciate a certain level of minimalism. It's obviously not going to have some of the bells and whistles of Gmail. Personally, I don't like those bells and whistles anyway.

I use Hey. I plan to renew with them next year too. I switched to Hey when email had become unmanageable for me using Gmail. I also wanted to move away from Google.

Protonmail for me. Using it over a year now and no complaints.

https://mailbox.org/en/ Helpful support, secure, privacy oriented.

If we’re just talking about email, why not just sign up with an isp and use Horde or Squirrel web access? Because Gmail has better spam filtering?


Supports domains Good UI, web and mobile app Support for multiple other providers to federate into one system Calendar, notes, files

Be mindful of the fact that any service recommended here is likely going to be ”unofficially pentested” for a while.

I’m very happy with mailbox.org

Protonmail - for sure

don't underestimate the importance of the calendar.

Many years ago, someone asked this same question on HN and recommended runbox.com I started using them then and still subscribe. Good IMAP support. New web ui (v7) is quite nice but I still hit the older config pages.

tl;dr. runbox.com

I've been using https://hey.com/ for the past 6 months. Big fan!


ProtonMail is very good.

Hey.com - blocks trackers, good modern web apps and mobile apps. Brought to you by the team behind Basecamp. I’ve used it since early access was available and have completely switched over.

Hey.com for personal + work email and ProtonMail for secure personal mail.

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