It’s time to ditch ISP email addresses

Anthony Caruana
24 November, 2015
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Mail, email, OS X, macworld australiaBefore the 1990s the internet was largely limited to academia and military use. It was complex to use – there was no World Wide Web – with tools like Telnet and Gopher the norm. Setting up an email account was a reasonably complex task, so early ISPs provided email as a service to their customers.

As well as being a very useful free service for customers, it was also an important tool for service providers. They realised changing an email address would, in future, be as painful as changing phone numbers. By giving everyone an email account, they discouraged customers from switching between ISPs whenever a better deal was available.

Testament to the success of that strategy is the number of people who have an ISP-based email address they can’t let go of.

Macworld Australia reader Terry wrote to me recently regarding the challenges he’s faced with Telstra changing its email system from an internally hosted one to Microsoft’s cloud email service.

“I’m annoyed that I ever took up a Bigpond email address. I have many hundreds of contacts around the world, so changing to a different email address would be a massive effort.”

Terry had a number of issues, but it was this comment that caught my attention.

Tying your email service to a specific service provider means you lose your freedom to choose. It’s the equivalent of buying a car and only being able to buy fuel from a specific service station.

So – what can you do about it?

The answer is simple – use an email service that is independent of your ISP.

Options for free email services

The easiest option is to create an account with an independent provider of email services.

There are several options here such as Google’s Gmail service, Microsoft’s Outlook.com (which has changed names over the years from Hotmail to Windows Live), Yahoo! Mail and others.

The advantage of these services over ISP email is that you can change ISPs without losing your email address.

What about personalised email?

If you’re in business or just want to have your own email address, you can easily register a domain name (like myname.com) and use that.

To do that you’ll need to go through a few different steps.

  1. Register a domain name using an accredited registrar. I’ve used GoDaddy for the domains I’ve registered, but a simple online search for Australian domain registrars will reveal lots of options. Note: look at the pricing carefully as the prices can vary significantly between registrars offering very similar services.
  2. Create an account with an email service provider. For example, Google will let you use your own domain with its services. However, that will cost a small amount each month – around $4 per month will give you 30GB of capacity – enough for many years of email.
  3. Link your domain name to the email account. This may involve some quite technical configuration but my experience is that the email service providers have easy-to-follow instructions that make the process straightforward.

Changing addresses is a pain

There’s no way around this – changing email addresses can be a pain.

My advice is to do a few things.

  1. Only use your new address for sending new email.
  2. When you reply to an email sent to your old ISP address, send the reply from your new personalised email account.
  3. Add a message to the signature on both your old and new email accounts informing people of your new address.
  4. Send a bulk email (with everyone’s email address in the BCC field) letting everyone know of the change.

 

7 Comments

7 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Rjs says:

    Suggestion 5:

    Set up a mail forwarding rule on your old account to your new one to last as long as you can and;

    6. Put an auto responder on your old account telling people of your change to the new email address.

    Note, Microsoft doesn’t charge for their email service (Windows Live) as far as I’m aware, and Apple offers iCloud mail accounts with (last time I checked) 5Gb storage free.

    I’d say make the change now and you benefit for longer. I’m amazed coming to NZ from the UK how many businesses still use brand-diluting ISP addresses like @xtra.co.nz – a missed marketing opportunity!

  2. J says:

    My issue with all this is that my email host [iinet] does a bloody good job with keeping my site spam free.
    I doubt free hosts do as well.

  3. Keith Heale says:

    Great idea, Anthony! A university colleague advised me on this very subject at least 15 years ago, and I proceeded to set up a personalized domain. Rather than .com, I opted for a .id.au domain. “id” stands for identity, and is intended to be used by individuals. Registration is cheap and convenient. The only minor drawbacks are getting your domain recognized by DNS servers, and getting reliable hosting. If, for example, another domain on the same host is sending or relaying spam, you can find yourself blacklisted through no fault of your own.

  4. Terry Fitzgerald says:

    I, for one as a prompter, agree completely. I was somewhat averse to using a hotmail account for email because of the large number of cookies one had to accept to use the service. I have relatives who use gmail (and yes I have one also but don’t use it much – the number of unsolicited emails is depressing. Somehow it linked to my BigPond account and duplicated all which was a worry).

    I’ve spent 3 and a half hours chasing BigPond tech support, supervisors and escalated complaints in the Philippines which was a total waste of time. I myself discovered the problem was an unnotified outage of use for desktops from 1.13 pm today to an indeterminate time. Replied email was lost and a message to try again later. Don’t use ISP email services.

  5. Terry Fitzgerald says:

    I just submitted a lengthy series of comments which ‘vanished’ when I pressed submit … Did it get through?

  6. Macworld Australia Staff says:

    Yes – but comments are moderated so I have to approve them for them to appear.

  7. Darran says:

    I did this a few back for this exact reason – wanted freedom to change ISP when needed and not worry about the losing email contacts. I used a Google domain service via go daddy which enabled me to have my own domain name and email hosting and web hosting for only 10USD annually (not monthly – annually). Not sure if can still get this deal – I think it was using the Google Apps Personal offering. Haven’t looked back !!!

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