One of the ministries I like to get involved in is assisting the church and community with technical topics. Through the church, I’m actively collecting, recycling and redistributing older, but completely functional computers to people who are in need of something for either a short period of time, or they can’t afford a new computer after theirs died.
Through these processes, I get to see what people are doing with their technical life. This series of Simple Tips can act as a scratch pad for me to log information that I touch on regularly.
Everyone has an email account. You have a work address, or an old AOL account, or some other email account that someone help you set up. That majority of non-technically savvy people have an @comcast.net, @verizon.com, @aol.com email address. These are the domain names associated with your home internet connection.
Don’t use it!
One common piece of advice that I give out is to avoid using your Internet Service Provider (ISP)’s email services. There’s nothing wrong with the actual service, I’m sure they’re providing a robust, secure and spam-filtered service for you. Heck, you’re paying for it, so why WOULDN’T you use it?
The biggest reason to avoid using their service is portability. You’re tied to them. If you are a bargain shopper, and switch ISPs every year or two like I do, you’d have to change your email regularly. That’s a huge pain! My last switch, from a Yahoo account to a Gmail account took a full year until I was confident that I was receiving all the emails that I thought I wanted.
The second, and more recent reason, is PRISM. If you’ve read the news recently, you’ve read about the PRISM program, and how Verizon and others are sharing call information with the NSA. If you don’t like that idea, then you may not want to use a major telecommunications company’s email service either. Who knows what their doing with it. (This is a weaker argument, because it really applies to any hosted service, we just KNOW there has been information sharing between the NSA and these companies.)
The third, and most snooty reason for me, is that using a generic email domain like that gives the impression of being non-technical. Sure, gmail is also a huge service, but it has better footings in the technical world, so there’s no stigma around using gmail, but, for good or bad, if I get a resume with an @aol.com email address, it always gives me a little chuckle.
What to do
Regardless of whether you’re snooty like I am, use an online service. Use @outlook.com, @yahoo.com, @gmail.com, anything like that is free, easy to set up, easy to use, and backed by big names so the potential for those services being turned off, is little to none.
I’ve been on Gmail for a while, and while some people do not like the service, I do. Although there are doubts about their advertising programs, since the ads are based on the contents of your email. You can be assured they’re reading every email you get….. but, do you care..
Host your own. It’s pretty easy to register a domain and get a free hosting of some emails. For instance, I’m a dreamhost ( http://www.dreamhost.com/r.cgi?161083 , yes that’s a referral link, shoot me)… subscriber, and have been for about 8 years. They provide a simple way of registering a domain name (8 dollars or so), and hosting email with them as part of your annual subscription. That way, you can set up @yourlastname.com , or @liveyourcode.com in my case.
The biggest motivator to me, is not being tied to your ISP. It’s like life insurance. It’s great to get life insurance at work, it’s cheap as dirt usually, but you need it from someone else too, for when you leave your job. You will leave your job (you will change ISPs), don’t lose your life insurance (email account, and email history), too.