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Hello Fastmail!

Email is one of those things that once you’re set up, unless something really isn’t working right, you’re likely to not mess with, let alone switch providers. But that’s what happened in July when I decided to switch to Fastmail.

When I first began my business I simply rolled with the email apps within cPanel. A bunch of people did this and some still do. Totally valid solution, especially when you set it up to work on Apple Mail, iOS mail, etc. I think it wasn’t until roughly mid-2017 that I then switched to Rackspace for my email hosting needs. Partly because I got sick of cPanel’s poor spam filters (soon to be a recurring theme) and partly to do as I recommend.

Rackspace Email was good. Simple and straightforward; the way I like most tech things. But for some reason I started getting more and more spam. I was able to block specific domains, email addresses, and even IP addresses, but the spam kept coming. Worse – and what eventually sparked my search for a new email host – the spam was making its way into my inbox. As someone who tries to spend as little time in email as possible, this was a big issue.

So in June I began my quest for a new email provider. I simply wanted a business-oriented provider that isn’t scanning emails for ads and has reasonable privacy and security. A friend recommended Fastmail, which was already on my list from the research I had started. The options I narrowed it down to were Fastmail, ProtonMail, Tutanota, and Gmail (yeah, I know).

The losers

Let’s start with Gmail. Yep, I briefly considered Gmail because their spam filtering is second to none. I don’t know what kind of voodoo they use, but they’re damn good at the whole spam thing. But they’re also good at questionable privacy practices. So when I say I briefly considered Gmail, I literally mean briefly. 😄

Tutanota. This was an option that came up a couple of times in my research but I had never heard of it before. I took a look at it and while I think it’s probably a good service, I just couldn’t get past their “meh” UI. 🤷‍♀️

ProtonMail. This was the runner-up. ProtonMail’s big selling point is encryption which is what made me seriously consider it. Unfortunately two key things made me look elsewhere:

  • Pricing. In addition to managing my own email account, I also manage accounts for 2 other people. That added up quickly with ProtonMail.
  • Potential for getting locked out? As I read through articles and forum posts, I did read about one or two incidents where people got locked out of their accounts. Since ProtonMail has good encryption and these people couldn’t remember the password, they were stuck. All things considered, these incidents are likely few and far between, but I didn’t want to take that chance.

The winner: Fastmail

So I took the leap in early July to give Fastmail a shot. I signed up for their 1-week free trial thinking that’d be plenty of time. The trial lasted me all of one day. That’s not really a Fastmail issue though. I have a ton of aliases I use for different business purposes and the trial only allowed for a small number. That would’ve caused some issues in my day-to-day business, so I went ahead and signed up.

In addition to adding my various aliases, I also imported my email from Rackspace. That was surprisingly smooth and fast. It took, at most, ten minutes to import just under 53,000 emails. Sure, email aren’t necessarily huge files, but still – I was expecting it to take far longer than ten minutes. But here’s the real kicker: the import was not only smooth, it was incredibly accurate. When the import was finished, my emails were exactly where I expected them to be and absolutely nothing was missing. (That all said, I kept my Rackspace account open for about a week just in case.)

What I like

As of this writing I’m roughly 6 weeks into using Fastmail and I can confidently say I’m happy with it. Here’s what makes Fastmail a great solution in my opinion:

Solid spam filters
This was the key selling point for me and Fastmail has absolutely delivered. Without me having to set up all the filters and blocks I had previously, Fastmail has identified spam and kept 99.99% of it out of my inbox.

Mobile app
Fastmail makes their own mobile email app for iPhone (and Android I believe) and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it is. I use it exclusively for those few times I need to check my email on the go.

Web app
This is a bit of a shocker for me for some reason. Perhaps I had just gotten used to using Apple Mail or Spark over the years that the thought of checking and writing email in a browser was off-putting. But after about a week in I was using the web app without issue. The interface is good and most importantly it is FAST. It loads inboxes, folders, emails, and searches incredibly fast. I’ve completely stopped using Apple Mail or Spark entirely; there just isn’t a need.

Aliases and sending identities
As I mentioned, I have a ton of aliases for business purposes. Fastmail handles those beautifully. But it also has this feature called Sending Identities. The short explanation is that a sending identity lets you send an email with a particular alias as the “From” email address rather than your usual email address. This is a pretty big benefit when you have a tiny business that you play multiple roles in.

What I don’t like

There’s little that I don’t like about Fastmail. For a good few weeks I was really clamoring for a native Mac app, but I seriously doubt that will ever happen. I’m okay with that though as long as their web app continues to be as good or better. Perhaps the only real feature that I don’t like is that there’s no way to set when a spam email will be auto-deleted. Fastmail has this hard-set at 31 days. I wish it was shorter or that I could customize it.

Update 8/25/21: Turns out I was wrong about the spam auto-deletion timing! Head into Folders > Spam and then click on Show advanced preferences. In there you'll find a checkbox for auto-purging messages in the Spam folders with an option for when to do so. I set mine to 14 days.

Final thoughts

I’ve really been enjoying Fastmail. So much so that I don’t think about it. And I think that’s the goal of an email app or service – it should be so good that you don’t think about email. Previously I was getting annoyed when I would check email.

Fastmail is also an incredibly good value. Beyond email, you also get a calendar, notes, and contact management. I don’t really use those features as they get managed elsewhere for my purposes, but from my poking around, they seem really good too.

So long story short, if you’re looking for a solid email host, check out Fastmail!