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Using ISP-provided Email Addresses–A Bad Idea

Q. Why is using an ISP-provided Email address A Bad Idea?

A. It's a bad idea because they are not portable–they're a kind of trap. They make you resist changing to a new ISP even after a better deal comes along because you cannot take the address with you. (That's the main reason ISP's provide them to their customers!) Second, when you do change ISP, whether for a better deal or because you have moved, you have to spend considerable effort in change-of-address notification.

If you are new to the net, changing address is not a big problem. However, as time goes by and you spread your address around to more friends and associates and attach it to web site registrations and mailing lists, changing email addresses becomes progressively more troublesome.

To learn about portable alternatives, read on...

Portable Addresses

There are three main types of portable addresses: Free, Rental, and Personally Registered Domain. The Personally Registered Domain type--an email domain that you register and control yourself--is the most highly recommended but the others may also meet your needs.

Free Email Addresses

"Free" email addresses (commonly called "web mail") are browser-based and, besides being free, they have the advantage of being accessible from any computer. The most famous are Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail.

Although free, these may be problematic to use with regular email client software such as Outlook Express, Apple Mail or Thunderbird. In some cases you have to pay extra if you want to use your email client to manage your mail, if it's allowed at all. Also, because so many spammers use them, such accounts, especially Hotmail, have acquired an somewhat unsavory image.

Rental Email addresses

You can rent email addresses based on domains related to hobbies, occupations, your own name, etc. Due to the popularity of free email, these are now becoming rare. In the past, Rental email addresses were the most affordable option for folks who wanted a portable address.

One rental type that is still popular is Apple's MobileMe service, which is available to both Mac and Windows users. MobileMe provides not only email but other services, too.

If you are considering using a rental email address, make sure they provide an SMTP server for sending email (Apple does). Many ISP's do not allow sending email from domains other than their own due to the SPAM problem. In that case, you must arrange with the email provider to use a "relay" SMTP server to send email.

Also, you should keep in mind that, while these are portable and renewable, sometimes these companies go out of business, often without warning, leaving their customers stranded with no access to their mail. But even more significantly, they are no longer the most economical.

Personally registered domain addresses

These are the best of all* because they are fully portable--you can keep them for life and use them anywhere and with any ISP. And most importantly, they are no longer expensive. You can register a domain of your own choice and get a email mailbox for less than US$20/year (around ¥2,000). These addresses can be used with your email client (e.g. Apple Mail or Outlook Express) or with most hosts, you can use web mail through your browser.

Even if your domain registrar should happen to go out of business, your registration will continue in your name because registrations are controlled by ICANN, the international registry authority, so you'll never have to worry about changing email addresses again.

If you are interested in registering your own domain, you should start by finding a Registrar. There are many on the net offering a variety of services at a variety of prices, but I would like to suggest my own web site here:

Ichiban Web

One thing that sets my site apart from others and makes it so inexpensive is that I offer mailboxes without having to also rent hosting space for web sites. Since the web site space is the most expensive part of the price, leaving it out allows for significant savings.

It's pretty easy to set up but if you have trouble, 24-hour English support for domain or email questions by phone or email is available. The phone support is on a U.S. telephone number, but if you use IP telephone service such as Skype-out, BBPhone or DotPhone, calls to the US are comparable in cost to local calls in Japan and less expensive than most mobile calls.

Setting up and using your own domain may sound complicated and it may, indeed, be a tad confusing when you first get started, but one of the nice things about having your own domain is that once you set it up, you don't have to worry about ever changing your email address or configuration--it'll be the same regardless of where you go or how you connect your computer to the net.

Hope this helps!


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