If there’s one thing we all use the internet for, it’s sending and receiving emails. In spite of this, we often don’t take the time to find the best email provider for our needs.
But what’s the difference between email service providers, anyway?
If you’ve only ever used one, you might be putting up with things you don’t even like or that don’t do what you need them to. There can be some big differences between providers.
Three of the world’s most popular free email services are:
- Gmail is Google’s email service. It’s free to use and gives you more than 10 gigabytes of storage space. You can customise the look of your page and take advantage of Google’s other services from the ‘apps’ icon at the top of the page. Gmail does display ads, but they’re placed on the sidebar and easy to ignore.
- When you sign up for a Microsoft Outlook account, you have a choice between a hotmail.com or an outlook.com address. Like its competitors, Microsoft email comes with ads, but many users say they are the most discreetly placed of the three. Outlook gives you unlimited storage space.
Arguably, the unlimited storage space offered by Outlook and Yahoo! is not a major issue. Google’s ‘limit’ of 10 gigabytes is still an enormous amount of space and most Gmail account holders use only a fraction of their storage capacity.
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Choosing an email service
The most important things to look for in any email service include:
- Flexibility: you need to be able to use your service on all your devices, including your computers and smartphone.
- Anti-spam: your email should filter out possible spam email and put it in a separate folder.
- Virus protection: some email attachments can contain viruses. A good email service will give you built-in virus protection.
We spend a lot of time using email and like to feel comfortable with the application we choose:
- If pop-up ads or banners are annoying to you, choose the free service with the least annoying ad placement. If you still can’t stand the ads, you will have to opt for a paid service.
- If you use email frequently for work, look for features that help you do your job. Gmail, for instance, has a ‘Task’ feature that will remind you of things you have to do.
- Your email has to be easy to use. Most email services are easy enough to use for basic things like reading and writing, but you don’t want to have to search for their more advanced functions. One click should be all it takes to view or add an attachment, change your font size or mark an email as spam.
Like any other free online services, there are pros and cons to every email provider. One person will passionately love a service another person hates just as passionately.
Currently, Gmail is the most popular service, but Outlook lovers prefer it because it integrates with their favourite social media sites while Gmail gives you access only to Google+.
Yahoo is popular with people who like to share their digital photographs because of its seamless integration with Flickr.
Before you purchase a car, you compare models. You can do this with email, too, but remember: when you send an email, the recipient is likely to keep your email address.
If you don’t like the service and choose another one, don’t forget to remind your contacts of your change of address.
Read our guide to choosing and remembering online passwords.