An Email Discovery Saga

So it fell upon me to update the website of my employer. Website creation, check! That’s in my skill set. Host: found. Site: created. Done.

But then my boss was like “Hey, what can you do about our email?”

Um. Gulp. Wellllll ….

So I started studying, all about emails. I learned about email clients (yes, I had to learn about them. I’ve never used an email client in my life; many of my colleagues still use Windows Live Mail 2012, a challenge unto itself). I learned about pointing MX records, and what “Unlimited storage” really means, and I read many, many reviews of many, many email hosts.

And I learned that reviews online aren’t, always, what they seem. Don’t worry, this one is.

This post is very limited in scope. Very very limited. It covers one person’s experience with 3 different providers. But it’s also completely, and solely, based on my experience. With no affiliations.

I learned: GoDaddy email sucks. They pile on charges, emails get bounced a lot (almost everyone who attempted to email me at my GoDaddy email address got their email back as non-deliverable), and their answer to queries for help is usually “Oh, I can’t help you.” Their email interface is very awkward. And the worst thing is, when you want to transfer to a new email host, they: 1) give you the hard sell instead of helping you transfer; 2) assure you that your old emails cannot be migrated from their site.

InMotionHosting email has nicer customer support, whose agents seem to make a genuine effort to help you. They assure you they have helped you. They send you lots of links which they say will help you. Often, however, after all the help, the problem you started with remains.

First, InMotion agents assured me that email would be transferred from a cPanel in a website migration. They also said that non-cPanel email could not be transferred at all, end of story. I set up a test cPanel email account with my personal domain (which had been hosted at Bluehost) and had it transferred to InMotion to explore the process. No email was successfully transferred from Bluehost (from my old cPanel) to InMotion (to my new cPanel). I chatted to ask why. I was told I had needed a “full cPanel transfer” and I hadn’t gotten one. I said in return that I had verified about 10 times that my email would transfer with the migration, and was told each time my email definitely would transfer with the rest of my website migration – and I have the chat records saved, to prove it. But I was told wrong. And then I was told the email transfer didn’t succeed because I hadn’t gotten a “full cPanel transfer.” Which nobody had told me I needed when they were assuring me my email would migrate successfully. Fail, InMotion. Epic fail. (By the way, this blog is currently hosted by InMotion, since it was the practice personal domain I transferred. They seem fine as a website host, as far as I can tell. Just don’t go with them for email).

Ok, I wrote off migration of emails. (It turned out my company’s GoDaddy email wasn’t even on a cPanel, but a separate “Workspace Webmail” account; I learned this after the unsuccessful test migration I wrote of above. But InMotion’s false assurances remain disturbing nonetheless.) I told everyone to back up their emails via a client, because none would migrate, as both GoDaddy and InMotion agents assured me it was not possible to migrate email from GoDaddy to a new email server.

So I set up new emails using our new domain, to test InMotion email’s usability before everyone in the company transitioned to InMotion email. We sent a lot of emails from InMotion mail servers which were simply not delivered. They disappeared. The InMotion chat agents assured us that we could find the source of the disappearance by checking the bounce records. But we got no bounce records, so we had nothing to check. The InMotion agent said “Oh, so then I can’t help you.” They couldn’t tell me why we hadn’t gotten the bounce records, either.

Well, I had to find a better solution, because our sales team relies very heavily on successful emails. So I researched, and researched, and researched some more. I got more of a budget. I decided to go with Rackspace. The agents at Rackspace assured me that they could, in fact, migrate over our company’s GoDaddy emails, using the same setup email clients use. This time, we just jumped in headfirst.

The chat support at Rackspace is fast (you almost always reach someone within a minute) and responsive. And helpful, though the initial chat agents have on occasion given me an answer that was different from what the migration specialists later said. The migration went smoothly and quickly – I set up the email accounts on Rackspace, the migration team made a first pass to migrate the bulk of the old email from GoDaddy, and then I changed the MX records to point to Rackspace. After that, the migration team made a second pass to scrape up any trailing emails. It turned out a few straggling emails came in after the second pass, so the Rackspace migration team willingly did a third pass later, at my request.

Our email is now lightning fast, and we have had no bounces. None. Every email arrives. The webmail interface is very user-friendly, and the search function is spectacular. You can specify in a search: to, from, keywords, a date range, if there were attachments … it’s quite complete. The only negative with the search is that your first search begins the indexing of your old emails, and only after the indexing is complete can you access the search function. (It took a few hours for my emails to be indexed, and about a day for someone elses who had a much larger mailbox.) Our accounts are their their lowest-priced plan ($2/account, though you can find deals online), and each account has a 25 GB limit. There is a calendar, a tasks list, notes, and a chat function. I find the email much more user friendly than Gmail, and infinitely better than the GoDaddy or InMotion service.

So there you go, if you are looking for email for a company on a small budget, you might want to check out Rackspace. I have found them nothing but excellent.

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