12 FAQs About Email Hosting Providers
Finally ready to upgrade from your nondescript Gmail or Yahoo email address to something more professional and impressive?
Several shared hosting companies offer support for unlimited email addresses on registered domain names at a low monthly subscription price, providing the cheapest solution among email hosting providers.
Some business owners only need support for email services without a web server or database, which domain name registrars and web hosts traditionally offer at less than $2 per inbox per month.
It is important to distinguish email-only hosting plans from platform services that combine web hosting and email support for each registered domain. Usually, you get a better total value by purchasing the whole hosting package with cloud storage instead of an email-only plan.
Email hosting plans include options that directly download messages to a desktop client, use open-source webmail tools to manage communications through a web browser, or route all hosting provider traffic for a domain to a third-party service like Microsoft Outlook.
Many businesses with the need to support a large number of individual email accounts on a business domain use Gmail with Google Workspace (formerly Google G Suite) or Microsoft Office and Outlook instead of a web hosting service.
Alternatively, most webmail services offer Horde and Roundcube as the main options for email management, operating through the implementation of web standards like SMTP, POP3, and IMAP on email servers.
Read on to learn more about who we think is the best email hosting provider on Linux and Windows web hosting plans.
1. What is Email Hosting?
Email hosting allows domain name owners to create and manage a specific number of public email addresses on a web server under the service terms of a monthly or annual plan with a web hosting provider.
The service includes the use of a registered email server for domains without the provisioning of wider web server services like file storage, database, or code processing on hardware.
Email hosting uses three main standards for sending, receiving, and storing message data:
- SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol): Directs how emails move from your server to the recipient’s server and email inbox.
- POP (Post Office Protocol): Allows email recipients to retrieve messages from an email server and download them to their local computer. Emails are then deleted from the server.
- IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol): Emails remain on the server and can be accessed by the recipient’s email client. As such, messages can be accessed from any device or location.
Email hosting providers offer public services based on a combination of these standards, depending on the configuration of their datacenters.
An email host should also offer multiple options for encryption across message transfers, which may also require the use of an SSL certificate for the domain.
Email storage on shared hosting plans is included in most domain hosting with unlimited emails. The uptime guarantee for the mail client depends on the hosting company:
- On a free plan, the web hosting company may also offer the use of a shared calendar, website builder, or spam filtering as a complete hosting solution. Combining bonus offers leads to greater value on web hosting service plans.
- WordPress hosting normally includes support for unlimited email addresses for every domain name, along with unlimited storage for files. Look for a service provider with managed WordPress hosting for mail client flexibility.
- An email hosting service from A2 Hosting, InMotion Hosting, Bluehost, SiteGround, or HostGator includes the mail client, spam filtering, and file storage as part of domain hosting plans with unlimited emails at the lowest prices.
Email storage options from a cloud storage provider like Rackspace email or Hostwinds will support the mail service requirements of large enterprise organizations.
Make sure to choose the web hosting service that has sufficient file storage space for your teams.
2. Why Do I Need an Email Hosting Provider?
After you register a domain name, it needs to be linked with a dedicated or shared IP address to be publicly accessible as part of the internet.
This is accomplished through the provisioning of an email server solution on shared or dedicated hardware in association with the DNS addressing system that governs internet routing. Failed mail deliveries will also route to the governing domain host.
After your addresses are registered with the mail server, you can send and receive emails using options for remote or local management.
The webmail options included with cPanel currently support Horde and Roundcube, with SquirrelMail largely depreciated. These apps allow every user to log in through the browser to manage emails in a mailbox.
Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, and Zoho Mail are also popular cloud storage options that require MX routing of domains to use. Some email servers support Microsoft Exchange on Windows desktops or Mozilla Thunderbird for open-source licensing on local clients.
Both are industry-standard email software solutions reliably used by millions of individuals as well as the world’s largest companies.
3. How is Email Hosting Different From Web Hosting?
With early internet standards, an email server would run independently from a web server in most large organizations.
The same division continues today. Apache web servers generally implement PHP for email support in apps with a dedicated email server solution installed independently through extensions or in parallel on Linux.
Perhaps surprisingly, web hosting and email hosting operate somewhat similarly:
Both services can implement encryption on data connections using an SSL certificate with the browser or desktop client application.
Email hosting may include limits on the total number of email addresses, storage space or bandwidth permitted to an account on shared, VPS, or dedicated server hardware.
Most email server support for domain names in hosting is established through the WHM distribution of cPanel on CentOS, CloudLinux, or Ubuntu.
WHM currently supports the Dovecot mail server with OpenSSL for email, which allows SMTP, POP3, and IMAP configuration in cPanel for each individual email account on shared Linux hardware. Microsoft IIS and NGINX offer different email options for administrators.
One of the main advantages of Windows servers is the integration between IIS and Microsoft Outlook clients. The combination of SMTP, IMAP, and POP3 solutions can be simplified using Outlook or Gmail.
4. How Much Does Email Hosting Cost?
Email hosting is often included as a free component of Linux and Windows hosting plans.
Email-only hosting plans support single, multiple, or unlimited email addresses on an email server without any web server functionality.
On these plans, you’ll typically find limitations for bandwidth and storage for each email account or on the monthly totals for all email traffic.
|Web & Email Hosting||Email-Only Hosting||Microsoft Exchange||Microsoft Outlook||Google Workspace|
|$2 – $5 per month||$2 – $4 per inbox per month||$4 – $18 per user per month||$7 – $10 per month||$6 – $15 per user per month|
Unlimited hosting plans with web server and email functionality range from $2 to $5 per month with budget hosts, while email-only hosting plans are available from $5 or less per inbox at some brands.
Microsoft Office users should expect to pay more for managed email services based on Microsoft Exchange online. The server, originally developed for large corporate customers, provides tons of tools for collaboration, productivity and instant messaging.
Exchange email solutions can easily cost up to $15 per month, but users can find more affordable solutions with the likes of Google Workspace, Zoho Mail, FastMail, and ProtonMail.
In comparison, using the Microsoft Outlook client costs around $7 per user per month (but enterprise organizations may secure bulk pricing for teams).
As with any cloud service, expect to pay more for email hosting to support enterprise requirements. Small businesses can affordably use open-source Linux and budget host solutions for Windows.
5. How Do I Choose the Best Email Hosting Service?
When choosing the best email hosting service, ask yourself some questions to gauge your requirements:
- Will the project require the support of a website or mobile app on the same hardware?
- Does the amount of web traffic demand a VPS or dedicated server?
- Does your organization use a specific application like Gmail or Microsoft Outlook for custom email addresses and mailboxes?
Your answers to these questions will help to screen cheap email hosting providers.
If you only require email hosting for the domain, it may make sense to look at finding a top domain registrar first. Many hosts will actually give you a free domain name with email hosting.
Securing low-cost email hosting from a domain name registrar allows you to easily upgrade to a shared, VPS, or cloud hosting plan at any time by changing the DNS configuration.
You can also configure a web host’s MX records to forward emails to Gmail or Microsoft Outlook for email support with a domain registrar at no additional cost.
To choose the best email hosting service, first decide whether you need Windows or Linux servers. Then determine whether a shared hosting environment is sufficient for the development and production requirements of the project.
Webmail support through cPanel can often support unlimited email addresses at costs of less than $5 per month with cheap hosting plans.
Email-only hosting for domains will support your choice of Gmail, Outlook, Webmail, or desktop client applications with secure access using passwords and encrypted connections.
6. Do I Need a Custom Domain for My Emails?
Using a custom domain is required for email support on Linux and Windows platforms; a free email service like Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo! Mail are the main alternatives.
When using free email services, however, every account is hosted under the same domain (such as firstname.lastname@example.org).
Although a convenient and cost-free option, free email hosting leaves much to be desired when it comes to professional email communications.
With a custom domain, you can create unlimited email addresses for users on the pattern of email@example.com.
Advantages of email hosting on a custom domain name:
- Cost effective, especially when combined with full-service web hosting and a free domain registration
- Can still use familiar email clients like Gmail and Outlook
- Increased brand recognition and trustworthiness
- Can create separate email addresses for contact forms, billing, and other departmental needs
Configuring MX settings allows you to access firstname.lastname@example.org or any other custom domain address using Gmail or Microsoft Outlook for email management (composition, storage, retrieval) instead of a webmail or a desktop client.
Paying to host a custom domain on Google apps or Microsoft Outlook for email support reduces security and maintenance requirements for the systems administration team, but it is more expensive than independent solutions.
Consider these factors to maintain custom email address support for your organization as you migrate across cloud platforms.
7. Which Hosts Offer a Free Domain?
Most of the budget hosts will offer a free domain name as part of signing up for a new account. This offer is usually only valid for the first year of the contract and the domain renews at fixed rates annually.
The free domain will function as the root domain on a web hosting account and be used to assign the IP address to the account. Most plans allow you to create an unlimited number of email addresses for each domain name.
Take a look at some of the hosts we recommend that include a free domain registration with a hosting service:
|Web Hosts||Shared Hosting Cost|
With the exception of GoDaddy and iPage, which have developed their own administration panels, all of these web hosting companies offer shared Linux hosting plans with cPanel administration that include a free domain name registration on signup.
Several other top hosts, including InMotion Hosting and SiteGround provide excellent domain and business email hosting services without the free registration. Don’t hesitate to check them out, as well.
Because functionality is largely standardized across these brands, savvy consumers can choose the best deal based on the hardware configuration, software stack optimizations, and bonus developer tools offered on these plans.
Each shared hosting plan listed above supports unlimited email accounts.
8. How Should I Configure My Mail Server?
If you are managing domains in cPanel, the MX records for email addresses are automatically generated and configured as part of the platform.
In cPanel, use the Addon Domains area to identify the domains you will be using for email accounts if they are different from the root domain.
Next, navigate to the Email Accounts section of cPanel to add new addresses. You can set a unique password for each address through the cPanel interface.
How to manage webmail configurations in cPanel:
- Create a new email address with a unique name for your domain in cPanel.
- Make sure to specify a secure password and configure SSL for the domain.
- Choose either Horde or Roundcube as the Webmail interface application.
- Access your account at yourdomain.com/webmail or webmail.yourdomain.com
If you prefer to use a third-party email service, such as Rackspace, Gmail, or Outlook, you’ll need to edit your server settings to effectively route your incoming emails.
Your domain host should direct you to a helpful support article for instructions, and several hosts even offer a configuration wizard for popular services
9. What is an MX Record?
A Mail Exchange (MX) record functions as part of the DNS addressing system along with the CNAME and A/AAAA records.
When another server queries the DNS settings for your domain, the MX records will specify the primary and secondary mail server that is used for the registered email addresses.
The CNAME record will list the canonical name of the domain. The A record establishes the IPv4 address and the AAAA record publishes the IPv6 address for the domain.
Your MX records and other email configuration settings can be found by clicking on the Zone Editor icon within the Domains section of cPanel.
Example of an MX record:
The priority indicates which server should be tried first; in case of a send failure with the lowest priority server or destination, the sender will switch to the other server.
The Time to Live (TTL) field describes the number of seconds before any future changes to the MX record will go into effect.
Your email host should provide the appropriate values to add to your MX records, and your domain host should have helpful articles directing you on how to change the DNS information.
Often, the best email hosting provider has users add multiple MX records to ensure emails reach your inbox.
10. How Does Spam Filtering Work?
Email hosting providers running cPanel on shared Linux hardware include free anti-spam features powered by Apache SpamAssassin.
This open-source utility implements machine learning on your own email traffic patterns to more efficiently block and filter spam emails.
SpamAssassin offers a strong scoring framework and collaborative filters for analyzing email headers and body text to detect unsolicited bulk messages.
The filtering system implements a combination of sender reputation systems with online database blacklists and multiple phrase tests for header data and text to better block incoming spam mail.
How to set up SpamAssassin:
- Log into cPanel and go to the Mail section
- Click on the Spam Filters icon
- Enable the setting by clicking “Process New Emails and Mark Them as Spam”
- Choose a value for the Threshold Score consistent with your policies. A rating of 5 means messages that score higher will be marked as spam. A score of 10 means nothing will be flagged.
- (Optional) Click on Show Additional Configurations to access or adjust whitelist (emails always allowed) and blacklist (never allowed) controls
The Apache SpamAssassin features can be configured to support either webmail or the spam box on your third-party email client software. Clients like Gmail and Outlook come with built-in spam filters you can adjust similarly.
11. Which Hosts Offer Spam Protection?
Most cPanel web hosting platforms offer spam protection with Apache SpamAssassin, as the service is free, open-source, and integrated with the WHM distribution for use on all accounts.
On shared Linux hosting plans with cPanel, Apache SpamAssassin is sufficient for most users.
But take a look at the hosts that offer top-notch anti-spam measures:
|Web hosts||Spam filters||Shared hosting cost|
|A2 Hosting||SpamAssassin, Barracuda||$2.99|
|InMotion Hosting||SpamAssassin, SpamExperts||$2.29|
|iPage||Spam Scanning Service||$4.99|
SpamAssassin will only work with webmail or desktop clients for email. If you choose to manage your email accounts with Gmail or Microsoft Outlook 365, the spam protection will be provided on the cloud platform using proprietary solutions from the development company.
We recommend installing your own anti-spam solution if you are running an email server on a VPS or dedicated server.
Third-party solutions for anti-spam protection:
- N-able SpamExperts and Mail Assure are industry-leading solutions for spam filtering and email security.
- Proofpoint is a comprehensive cybersecurity suite that protects email and cloud apps.
- SpamSieve can be installed by iOS users for greater inbox protection from spam.
- The WP Cerber Security Plugin works with WordPress to manage spam from websites.
Of course, keep an eye out for hosts that include extra layers of security, such as anti-virus and anti-malware scans, and DDoS or brute-force protection. Plans that offer extra security for webmail with integrated WAF protection are also a great deal.
12. How Do I Get Started With an Email Hosting Plan?
The main decision to make with email hosting is whether to use a cPanel account with support for unlimited domains for the service.
The advantage to this approach is cost, which can be as low as $2 per month with free domain registration and unlimited databases.
Look for web hosts that provide unmetered storage and monthly bandwidth with a free email hosting and SSL certificate for encrypted email connections to get the best value. Otherwise, check out an email-only hosting plan that can be found at less than $2 per inbox per month.
Using Gmail or Microsoft Outlook with support for a custom domain will cost around $6 to $8 per month per user. In comparison, you can support unlimited domain names with hosting and email on many budget host platforms for the same price.
You will need to use either webmail or a desktop client like Outlook or Thunderbird to send and receive your business email communications.
For many business organizations, the email services provided with domain hosting are secure and cost-efficient to implement. Look at NGINX and Caddy email server options on VPS plans as an alternative to cPanel solutions and WHM licensing fees.
With a shared hosting plan, small business owners and independent publishers can support unlimited email addresses on shared hardware. cPanel users have the advantage of a managed email server platform that is integrated with the web server hosting and database support for their domains.
Windows users can search for low-cost shared hardware that allows for ASP.NET application development to be deployed in small businesses with support for email addresses across support teams.
You can find plenty of guidance on how to set up your MX records and email addresses on custom domains – all that’s left is finding the email host that perfectly matches your feature and budget requirements.
Be sure to check out the latest to secure the best price.
Top Alternatives to "Email Hosting"
If your search for email hosting came up empty, you might want to consider other popular choices for web hosting. After all, email hosting plans, even from providers like our top choice A2 Hosting, can be cost prohibitive and may not have all the features you need.
To find pricing or features similar to A2 Hosting that may better fit your email hosting needs, try these helpful guides from our staff:
Keep in mind that A2 Hosting‘s email hosting plans start at just $2.99 per month, which is a major factor in our rating of 4.9 out of 5 in the email hosting category. So if you’re still uncertain, but want to give the best email hosting provider a try, A2 Hosting at $2.99 is a low-risk option.