what is email hosting?Establishing an identity online is probably one of the most important things small businesses need to do in the Digital Age. With the Internet being a sea of anonymity awash in @gmail, @yahoo and @iCloud email addresses, the first step to standing out can be as simple as getting a domain name and using it to create your own personalized email address – something known as email hosting. But how can you do this? Continue reading to learn more about email hosting and how you can use it to create your own email address.

How does email hosting work?

Similar to web hosting, email hosting allows users to place and store content online. Quite simply, email hosting lets businesses receive and store email associated with their domain name, rather than using a generic email address. For example, NextAdvisor employees have emails that end with @nextadvisor.com, rather than @gmail.com. In many cases, email hosting is provided as a complimentary service when you sign up for web hosting, as many web hosts allow for a certain number of email addresses to be associated with your account. That said, some web hosts or domain registrars allow you to purchase email services independently of web hosting, so you don’t have to use its web services if it’s just email you’re after. Additionally, email service providers, like Gmail and Yahoo, offer people the ability to use unique domain names with their email clients through a process called mail forwarding.

What type of email service should you choose?

Now that you know how email hosting works, you might be wondering how to choose the right type for your needs. For someone unfamiliar with web hosting and Internet services in general, it can be hard to navigate the particularities of email hosting. While all email services ultimately provide the same key feature (allowing you to send and receive email), they’re each set up in slightly different ways. To help you out, we’ll go over the two primary types of email hosting you’ll run into, highlighting their pros and cons.

Web host-provided email

Why choose this option: If you have a website, chances are your web hosting provider allows for email hosting as part of your package. For example, most of the web hosts we review use a control panel known as cPanel, which offers this functionality by default. Through cPanel, creating personalized email addresses is as simple as clicking an icon which says “email accounts.” If you’re someone who wants seamless transitions between your online services, this is your best bet since you can control your website and email from the same place. Additionally, this will probably be both the cheapest and simplest solution available to someone using a web hosting service.

Potential downsides: On average, the mail client through which you manage emails isn’t going to be elegant – although a common workaround is setting up email forwarding your email to a different email service like Gmail or Yahoo – and you’ll likely be missing out on some bells and whistles that dedicated email hosting provides. Given that email is a secondary service for most web hosts, support can tend to be lackluster for email-specific issues if you are using it as an add-on to your web hosting. Additionally, both services will share the same storage capacity. For most web hosting beginners, this isn’t an issue, but it is a concern to think about in the long run as your needs change (or if you know you’ll need multiple email accounts with decent storage capacity). Finally, since all of your eggs will be in one basket with this option, it’s good to note that performance issues with one service will usually affect the other.

Dedicated email hosting provider

Why choose this option: Notable companies like Google and Rackspace, as well as some web hosting services, provide email service suites that come with tons of complimentary features like file sharing, instant messaging and calendar management. These services are especially designed with the needs of businesses in mind, and they tend to be way more extensive than web hosting-based email, which can be a bit bare bones (especially if you decide not to use email forwarding). In addition, support teams for these services are usually more knowledgeable and helpful regarding email-related issues, since these services are dedicated exclusively to email. Finally, this option might be appealing to you if you’d prefer that your storage capacity and resources aren’t split between two different services.

Potential downsides: On the downside, pricing tends to be per user, meaning you can end up paying a lot more, depending on how many people you have to grant email access to. If you’re someone who wouldn’t enjoy the inconvenience and difficulty of having to manage email and web hosting from different accounts, this might not be the right option. This applies especially to newbies, who might not want all the bells and whistles of a separate email hosting service when they’re trying to navigate operating their first website.

What about email forwarding?

If you prefer the way email works through a specific provider, like Gmail or Yahoo, you can set up your web host-provided or dedicated host email accounts to forward to those clients. After you’ve created email accounts, go into your preferred email client’s settings or FAQ (such as this Google support topic) and follow the instructions to send and receive email through your custom email address while using its service. Doing this can help you get around the bare bones feel of your web host’s email client, or simplify things if you’re used to using one specific email client.

Which type of email hosting would work best for you?

Choosing which type of service would work best for you comes down to preferences as well as your needs as a business. Assuming you have a web host, separating your email and web hosting services gives you more control; however, for beginners, especially those with a less-demanding website or email management needs, it might be less confusing – and cheaper – to keep your website and email under the same service’s umbrella.

For more information on web hosting and its many different features, keep reading our web hosting blog. Also, follow our small business blog for more tips on how to build your business’ brand and manage its finances.