August 6, 2015

Fastmail
Fastmail came through

In early 2013, I wrote a (surprisingly popular) piece called Fastmail failed, because they did, they really did. The post details my experience with Fastmail, which I wanted to use to replace Google Apps. In the end, I had to go back to Google Apps.

I’m back with Fastmail, and have been for quite some time. I even moved the Odd Alice email hosting to a Fastmail business setup last year. I’ve been meaning to write about this, but for some reason I haven’t. Email isn’t very exciting, I guess. Every now and then I get an email about Fastmail, so I guess I should set the record straight.

I was never happy with Google Apps. While I don’t hide away from all Google services, I really don’t trust them with my data, and thus I try to limit my exposure to them. I’m not ridiculous about it though, I just do it because I think it’s right. I switched to the Duckduckgo search engine a long time ago, I don’t use Google+ (who does?), and while I still have a Gmail account, it’s just used for the Google services, like Youtube. Whenever possible, I choose a non-Google service. You don’t have to do the same, but you should, if you wanted to limit being tracked online. To each their own.

Email was always the problem. I’ve rolled my own email servers but the amount of spam I get on my public email addresses becomes ridiculous. Perhaps you get the same amounts, but you don’t see them thanks to Google’s excellent spam filter. They’re unparalleled, and a reason to use Gmail or Google Apps. In fact, it was the reason to use Google Apps for me.

After my failed attempt to move to Fastmail, detailed in the Fastmail failed piece, and rolling my own email server, I went back to Google Apps. It was, and possibly still is, the better experience. Not the web interfaces mind you, I loathe them, but thanks to IMAP they matter little. My email lives in Mail.app, on my Mac as well as on my iPhone and iPad, and I’m happy with that.

For some reason or other I decided to take the plunge with Fastmail again. I don’t remember what pushed me over the edge, but whatever it was, I started researching email providers. I spoke to a lot of people using Fastmail, as well as other services. I had in fact spoken to a lot of Fastmail users since I shared my experience, because apparently the service has fans. Nice fans, not the whiny kind, but people who were, overall, genuinely interested in talking about the service, and why I should give Fastmail another shot. That helped, in no small part, in my decision to try Fastmail again.

And you know what? It just worked.

Well, that’s an overstatement. It didn’t just work, because my domain provider had to alter their API to make room for the crazy TXT entries I needed to add to the DNS to avoid spam issues and whatnot, but that’s not Fastmail’s fault. If I’d moved my domain to Fastmail, things would’ve been easier, but I didn’t want to do that, despite them surely being a competent DNS service. If you’re going to move your domain to Fastmail, but want to keep the domain someplace else, you need to be familiar with altering DNS settings. I am, but it was bothersome nonetheless.

The result? I get more spam than I got with Google Apps, but it’s manageable. I use IMAP so I won’t have to use the less than stellar, but functional, web interface, so no difference there. There’s even push for iOS now. We use the Fastmail calendar at Odd Alice, and every employee has an Odd Alice mail powered by Fastmail. Whenever I need to manage accounts, I cringe, because the administrative panels, beyond the simple settings, are horrible and confusing.

Fastmail is expensive, but I don’t mind, I think it’s worth it. Email is the centre of the internet, no matter how much some people doesn’t want it to be. It’s where you reset your passwords, and the primary mode of communication. Not for Odd Alice, or any of my project, internally obviously – that’s what Slack and Quip are for, but for everything else. I have no issues with email, and as of the last years, I have no issues with Fastmail either.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.