Redundant E-mail?

FastMail1, my e-mail provider which I have recommended in the past, has been having a bit of trouble the last few days. Luckily for me, I haven’t been affected at all by these issues, but those who have are not happy.

As far as I can tell, all hosted services go through something like this at times – it sucks for everyone. When I was still with FeedLounge, we had several downtime issues and I tried my best to follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Communicate early and often.
  2. Don’t give time estimates you aren’t 100% certain about.
  3. Tell your users when they can expect another update and give them an update at that time.
  4. Be honest about what happened and the steps you’re taking to prevent it in the future.

FastMail didn’t follow all of these, and most of the frustration I’m seeing in the forums is a result of that.

As I’ve been reading through the forums, I’ve been thinking about ways to reduce my reliance on a single outside vendor for e-mail2, while avoiding the hassle of hosting it myself. A solution I’m considering implementing is fairly simple: have 2 hosted services for my e-mail.

The set-up isn’t complicated.

Right now I still have the MX records for my domains pointing at my own server. This means that e-mail to me comes to my server, then my server sends it on to FastMail3. It is trivial for me to have that e-mail also go to a second mail service.

When sending e-mail from my BlackBerry, I already BCC an address that I have set up in my FastMail account with rules to file messages sent to that address into my Sent Items folder. I could do the same thing with all my e-mail – BCC’ing an address that would get filed into Sent Mail on the backup mail account.

I’d have to do something initially to migrate my existing e-mail over, but if I go somewhere that has a nice IMAP import function like FastMail, that would be fairly trivial too. Really, this part of the puzzle isn’t that important. This would be an “in case of failure” account to use if I ever had to – e-mail insurance if you will. Like all insurance, it’s something you pay every month hoping never to see the money again.

Again, I haven’t had any trouble to speak of with FastMail since I moved over there – though that seems like good fortune in this case. If, over time, I decide that FastMail isn’t reliable enough, it would be simple to switch the two accounts and make my backup account the primary and FastMail my backup account (FastMail is already paid for for the next 5 years).

While considering something like this, I was tempted to take the plunge and go with a hosted Exchange account to give me a better calendaring solution. However MailStreet (which several folks I know use) is $23/month plus a $40 set-up fee and 1-and-1 hasn’t treated my friends very well. More likely I’d use something like TuffMail.

Feel free to add your recommendations for cheaper Exchange hosting (I’d consider $8/month or so) and other e-mail services in the comments.

  1. That link has a referral ID in it for me to get some small credit if you sign up. [back]
  2. Which is mission critical for me. [back]
  3. I realize that this makes my own server a potential problem point, but I actually have some control over it – including being able to replace it quickly if needed. [back]