A couple of weeks ago, I decided to consolidate all of my personal email accounts into my Gmail account.
Considering that my relationship with Google soured after they killed off Google Reader (yes, I’m still bitter, three years on), this may come as a surprise. Until recently, I only used Google services for my calendar, search, maps and the advertising on this blog. I’d even stopped using Gmail, and had all messages there forwarded to my Outlook.com account. Mail sent to this domain was managed by its own IMAP server.
I’ll explain why I changed my mind in a series of sub-headings.
Gmail’s better spam protection
On my own email server, I had SpamAssassin (albeit without the Bayesian learning system which isn’t set up by default on my host), Pyzor, and the use of Spamhaus‘ blacklists. This still wasn’t enough to prevent spam getting through, and at its worst I was still getting 10-15 messages a day in my inbox. Gmail’s spam filtering is much better, despite a few false positives. For example, an email from my mother was sent to the spam folder as it was about transferring money – I’m guessing Google struggles to tell the difference between my mum and someone purporting to be a Nigerian prince. But over the past couple of weeks, I think there’s only been one spam email that has got through.
Not having to look after my own email server
The email server software offered by my host, Dovecot, is fine, but I’ve had to do things like enable DomainKeys and SPF myself. Ditto for tuning SpamAssassin and installing Pyzor. Outsourcing my email to a third party makes it easier.
I had considered using Google Apps, or Office 365, on my domain, but ran into issues. With Google Apps, you can’t use an email address already associated with a Google account, so I didn’t take that forward, and got stuck trying to enable Office 365’s DNS settings. Whereas I was just able to set up a series of email forwards to send everything to Gmail.
Notifications for important email only
If you turn on Gmail’s Priority Inbox mode, it’ll attempt to sort your email into ‘Important’ and ‘Everything else’. Crucially, that means that Gmail’s mobile apps will only notify you about important messages (if you want), rather than every new email message that isn’t spam. This cuts down the number of distracting notifications on my phone.
One (powerful) inbox to rule them all
By forwarding the email to this domain and from my Outlook.com account (reversing the previous situation), I have all of my personal email in one place. And that one place has decent mobile apps and a powerful web-based interface. By default, my host offers SquirrelMail which is very basic; I have since replaced it with RoundCube but Gmail is still easier to use.
Access to third-party services
With Gmail, I can finally use services like Unroll.me to clean up my inbox (which I’ll eventually devote a separate blog post to), and IFTTT, to name a few. There’s also Inbox by Gmail, which I’ve been trying recently and it’s a very impressive improvement to the basic email inbox. Again, I’ll have to write about it in more detail sometime.
Although I don’t pay for Gmail just yet (and nowadays I’m loathed to rely on services that I’m not paying for), there is a paid-tier of Gmail offering more storage should I require it. However, as I don’t use Google Photos, I’m nowhere near the storage limit for my Google account and so I don’t need to pay for it at present.
For those of you wondering what email address to use, please continue to send messages to firstname.lastname@example.org. This has been my primary email address for well over a decade and I plan to keep it that way. Whilst everything gets forwarded to Gmail, I will still reply to messages using that address, and should Google decide to change Gmail for the worse in future, I’ll be able to port it somewhere else.