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Our poll says you’re sticking to your ISP’s email

Snail formed from Ethernet cable and @ sign

Following a poll of well over 1,500 voters on Which? Conversation, you’ve (somewhat worryingly) told us that your broadband provider’s email service is the way to go. But are you taking too big a risk?

I didn’t think that email accounts were such a controversial subject – but you’ve shown us on Which? Convo that indeed they are.

Our broadband expert Ceri Stanaway brought forward the argument that sticking with your internet provider’s (ISP) email service locks you into their broadband. And it’s a strong point – would you want to switch providers if it meant leaving your email behind?

You’re sticking to your ISP account

Although many of us have more than one email account, we asked what you use as your main email service. We had 1,761 responses and 55% of the vote went to ISP emails.

Ceri advised everyone to use a web-based account, since it’s totally independent of your broadband – and thankfully this came in second with 30% of the vote. As for the rest, 14% have set up their own domain name, and just 1% use their work, school or college account.

It doesn’t surprise me that so few voted for the last option, since although I too use my work’s email account, it certainly isn’t my main one. But why are so many sticking to their ISP’s email?

Fat sam put it well: ‘I would dearly love to leave Virgin Media – but as they also have my email address they have me by the jacob’s crackers.’

Should ISPs be forced to redirect email?

The topic first came to our attention via a reader who had lost his email address after the closure of the ISP UK Online. And let’s just say, losing your main email account is beyond annoying – not only is it the email all your friends and families know, it’s the email you use for online banking, purchasing from online retailers and no doubt much more.

Xrayspex pointed out that some ISPs, like O2 and AOL, let you keep your email account when you leave their broadband service. But there’s still a risk when your email is linked to your ISP. It’s something that commenter Mick thinks should be legislated against, as has been done with mobile phone numbers:

‘People were discouraged from changing mobile supplier because they couldn’t take their number with them, this made it anti-competitive, so why can’t an ISP be forced to set up an email forwarder for, say, a 12-month period, if you move ISP?’

Buying your own domain name

However, many of you felt that even a webmail service could be closed down. I personally feel that my emails are secure with both Microsoft (Hotmail) and Google (Gmail), but your comments did tempt me to think about buying my own domain name.

‘I think it’s best to use a personal domain name,’ explains Tim. ‘That way, you will not be adversely affected if the webmail provider decides to do something you don’t like, or ceases to exist – which I agree is hardly likely for Google or Microsoft, but you never know! Your own domain is very cheap, and makes you complete master of your universe.’

So maybe I’ll set up a posh sounding email (like patrick@steen.com). But whether you’ve chosen your own domain name or a webmail account, solely using your ISP’s email is risky business. Sure, it may be unlikely that they’ll suddenly close down, but don’t you want the freedom to switch providers? Or maybe you think that ISPs should be forced to provide an email forwarding service?

Penelope B says:
5 January 2011

Setting up email adresses is sometimes a nightmare. Google let’s you use your own domain through their system & is easy to set up. You can access emails forwarded to a gmail account from the mail programme on your pc, mac, iPad, Blackberry etc as well as through the web browsers on the same devices. Once verified you own the email they let you send emails as if it was from the domain you own. Flexibility & ease of set up (with simple instructions) are the key things.

There is really quite a lot of choice available for getting emails already:

If you dont intend changing ISP and a change of email address isnt a major issue then use your ISP .

For a bit more independence open a webmail account (or 2) eg Gmail, Yahoo. You can even get the emails forwarded to your ISP one.

Next stage is to buy a domain name ( £6 for 2 years) which will provide loads of emails addresses which you can usually forward to you webmail or ISP email address. If you change ISP you just have to change the forwarding setting.

Or for even more control subscribe to an Email service ( ~£14 pa) and access your emails through a webmail interface or an Email client like Outlook or Thunderbird. You can change ISP without any affect on your email .

For most people having at least 1 webmail address is a very good idea for use when shopping or on forums – easy to dispose of if you have security or SPAM issues.

Tom Hawkins says:
30 January 2011

Could Which? review domain and email hosting providers, and produce a guide on what you need to do to set up your own ISP-independent email address? I’m pretty expert on most internet matters but find it tough to figure out exactly what I need to shop for when it comes to hosting services. Meanwhile there are lots of sites claiming to ‘review’ hosting providers but I’m not sure of their independence…

Graham says:
14 April 2011

Please can I repeat Tom’s request for a Which? review of e-mail providers? I am currently miffed (the polite version) with my ISP provider whose problems has stopped my e-mail working again. I would like to move to an independent provider but haven’t got a clue where to start. I see the comments on Hotmail and Gmail, but as proved in countless other Which? reviews, the market leaders are not necessarily the best.

Graham says:
19 April 2011

Patrick – many thanks. You’re timing is perfect.

Link is not working

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A bit late to this conversation, but my info might be of interest (even help).

I have established several I/net Domains (quite inexpensive to do), each of which has a small number of email redirects as standard. On a small number of the domains I’ve taken extended email redirect capability (another small charge). On these, I’ve set up a number of email addresses for myself, family and friends. These redirects route to whatever primary email address individuals are using at any given time. My own email addresses route to my ISP email address(es) and I use Windows Live Mail on my PCs (other products on mobile devices).

I find that this works very well. If I should need or wish to change ISP, then I simply have to change my domain-based redirects and also the accounts in Windows Live Mail etc. In addition to providing fully personalised email addresses, using my own domains also allows me to establish a few “anonymous” addresses, which can be useful in helping avoid spam and the like. Just another barrier level if not a total defence, of course.

Registering a domain name is a little bit like getting a cherished car number. In addition to providing a personalised feature/service, if it’s a good one, it might well appreciate a little in “resale” value too.

Tom Hawkins says:
14 October 2011

This is exactly the sort of setup I’d like John. Can you tell me who you use for the redirection please, assuming you’re happy with their service?

Tom – there are a number of outfits offering similar services, but take a look at UK2.net through whom I have set up my personal Domains. I only use them for domain hosting to lock-in my chosen names and provide email addresses, as I don’t currently require any of the other server-based facilities that they can provide. You can use their site to search for availability of domain names that you fancy and go from there.

Registration and annual hosting charges vary with Domain type, but all are pretty small given the benefits to be derived. For an additional small annual fee, you can extend the basic number of email addresses to a list of up to 500 (I think) per name, so plenty of latitude there! I used to help run a small car club and registered the club’s name as a domain, providing unique club-related email addresses for all the members – that was cool. You can even set up unique addresses to route to any of your contacts, that only you use, for personal convenience – as you’ll know, some people have more complex email addresses than they do passwords!

The UK2.net site has been upgraded and improved several times over thye years since I started and it’s now very clear and easily navigated, so enjoy the journey. I’m sure you’ll find what you want. Cheers.

Just trying to find more recent threads, but I am with Orange email (or one of it’s predecessors fsnet.co.uk, which some will know closes for good as an email provider at the end of May 2017. I dislike Gmail (too many adds & spam) and looking for a decent alternative….

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I very much appreciate your reply – I found a great article in the Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/technology/askjack/2017/mar/23/freeserve-wanadoo-orange-email-addresses-ee-closing
I want privacy and security; and hate the way that Google/Gmail etc., seem to track you more than GCHQ! But would Office 365 Personal be any different? I’m not an ‘app’ man and straightforward ‘Outlook Express’ type email is all I want!

The above article and comments have high lighted the problem that 6000 of us will have when Which closes its ISP in May. I have used which as my main email account for the past 25 years and hence have a big problem. All my banking and business contacts use my which address. People that I haven’t seen for 10-15 know that I can be contacted by my which address. I really think that Which should think again on how the closure of the Which email is handled. If another company had the same gungho attitude towards its customers Which would be the first to complain and start a campaign to get the customers a fairer and better deal.

Think again Which its not too late.

I’m not using Which email, but I’ve been meaning to change my provider for years. I’d very much appreciate an update on the advice from 2011 in this thread or a new Which webmail service provider review including how to set up one’s own email domain. I know it can be googled, but I’m not exactly a geek and would hate to have to follow advice found on the internet. I’d also need step-by-step instructions. There was one such Which review about a year ago and Gmail came out as one of the best. I was unable to create a simple Gmail address using my very common name, I’m still stuck with BT Mail as BT is my former ISP. I’ve now been paying £5 a month for the priviledge. It’s basically Yahoo which has been hacked several times and I find its interface pretty useless, so it’s a waste of money. The only reason why I’m sticking with it is that it keeps my old emails, going back a good 10 years which I’d like to migrate. The advice I found was to complicated to follow.

A few years back I suggested Which review email providers. Have heard Which have a best buy email provider but cannot find it. This is essential if we are able to shop around for best price, as with other utilities and not be tied by e-mail address.