If you are not in the mood for a story, feel free to jump to the FastMail review section down below.
Since I had my first Gmail account in 2006, over the years I have registered many more. Plus other Outlook and Office365 emails. I always wanted a centralised place online to access all the accounts but I never found a solution that I liked.
Recently a Telegram bot became popular among online Chinese communities, it can query all the leaked personal data based on emails, website usernames, and mobile numbers etc. I have always known that things are being leaked online via various hacks but I never thought it is this serious.
It had everything! My passwords, security questions, emails, mobile numbers, national identity number (of China) and rough locations I have surfed the internet over the years when I was in China.
The conclusion I came to after that: to guarantee personal data security in this era
- For every service and website, different emails and passwords shall be used.
- Security questions should also be dynamically generated passwords that are stored in a password manager.
I have been using LastPass for a long time so the password part is solved already. When it comes to email, not so much.
I have about 15 emails addresses currently with Gmail and Outlook/Office365. One of the Gmail accounts is still the free legacy GSuite plan and is bind to a custom domain of mine. The problem with that domain is that it is a .US domain that doesn't support privacy protection and has to expose my personal contact information in WHOIS databases.
Therefore the plan was to
- Get a new, not-too-long, cheap domain that supports WHOIS guard
- Switch to a PAID email service for the custom domains and manage all email accounts in one single place. Then gradually change all emails to the custom ones.
FastMail seems to be a good choice. After trialling it for less than a day, I select the Standard plan and started migrating all my email accounts and setup.
Here are my takes:
- Emails from 15 Gmail and Outlook/Office365 accounts were imported. Can not import iCloud emails, only contacts and calendars. The migration processes were smooth.
Using Other Emails in One Place
- IMAP and SMTP can be set up automatically when importing email accounts.
- IMAP default poll interval is 1 hour when the web interface is not open. It's a bit long. So I changed all email accounts to forwarding, this allows me to set up rules to mark them as read as well.
- IMAP settings can be disabled without deleting them.
- Note that if an email is marked as spam in the original email account, it won't be forwarded. Since normally spam are deleted in 30 days, there is a slight chance of losing important emails. Very slight...
- Since SMTP was set up during import, you still can send emails with those accounts.
- FastMail is not fast... It is not slow, but the web interface is sometimes stuck. iOS app seems to be an advanced web app so sometimes it loads for a while. That being said, it's not an issue. It's fast enough, just not lightning fast.
- I set up 2 custom domains. One of them has DNS servers set to FastMail's so the setup was really easy. And since they manage the DNS, it makes setup easier for other features too like sub-domains and websites etc...
- This was a surprise to me since I didn't know they had this feature. Basically allows you to host static websites under your custom domains or your FastMail accounts. When DNS is managed by them as mentioned above, no CNAME setup is required at all. With just a few clicks, the website is up.
- Not much use for me at this point, but I am sure this would come in handy one day.
Labels v.s. Folders
- You can choose to use Labels or Folders. I chose Labels since I like to mark emails with multiple labels and labels can be nested too so still support a tree structure.
- I used about 6GB for all emails. The Standard plan comes with 30GB, which should be enough for me for the next few decades...
- The setup on iPhone was just a scan of a QR code! It sets up email, calendar, contacts, notes and reminders altogether. So I can replace all the Google services on the phone which is great. However I couldn't find reminders from iOS on the web interface, so I disabled the feature on iPhone.
- Haven't tested other email clients yet but I guess they should all work fine?
Labelling wildcard emails use To address
- One of the main benefits of having a custom domain email for me is to be able to use any email address with that domain and all the emails go into one single mailbox. It is very handy so I can use different email addresses for different services/websites without any pre-setup required.It does create a challenge to identify which email is for which address when looking at the mailbox. So in Google, I built App Scripts to automatically label incoming emails with the email address from To address.FastMail doesn't support this out of the box. However, they do support the Sieve code and it seems to be powerful enough to do the things I wanted. The problem is that I have never heard of it before and am still figuring out how to write the script. I am also trying to get help from their Support for this. Anyway, this wouldn't be a big issue if it can't be done automatically. I can always manually set up the rules afterwards.
Updates: Fastmail support actually helped me with the Sieve code that's required and it does exactly what I wanted!
Couldn't figure out a way to search for emails without any labels assigned yet...Use "in:Archive" in search would give all emails with any labels!
- There was one time in iOS, old emails that are irrelevant show up in front in search results. Couldn't replicate on the web or the 2nd day in iOS. Could be a bug...
- Got a reply overnight, although my question was misunderstood, which could be my bad... Anyway, the response time is good.
- Updates: they actually helped me with the Sieve code that implements the custom feature I wanted, very nice and helpful!
Overall, I am happy with what I have so far. The Standard plan costs about 76 AUD a year which is very inexpensive. I didn't mention anything about security and privacy because, to be honest, there is no way for me to verify, just have to take their words for it.
The only thing left for me to do now is to change all emails in different services and websites. I think this is going to take a while, 10 years maybe...
Updates: been using it for almost two months now, still happy.