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Free Email services - Pros & Cons Print

There are so many ways to get a "Free" email address the question is often asked, Why should you get an account from your service provider? The truth is that there are valid arguments both for AND against "free" email services. Before you commit either way, it pays to put some thought into what you need and make the right decision. This article has been written to give you the information you should consider before making that choice.


If you want to sign up for additional Virtual Access email addresses, login to My Account and select the email option to lodge your requests.



Free Email Pro #1 - Portability


The primary benefit of free email accounts is simply to offer portability - the ability to move between access providers or methods - to people who don't have their own Internet domain. Domain based email addresses are easily moved between ISPs and servers, but most email addresses (like @ virtual.net.au) addresses are tied to specific ISP servers. If you change providers you can't take them with you, although you may be able to arrange temporary forwarding to a new address if you move.



Free Email Pro #2 - Useful for temporary needs, easily discarded, useful for junk mail


Have you ever been filling in an online form, and wondered if this means that your email address will be used for advertising campaigns? Responsible companies will respect your privacy, and provide options to choose the kind of email you may receive in future. However, if you find that you need to provide an email address and you're not sure if it will be abused in future, establishing a free email account to receive that mail might be a good option. It will stop your main email address from becoming cluttered up with junk mail. Because it's a free service, it doesn't cost you anything to establish, and you can always ignore the account. It will probably get deleted if it falls inactive.



Free Email Pro #3 - World-wide access, no configuration


Web-Based free email services offer an easy way to access your email from any computer with a web browser without needing to configure software for your email server. However, the Virtual Access WebMail service provides the same functionality. This service is also free.



Free Email Con #1 - Advertising


None of the "free" email services is truly free. The services cost many thousands of dollars to provide every month, and costs are paid for by advertising. This advertising will be targeted to you based on the information you provide to create your free account, and displayed on every screen of information you see while logged into the service. While we have all become accustomed to this kind of advertising, it does slow down your work.



Free Email Con #2 - Web-Only Access


Because the free services need to get their advertising "in your face", they will generally only provide their services through your web browser. If you want to get email downloaded to your computer for future reference while you're off-line, you will probably need to manually forward each message you would like to retain to your service provider account, and then download it. Again, this can be very time consuming.



Free Email Con #3 - Spam targets


Because of the popularity of free services, many email addresses are already taken. This means that not only are you unlikely to be able to register your address of choice, it also means that it is fairly easy for junk mail senders (spammers) to GUESS at your free email address based on the addresses of others. This makes free addresses an easy target for unwanted mail effectively thwarting any efforts you make to stop this kind of mail. The best defence against this kind of abuse is to choose obscure addresses (that don't end in numbers) if at all possible.



Free Email Con #4 - Limited support


If you have a problem with your free email service, you may find it difficult to obtain any help. Most of the services provide help information through their web site only. Email requests for assistance are likely to be met with an automated response referring you back to the web pages or offering complex instructions for getting help. Providing help costs money, and doing it for free - especially on a large scale - just doesn't make sense. Some companies do provide a phone number, but these are likely to be international or 1-900 numbers.



Free Email Con #5 - Limited message size, mailbox size


Because of the sheer number of accounts that people create on free services, strict limits generally apply to the amount of mail your account can store and also the size of individual messages. Some of these limits are a few megabytes each - compared to up to 30 Megabytes on your Virtual Access accounts.


This means that many messages with files attached will fail to reach you at a free email address, being returned to the person who sent them.



Free Email Con #6 - Performance problems


We observe that the performance of some free email services isn't always 100%. Sometimes messages sent through the free services will be delayed in delivery due to server backlogs, or at other times, the services may not accept incoming messages from other servers. These delays are generally caused by excess demand for service and often pass fairly quickly - but if they're delaying important messages, it really won't matter to you what the problem is being caused by. Finding out the cause is difficult (or impossible) because of the lack of support. Generally, details of faults, delays or other problems won't be made public either.



Free Email Con #7 - Lack of professionalism


This really applies to the use of free email services for business or work-related activities. Regular Internet users know who the free email providers are - most of these services "tag" messages you send with another ad anyway. Simply, using a free email service for professional purposes generally says "cheap and possibly unreliable" in lots of ways. If you're using email in support of your livelihood, don't spend nothing on it. While not all people will react, some will - and they may be the people you're out to impress.