Looking to switch email hosts? Ask yourself these important questions.

We just switched hosting for a client’s email and it hasn’t gone, uh, smoothly. Basically, it was a question of eduction and expectations. But also, we techies forget that people don’t really understand (or care) how email works and how much work it can be to switch email hosting providers.

If you don’t use contacts, don’t care about old email and are ready to switch email hosts, it can be a snap! If not, then, well, not.

If you don't use contacts, don't care about old email and are ready to switch email hosts, it can be a snap! If not, then, well, not.

Don’t use webmail at all? Things will be easier.

If you are looking to improve your email service, I can highly recommend Google Apps for Work. In fact, I don’t recommend anything else. If you’ like to switch to something else, great, have a ball, but I can’t recommend it. For me, it’s Google Apps or nothing.

Still, you have to get there. You have to leave your old, safe, well known, understood home of email hosting. Where you’ve probably had your email for ages. Maybe you have years of archived emails, even the trash is overflowing, rotting and not taken out for years. Ah, but you know the system and maybe even use their antiquated contacts database. It’s all good … but not that good. You’re ready to switch.

Here are a few questions to think about just so you understand what’s going to happen. It’s really quite a bit like moving your home including telling the postman that you’re leaving.

  1. Webmail: did you use the web interface of the old email? If so, are your old email there?
  2. Local email client: did you (also?) use an email client such as Outlook, Apple Mail or Thunderbird? Or, heavens me, Eudora?
  3. Archives: where are your old emails? This depends on what you did with questions 1 and 2, but there’s a simple solution IF you don’t care about your old email.
  4. Contacts: did you use the contact system of the webmail?
  5. Devices: where did yo get the old mail? PC? Mac? Phone? Tablet? All of the above?
  6. IMAP/POP: do you know if you used IMAP or POP to retrieve your mail? Basically, IMAP syncs everything so it’s all the same on all devices whereas POP downloads mail so it’s removed from the server (and sometimes other devices).
  7. Downtime: when you switch, expect at least a few hours of downtime. You might not lose any mail if you’re lucky, but still don’t plan on switching the day you’re waiting to hear from the doctor if it’s a girl or a boy.

I’m not using this post to give you all of the answers, but more questions to ask. Just know that switching email hosts is a lot like moving. You clean out the fridge for the first time in years and find out that it’s been more than just dust bunnies living in the coils. Surprise!

Think about your switch and what you use and what you don’t, what you want to use and what you won’t, even what you’d like to have and what you don’t care about. Then take a deep breath, add a dollop of patience, and roll with it.