Choose an email client: the webmail option


The Rainloop email client.

So, over the past few weeks, we’ve been taking a look at how you can improve and secure your email experience as a startup. In other words, if, like me, you don’t want to cede control of your email experience to a third party like Google Apps or your web hosting provider. We’ve already looked at my mail server recipe, setting up TLS authentication using StartSSL certificates, and setting up SPF, DKIM, and DMARC records.In this article, we now take a look at the choices of email user agents available to you.

In the world of email, if we simplify the process a bit, there are three important software programs involved in sending and receiving email.

  1. A Mail transfer agent is this software which is responsible for the transfer and routing of your emails from you to your recipient. It also receives your emails and forwards them to your intended destination. Examples include Postfix, Exim, and Sendmail.
  2. A Mail delivery agent is that software that delivers your emails to your local inbox. An example is Dovecot.
  3. A Mail User Agent it is the software with which a real end user interfaces with composing, sending and receiving e-mails and managing their contacts. There are traditional MUAs like Thunderbird and Outlook as well as web clients like Roundcube.

With the increase in broadband adoption, every other company has been talking about the cloud and its benefits. Nowadays, web-based email like Gmail is often referred to as cloud-based email instead of the traditional term “webmail”. Today we’re going to take a quick look at some of the more popular web / cloud email clients you can use to join the cloud movement. In the next episode, we’ll have quick guides on how you can configure some of them.

Webmail offers some advantages over traditional email clients. For example, it allows members and employees of your startup to access emails anywhere, including the few remaining internet cafes without the need to install email software. They can even use their multifunction phones and Opera Mini to easily and inexpensively access e-mail wherever they are. On top of that, using a web mail client will allow you to lock down access to your mail delivery agents and thus thwart those annoying bots.

Customers

They are by no means the only customers, I just chose the most responsive (they work well on mobile and desktop browsers) and popular.

Round cube

Round cube.  Image credit reddit.com
Round cube. Image credit reddit.com
  • A popular, thematic, and free open source webmail client.
  • It has a large install base and thousands of tutorials for it.
  • There are skins you can use to customize it.
  • I fell in love with this webmail after signing up for the free webmail service yo.co.zw during my freshman year in college.

Squirrel mail

Image credit squirrelmail.org
Image credit ucsb.edu
  • Is also open source.
  • It’s ugly and I have never been able to find any skins for it. You can try changing its colors, but in my little experience it’s nowhere as themed as Roundcube.
  • If you don’t mind having an email client that looks like it was made in the days of AOL, you can use Squirrelmail because it is simple, low on resources, and works well.

Rain loop

rainloop_cloud-min

  • Is sleek, modern, and easy to configure.
  • This is my favorite client although you have to pay $ 95 / year if you want to use your personalized branding on the client.
  • The free edition works just as well and gives you a Gmail-like experience that most users expect.
  • It is very responsive and works well on mobiles and desktops.

Afterlogic

Image credit noupe.com
Image credit noupe.com
  • Another modern looking customer.
  • It is open source and free.

For what it’s worth, I prefer rainloop myself. Despite the fact that you have to pay to use your own branding, I find it responsive on mobile phones and prefer it to the others above. If you are not interested in this, you had better choose roundcube as it has a large install base and is constantly serviced. It looks like Squirrelmail hasn’t seen a lot of activity since 2013.

Image credit: clikoi.com


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