My email service (Dreamhost) sucks. Help!

By | April 27, 2011

A few years ago, I stopped running my email and web server out of my house.  I was tired of paying for the electricity and the static IP address.  I wanted to switch to FiOS which doesn’t allow me to host off of port 80.  I was sick of keeping my desktop computer ON ALL THE TIME.  I didn’t like the noise of the computer on.  And the room the computer was in got hot.  (Nice in the winter, but not as nice in the summer.)

So I paid Dreamhost a very small amount of money.  (If you’re interested, I pay them around $150/year.)  But Dreamhost really wants to get out of the email business.

Sending email. Checking Email. Delays. Spam. Filtering. Email forwarding. Mailing lists. Announcement lists. Archiving email. Automatic Emails. Form-to-email. Catch-alls. URGH!

It’s enough to make a poor host want to give up on providing it at all!

In November Dreamhost switched my spam filtering setup which worked nearly 100% of the time to one that doesn’t appear to work at all.  I complained to their support, but got this in response:

The following wiki page has details on how you can edit your spam settings:
http://wiki.dreamhost.com/Junk_Mail

From that page I can set blacklists and whitelists.  Ugh.  So I responded back:

Hmm… This page allows me to manage white/black lists for email addresses. But that’s not really going to help at all.

They agreed that it sucks:

Correct, blacklists don’t really work well. It’s best if you lower your threshold to 0 or 1, and use whitelists extensively. Make sure you’re using the “reply-to” from a message, and not just the “from”.

So the option is to only receive mail from people I remember to add to the whitelist, or to get spam.  WRONG.

So how do others handle this?  I’m looking for a email host that allows me to completely control my email, won’t advertise to me or track me, and has reasonable spam handling.  Help?

28 thoughts on “My email service (Dreamhost) sucks. Help!

  1. Jon Smirl

    Gmail.
    Gmail for domains.

    It is free and web based.

    I am in the process of moving our web site from dreamhost to Google App Engine too. Although my gmail experience has been better than the GAE one. GAE still has hiccups.

    Even dreamhost is encouraging you to use google apps.
    You can also move management of your domain over to Google for $10/yr.

  2. Jer

    I’ve used both Google Apps mail and Fusemail for business and personal email. They’re both great, but if you’re looking for a more traditional IMAP / LDAP integration with desktop mail clients, check out Fusemail – I pay $120/year for 5 accounts (100GB storage for each). The spam filters have always work more or less perfectly for me.

    http://www.fusemail.com

    They’ll also host your DNS for free so you don’t need a separate provider to setup MX records.

  3. Rodney Dawes

    I run my own mail server, since I have lots of different e-mail addresses, hate gmail (and anything else web really), and want everything in one place. Having dovecot+spamassassin+fetchmail is total win.

    It does suck when I’m 6000 miles away and something dumb happens at home though, like storm knocking the power out long enough for the UPS to die, or the kernel suddenly deciding my server should go to sleep. But otherwise, it’s been working great for me for years now. 🙂

  4. Anonymous

    I *highly* recommend Gandi. I pay $15/year for my domain, and with that I get email. Works perfectly.

  5. Andrew

    Does google/gmail reallycut it with this requirement:

    “…to completely control my email, won’t advertise to me or track me…”

  6. Dennis Krul

    Google already knows too much about me and I don’t like to give up that last bit of internet privacy that is my inbox. You might feel different, in which case it’s a nice solution.

    If you want full control and privacy: Order a virtual private server somewhere and setup postfix+amavisd+dovecot. (Shameless plug: We have VPS plans from 6,95 euros/month 😉

    If you want email “that just works”: fastmail.fm (now owned by Opera). I don’t have experience with their services, but I read their blog and they seem to be doing a great job.

  7. admin Post author

    So I don’t need email to “just work.” Dreamhost used to allow me to use procmail+spamassassin with bayes+dovecot which required me to tune things manually sometimes.

    I can easily switch to gmail for domains, but I like being in more control of my data.

    Gandi sounds interesting, but it would be a complete hosting provider switch, yes? (Not a problem, but requires a lot more exploration to make sure they can handle my limited needs.)

    Tilaa looks VERY interesting. $122/yr for a VPS host that lets me customize my own email. Not bad!

  8. Shaun McCance

    I use FastMail. $20/year for a reliable IMAP account. They’ve also got a webmail interface that integrates with IMAP. I don’t care for webmail in general, but it’s handy sometimes to check your email from a public terminal.

    I don’t deal with spam as aggressively as you, I think, so I don’t know how well their services will meet your needs. I know there is an option for custom spam filtering, but I haven’t used it. Some docs here:

    https://www.fastmail.fm/help/spam_virus_protection.html

  9. admin Post author

    I think email has changed since I last thought about it. Looking around, it seems ISPs are filtering based on something called “SenderScore” which rates the likelihood of an email from a domain being spam. As an example, my outgoing email goes through Dreamhost. Dreamhost uses this machine to send the email:

    madmax.dreamhost.com (caiajhbdcbbj.dreamhost.com
    [208.97.132.119])

    Going to senderscore.org and entering the IP address “208.97.132.119” shows:
    Deliverability Accepted Rate: 79.99 % HIGH RISK

    Ouch.

    Checking gmail (74.125.83.175) shows:
    Deliverability Accepted Rate: 96.19 % Medium Risk

    I’m not sending out bulk email. But it does seem worthwhile to send from a host that can actually deliver mail.

  10. Rodney Dawes

    Wow. SenderScore seems like the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

    Dreamhost also has VPS now, but I don’t know how much it would be for you to use that.

  11. Hub

    I really need to find an alternative to Dreamhost for the mail. Even server side filtering they don’t do. I’d have no problem hosting at home if that was not for each time the server decide to go in the fritz… or the modem to die :-/

    And no I won’t recommend Gmail either. I hate Gmail web and their IMAP suck even more.

  12. Peter

    FastMail seems like a good choice: http://fastmail.fm/

    Cyrus IMAP (they actually contribute back patches), Sieve mail filters, Jabber/XMPP, custom domains, LDAP address book, sub-addressing, …

  13. foo

    How about a plug computer? Uses much less power, you can turn off your desktop and you have control.

  14. pixelpapst

    One more strong endorsement of fastmail here. They seem to be having many users like me, power-users who previously ran their own mail system with all the bells and whistles, and manage to keep pretty much all of them happy during and after the migration.
    I switched to them 1.5 years ago and don’t think I’ll even _question_ my email hosting needs again anytime this decade.

  15. pixelpapst

    Oh, and if you go for fastmail, check out their family account, it gives you a bit more flexibility to grow and shrink with your daily needs.

  16. Ploum

    I have my own provider, Fritalk (see http://fritalk.com/ ) and I do rebate for FOSS contributors but I’m not sure I fulfill all your need.

    Contact me if you are interested though.

  17. Anonymous

    @admin: Not sure what you meant by “a complete hosting provider switch”; you don’t have to move your hosting to Gandi to have a domain and email there.

    (Also, http://www.gandi.net/supports/ )

  18. admin Post author

    Based on all the fastmail testimonials here, I’m giving them a shot now. Two real email accounts (and a number of aliases which do different things) comes out to $45/yr. A little expensive for “just email.” But if it works well, it’s probably worth it.

    Amusingly, my credit card dinged the purchase because it’s not a US company. So far so good though. It’s sucking in all my Dreamhost email, and the web UI is FAST. Once the switch is done, I’ll hook up Evolution and make sure that works.

    Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. (I almost went with the plug computer!)

  19. Eric

    I host at home, and I’m sympathetic to the heat/noise/power complaints – but these days it is possible to really knock that down. I have a mini-itx mobile Atom motherboard which will host sandeen.net someday soon; it spins 4T of storage, and draws only 18W when mostly-idle.

  20. Blair

    How is fast mail working out? Curious, since I’m looking too.

  21. admin Post author

    Fastmail was exactly what I was looking for. The good:

    Webmail is quick and clean. Not as good as gmail, but better than most other webmail interfaces
    * IMAP IDLE support
    * Spamassassin with a nice global database and the ability to use a custom database
    * Configurable
    *
    The bad:

    $20 per year per emailbox is pretty steep when there are lots of free services
    * When you copy or move an email into a folder, it marks it as new EVERY TIME (except for spam folders) with no way to configure that
    *

  22. Benji

    After much research myself, I found that Zoho.com was the best deal. You can have 1 domain attached to one account with 25 email addresses with 5GB of storage each plus 1GB of doc storage for free. Plus unlike gmail there are no ads. Most of their business seems to be big corporates but they’ve been ace thus far and their spam filtering works really well. They walk you through switching over to using their mail servers over the existing dreamhost ones and it was all done in about 10mins (plus the DNS server update time).

    Well worth it.

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