It just makes me cringe when someone in business sends me an email and instead of their domain, they have @comcast.net or even worse, @aol.com. That to me screams they're either clueless or they just don't care. Most common lame excuse: "I've had this address for a long time and it would be too much work to change."
That's a pretty bad attitude if you're using email for business.
There is a good reason to use a service like gMail and you can configure it so that your domain (website) continues to get the branding visibility it requires.
Let's start with some email basics. There are two ways to store mail.
- On the server (a.k.a IMAP)
- On your hard drive (a.k.a POP)
Good example of a POP account would be when you install Thunderbird to your laptop. Each time you connect to your account, it drains the messages from your web server and dumps everything into a local inbox on your hard drive.
Benefit: Your web server inbox should never fill. Once you download your mail, you can perform a backup. Drawback: If you need to get to your mail when you are without your laptop, then you're stuck reading only the new stuff.
Using an IMAP type of account (which means mail stays on the server) you can use what's called a "web client" to read/reply.
Benefit: You can generally get your email from any web connected browser. If it's your web server, you can schedule backups to run every day without you even thinking about it.
Drawbacks: Some web clients suck; Some office networks block access to ports where web clients run; Some web clients don't allow you to change the reply-to address. Some (actually most) free web services have no customer service. If one morning you wake up to find your mail all gone, it may in fact, be all gone. In some cases, you can't do backups of your mail.
Rather than listing all the web clients that suck, and for the sake of keeping this concise, I'll stick to gMail -- which doesn't suck. If any of the following apply to you, then a gMail switch is worthy of consideration:
1. Your current server has an inbox limit that's low and people send you huge files that can cause "inbox full" error messages. (or you just never delete anything, which will eventually produce the same condition)
2. Your current web client makes you want to kick something
3. You use Outlook (or any other email product) locally and realize it's not a good solution because you need to get your mail when you're not at your PC.
4. Your office network has ports blocked (it's a security thing) so you can't get to your mail.
Assuming one of the above apply to you, here's how you can use gMail to make things better:
Step 1 - Create a gMail account (simple enough) You can pick any cryptic email name you want as you'll not be showing that to clients anyway.
Step 2 - After you login, go to Settings
Step 3 - Click the Account tab
Step 4 - Edit Info
Step 5 - Set your name to First name/Phone number. Make it really simple for people to call you. Then change the reply-to so it matches your address from your website.
Now all that's left is to create what's called a forward account on your website. If you have access to your own control panel, it will look something like this:
(If you don't have cPanel type access to your account, you may need to contact your hosting company to help set the forwarder)
Remember that if you are having full inbox issues on your server to delete your existing account. (Of course, only do this after you have drained all your email from it first!) And by the way, there is no simple way to transfer all your old email to gMail -- so you'll need to consider this your fresh start. One more thing, if you store your address book online, make sure you export that data too! (that can be imported into gMail with little effort)
Now people will be able to write you via you@your_domain.com, which will immediately bounce to gMail. When you reply from there, they will see YourName/Phone number in the From line and when they hit reply, it will go back to your_domain.com. (They will be able to see the message was sent from gMail but as long as you have configured the reply-to with your domain, you'll have accomplished your goal of keeping your domain in front of them.)