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Why I still host my emails myself

Electronic mail (email or e-mail) is a method of exchanging messages ("mail") between people using electronic devices. Email entered limited use in the 1960s, but users could only send to users of the same computer, and some early email systems required the author and the recipient to both be online simultaneously, similar to instant messaging. Ray Tomlinson is credited as the inventor of email; in 1971, he developed the first system able to send mail between users on different hosts across the ARPANET, using the @ sign to link the user name with a destination server. By the mid-1970s, this was the form recognized as email. Recently I have seen a fair amount of talk about email in general and self-hosting email ( Email is not broken, Email is broken and Why I no longer host my emails myself ). I started selfhosting email using kolab almost 7 years ago now and I would never go back to the bad old days of hosted email.

Using a well respected email stack/package like mailinabox, modoboa, mailcow or docker-mailserver is easy. They come with all the bells and whistles with very little low level stuff you need to configure yourself.

Some of the Advantages

Sieve Filters

Why so many providers refuse to provide something as simple and powerful as Sieve filters I'll never know. See wikipedia for an overview but basically it's the filters you have in Outlook and Thunderbird but on the server and with more options.

Backups

Many will tell you this is a disadvantage to selfhosting your own emails. I vehemently disagree, being able to backup your own emails without having to deal with the IMAP protocol saves you from countless headaches. You have to do backups for your install but you also get to backup for when you inevitably delete that one important email from 5 years ago.

Infinite email addresses

People pay for this service and praise google for allowing the . in email addresses allowing you to classify incoming emails based on the address used. Some nice examples are [email protected], [email protected]. If you have multiple accounts you can also do . addresses like [email protected] or [email protected]

No storage limits

1 gig email boxes? silly in this day and age. I just buy a new hard drive.

Some of the Disadvantages

Spam

Honestly this is a solved problem for the most part, the big issue most people have is they don't train the filter. I more or less use: Dovecot: Anti spam With Sieve

  • With infinite email addresses and Sieve filters you can easily move untrusted emails into specific folders while
  • Spamassassin when properly trained catches a large number of spam emails
  • Using Postscreen for greylisting along with the great Postwhite script I found I could drop drive-by spam emails by a massive amount whilst still receiving the majority of important emails quickly.

Deliverability

The main argument against selfhosting email is deliverability and set-up time. Deliverability is a pain thanks to Google and Microsoft ignoring standards and generally being bad digital neighbors.

The simplest solution is to go with a partial selfhosted solution. Receive all your emails on your own server but send your emails through a SMTP relay such as Mailgun or Amazon SES

Or You can follow best practices and after warming up your IP address with a good volume of emails send them yourself.

  • Don't send from a residential IP
  • rDNS (PTR)
  • DKIM - dkim.org
  • SPF - spfwizard.net
  • Valid SSL (i.e. Letsencrypt)
  • Add a MTA-STS record - Tutorial.
  • DMARC - dmarc.org
  • Send emails dual format, "Plain and Rich (html) text" when possible Thunderbird. - Google is picky about this one.
  • Avoid formatted links like google link instead use unformated links https://google.com
  • Sign up for Google postmaster tools
  • Sign up for Microsoft's SNDS

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