Self-hosting email in 2016 is still hard

You can pretty easy host your own blog with either wordpress or now ghost, but we have not seen a similar thing yet to happen to email and that is weird!

A lot of people go out of the way to host their own servers, that is super difficult, so we go with the next best, somebody who provide a virtual server like Amazon Cloud Services. If you ask people that use EC2 if they would use a Platform as a Service most would say no! But with email it is different, why? People will happily recommend Google Apps, which had a freemium, but that have ended, and pay $5 per user per month. I bet a lot of startups use more money on hosted email than cloud hosting!

But what if you don’t have $5 per user per month, which is quite an expense if it is not a company, but maybe just your family or your local meetup group, how do you do that?

Why is self hosting emails difficult?

Spam is no doubt the first that comes to mind, but SpamAssassin is a great tool from Apache that fights that and it is free. The next thing is about emails ending in the spam folder, but that can be managed easier today with a lot of DNS records, actually the same you have to provide with a hosted solution. Last is backup, but that is also hard with hosted solutions, do you trust their backup solution?

But what are the alternative?

Linode has a guide if you want to do it yourself, check it out:
https://www.linode.com/docs/email/postfix/email-with-postfix-dovecot-and-mysql

It is a tutorial with +70 steps and you have not even set up a web interface!

But is there then a complete solution?

mailcow, http://www.mailcow.email/

Looks promising, but if look at the install.sh it certainly does a lot for you! A bit an information how to take a backup is missing. No docker support out of the box.
Supports Let’s Encrypt!

poste.io, https://poste.io/

The installation is a docker run command and it looks nice, however the admin panel is a paid solution.

mail-in-a-box, https://mailinabox.email/

Another really simple installation, no docker support by default. Uses ownCloud Contact manager which is nice!
Supports Let’s Encrypt

iRedMail, http://www.iredmail.org/

The download page is a tar, which is nice, but adds another step. Did not try it. Features look nice.

Are you (Kevin) self hosting your email?

No, not yet, I really want to and I hope I will because it is liberating to not be relying on a service where you account can disappear the next day:
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12163892

and all your other accounts relies on your primary email as your identity. If your email account gets suspended or hacked because of a leak, the can take over your life!


Do you self-host your email? I would love to hear you experience in the comments!

Also check out this cool list of neatly group services you can self host! https://github.com/Kickball/awesome-selfhosted

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