Earlier this year, I made the switch from my own email server to Google’s G-suite. After ten months and rising costs, I decided to go back to using my own server. I promptly exported my data and cancelled the monthly subscription.

I’ll start by saying I’m not out to bash Google. G-Suite is a robust solution for businesses, large and small, and I’ve no beef with the company. However, I wasn’t getting enough value out of the subscription to justify the price, which increased this year and is set to increase again next year. Couple that with the falling Aussie dollar, and I felt it was time to do my own thing once more.

G-Suite’s biggest appeal is its email offering and the collaboration provided by Google’s office apps. Back when I decided to switch, my email server was running on end-of-life Ubuntu 14.04 and was experiencing deliverability issues, mostly because I hadn’t bothered to keep up what is considered to be good practices. Faced with the unappetising prospect of building a new server and trying to migrate years of email, I looked to G-Suite to provide a solution for me. I was also interested in trying Google Docs for beta reading.

One problem with G-Suite – and similar services – is the cost increases per user account and domain. I manage several domains, not just for myself, but also for my family and the cost of migrating all of them to Google, was going to get expensive fast.

As for beta reading with Google Docs, that need has not yet eventuated. Partly because the two books I’m working on aren’t yet ready for review, and partly because most of my beta reader prefer to work with MS Word. Even if I do decide to pursue this option, I have a regular Google Docs account that will serve this need just fine.

So, on Sunday, I rolled up my sleeve and spun up a new email server running Ubuntu 18.04 on a DigitalOcean droplet. This took the better part of an afternoon – setting up an email server on Linux isn’t exactly a trivial task and not something I do every day. Nevertheless, as I got stuck into the task, the vagaries of Postfix and Dovecot configuration started to come back to me, and I got things working again.

Unlike the last time, I spent the time to make sure I was using DKIM to help keep the server off blacklists. So far it seems to be working well, and I’ve had no issue in mail being delivered to Gmail and Hotmail accounts. Fingers crossed that holds, but I’ll keep my eye out for changing security requirements and best practice.

The daunting task of migration was made much less painless than I anticipated thanks to a project I stumbled across called ImapSync. Building it on Ubuntu is a bit of a pain, but once done I found it to be very reliable and fast (well, fast when migrating account’s between DigitalOcean’s screaming faster network).

Is this something you should do?

No.

Setting up and maintaining an email server is not for the faint of heart. If you’re a solo writer/creator running your business online, there are much easier options out there. Even if you need a domain-specific email address to use with services like Mailchimp and MailerLite, I recommend you look into Zoho, Fast Mail, G-Suite or Office365 before you even contemplate a DIY option.

Your own email server will save you money, especially if you manage lots of domains and accounts, but it won’t necessarily save you time.

Also, email isn’t as important as it once was thanks to social media, instant messaging and Discord. A lot of writers I know rely on nothing more than their Twitter account and a cloud email account such as Gmail. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

That said, I still like email, and I’ll admit that I like being able to control my own email experience, as I do with my website.

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash .


Chris Rosser

Chris Rosser is the author of The Lords of Skeinhold fantasy series. He is a technical writer, web developer and blogger living in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife and three kids.

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