There is no shortage of options if you are looking for free web-based email (simply known as webmail) but choosing the right provider at the outset can save you hassles in the future. You need ease-of-use, quick access, good security and the little extras can be handy.
Very few webmail providers can match GMail, Google’s free email service. While Yahoo Mail and Hotmail (from Microsoft) have made great strides in recent years, GMail still remains the leader in the industry, offering additional services like Google Documents (now know as Drive) and Google Calender to name but a few.
If GMail is not your choice for free webmail, then you need to consider some of the important features before you settle on another service.
Security is probably the utmost concern for most Internet users. The last thing you want is for hackers to access your personal email or use your email address to spam your address book contacts or other Internet users who do not even know you. The two big providers in the industry, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail, have fallen short in this regard in recent years.
While users are often blamed for accessing their email through computers which lack the appropriate security measures and for not changing their password regularly, the reality is that these webmail service providers are not entirely without blame. GMail has not been immune to similar problems but it is few and far between.
Easy to Use
There is nothing worse than using any web based application that is confusing and cumbersome. Accessing your email, sending and reading mails and adding to you contact book may not seem like rocket science but it is always better to choose a platform that you find easy to use. The key is simplicity and the layout should be easy to navigate through in order to find the features you are looking for.
It may also boil down to personal preference so it is important to look at all the different layouts with each webmail provider. You may choose one over the other purely based on the fact that you find their layout much simpler to use. It is all about your comfort at the end of the day so even if it does not seem like a popular webmail service, if you are happy with it and it is secure then go for it.
Smartphones are becoming cheaper to acquire and phones such as the Blackberry and Samsung Galaxy S-series continue to be a South African favourite. You should look at how easy it will be to integrate your current webmail with your smartphone. After all, one of the key benefits of having a smartphone is the ability to access your email at anytime and anywhere.
Some services like the Blackberry Email Service can connect to just about any provider while others are dependent on specialized applications unless you wish to use the phone browser. Needless to say, accessing your email through your smartphone web browser does not give you the full benefit of having a smartphone.
Is Gmail the Best?
While there are many other features that need to be taken into consideration when choosing a free webmail service provider, the bottom line is that GMail wins on the three key points mentioned above. Once again personal preference may still be the deciding factor. Yahoo Mail and Hotmail are not far behind so there is no need to abandon them just yet unless you have a real need for some of the unique services that Google offers with its GMail service.