Like many mission-critical technologies, many businesses spend much time thinking about email until their email system goes down or a key feature from a free service disappears. While collaboration tools and instant messaging are useful, email is still the common denominator for communicating with customers, suppliers and employees.
For companies that have outgrown free services like Gmail and are tired of the brand-diluting impact of their customers getting emails from firstname.lastname@example.org — or worse yet, a cringe-worthy address from your youth like email@example.com — there are essentially three options for email. On one end of the spectrum, you can purchase shared email services that effectively promise “best available” service from a pool of servers shared among users. On the other end of the spectrum, services like Microsoft 365 offer more complex email tools and other software at a high per-user cost.
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A virtual private server strikes a middle balance, providing the benefits of a professional technology team maintaining the infrastructure with hardware dedicated to your business in the form of a virtual server. Companies like ScalaHosting allow you to configure exactly the hardware and disk space you need and easily upgrade or downgrade that service. Additionally, you can add services to your dedicated service, from web hosting to automated backups and monitoring.
Unlike a shared email hosting account, having dedicated computing resources allocated to your email server means that your company’s email services won’t be impacted by what other companies and individuals are doing. Think of a VPS as a private highway of sorts. While shared roads are subject to traffic jams and accidents, a private highway can accommodate as many vehicles as you allow.
ScalaHosting: Email features
In addition to the benefits of a virtual private server, ScalaHosting offers several important email features. Administrators can create an unlimited number of email accounts and manage unlimited domains with one free domain registration or transfer included with the service. You can configure account-specific size limits for each user and quickly add, delete or suspend users via a web portal.
Users can access their email accounts via a webmail interface that can be branded with your company’s logo, as well as the common POP3 and IMAP protocols. The latter allows users to access email via smartphone or a large variety of email apps ranging from the Windows and Mac native Mail applications to Outlook or other web-based interfaces.
ScalaHosting also includes advanced spam protection and 24×365 support. I tested the support in the early morning hours and within seconds was connected to a live human via the chat interface who quickly solved my issue.
The company also promises to prevent your email domain from being “blacklisted.” This often occurs on shared or other high-volume email servers and risks your emails being sent to spam folders or rejected entirely.
ScalaHosting: Management capabilities
Most hosted services offer a control panel of some sort, which allows the administrator to do everything from adding new email users to adding additional services like web hosting. Most providers typically use a tool called CPanel, which was developed in the late 1990s. While CPanel provides robust functionality, it’s not particularly intuitive and often carries an extra charge.
ScalaHosting offers users a choice between CPanel and its in-house developed portal called SPanel. SPanel is a more modern and lightweight management tool. I found the simplified interface, fast loading and transitions, and more intuitive menu structure easier to use than CPanel’s wall of icons.
For advanced administrators, ScalaHosting also offers command line access via SSH. However, for email hosting, SPanel or CPanel is likely far easier to manage for most users.
One might expect that signing up for a VPS would be a bit complicated, but ScalaHosting has simplified the process while still providing a great deal of flexibility. You can sign up for a plan for as short as one month, with discounts starting at the one-year mark. In my test case, pricing for a standard configuration on a monthly payment schedule was around $50. This VPS could likely support hundreds of users, making for a low per-user cost.
On a single screen, you can select your subscription duration, determine which management tool you’d like to use and customize your server.
Options are clearly explained and pricing is transparent, with a running total displayed on the screen. Once you’ve selected your plan duration and customized your server, you’re presented with the option to register a new domain or transfer an existing domain. One domain registration is included if you’re purchasing a year of hosting.
Finally, you can create an account and provide a payment method, and your server is provisioned with the options you specified. Online help is available during the signup process, and they responded quickly when I asked a question.
There are some nuances to configuring your new VPS to work with an existing domain. ScalaHosting provides an email with the servers that need to be added to your domain’s MX record, which you’d typically complete with the company that provides your domain registration if you chose not to transfer or create your domain with ScalaHosting.
Once complete, you can add users via the control panel, set up users’ email programs or webmail access with the information ScalaHosting provides, and begin using your new email server.
Note that due to the vagaries of the global internet, there will likely be a short period of transition between your old and new email servers if you’re transferring a domain, so plan for a day or two where some emails may arrive on your new server while some arrive at your old server. Performing the signup on the weekend or after hours can reduce the challenges of this transition.
While email is taken for granted in many businesses, having a dedicated VPS can keep this critical service operating at peak performance. ScalaHosting’s SPanel, simplified enrollment and easy management make their business email hosting worth consideration if you’ve outgrown free or shared email services.