Setting up your email – online service or offline program?


Wednesday, 05 August, 2009

Content In the past, I've only ever trusted using business email with a desktop client program like Entourage. Firstly, because I started working when dial-up connections were much more common than always-on broadband, so using a program didn't require me to connect each time. Secondly because I didn't want to leave my contacts and conversation trails in the hands of a third party company.

Online and offline email

With the two main ways people use email - online with a service like Gmail, or offline using desktop client programs like Outlook, its not always a decision that needs heavy debating before making a choice, but I still think requires a moment of consideration, depending on what you're using email for and your own circumstances.

Nowadays, with always-on connections, using an online service is much more fluid, so your method of choice depends on your own requirements for your email.

Things to think about are in the following list of advantages and disadvantages for both methods.

Online Email Service Advantages
  • Quick and easy to set up - whichever service you use, you simply follow their registration screens
  • Access from any browser with a net connection, on any computer
  • You don't need to own a computer
  • Service provider is likely to have their own back up system in place, so that your account won't suddenly disappear by accident

Online Email Service Disadvantages
  • You need an online connection to use the service
  • You're stuck with the service's domain name i.e.
  • It looks less professional, if you use this for business
  • Backing up to your own files may not be possible
  • The service has control over your email account and if policy dictated, could simply restrict access or even delete it - Hotmail did this to several people I know

Offline Email Service Advantages
  • No net connection required to use
  • Data is yours and yours alone.
  • Easy to check email accounts for your own domain names Several accounts can be set up and checked automatically
  • Most programs are able to allow emails to be archived out and / or backed up
  • Using email is faster offline

Offline Email Service Disadvantages
  • You need to own and set up a computer with the program
  • The program might cost you money
  • Unless you have a back up system in place for your computer, there's a risk you'll lose all your emails

My set up

Since I have several email accounts for business and pleasure and the fact that my online account with Gmail can be checked with my desktop program of choice, Entourage, I stick with an offline program for my email. It fits my work flow and it is set up to check all my accounts automatically.

If I'm stuck without my laptop, but have access to a browser, I can still query my POP email accounts using free webmail sites like :

Getting around disadvantages in either system

One thing to note is that if you're tech savvy enough, there are usually ways to get around some of the disadvantages if you're stuck with one or the other method. For instance, you can set up Gmail with your own domain name so that you can go online to the Google site and send and receive email with

The trade off on effort is for yourself to judge. What's your system and what do you use?



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