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Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash
I've hosted my own email for more than fifteen years. For the last four of them, I've done so using a self-managed VPS running Ubuntu, Postfix and Dovecot. Then I discovered over the Christmas/New Year break, my server's IP address ended up on a SPAM blacklist server, I decided I'd had enough.
For a while now, I've been slowly culling the amount of excessive nerdery in my life. You see, it was just getting in the way of writing. First was my decision to stop stuffing around with Linux then I abandoned my world-building app, and I put world-building into its proper perspective. Last year, I migrated my web host to serverless architecture and adopted Ulysses for writing my blog.
Every one of these changes helped to free up more time for writing.
The last sticking point was my email system, a self-hosted, flakey instance of Ubuntu 14.04 running a wonky Postfix and Dovecot stack. As 14.04 is scheduled to reach its end-of-life this year, I was faced with the prospect of setting up a new server and migrating years of email. Since setting up email servers isn't something I do every day, it was going to take at least a day out of my life, if not longer — assuming I didn't screw anything up.
I realise now, I've been having problems for months. Emails would take forever to send and receive — if they arrived at all. Then I started getting messages on Twitter that emails were bouncing — right when I was sending out copies of Cadoc's Contract for review. It forced me to sit down one afternoon last week to investigate the problem. As I noted above, I discovered my server’s been blacklisted, partly thanks to the difficulties in managing the vagaries of DNS records and such like. To get off the blacklist required me jumping through a lot of hoops, and even then it still wouldn't resolve the underlying issue — DIY email hosting is a pointless time suck.
So, I thought, fuck it, I've had enough. As with the other changes I've made over the years, this one comes down to time. I've already outsourced web hosting, why not outsource my email too? I'll happily pay someone else to worry about it; I just don't need a headache anymore.
I mulled over several possibilities — Zoho, FastMail, a couple of cheap web hosts, Microsoft and Google.
For better or worse, I chose Google's G-suite — sorry privacy advocates, I just don't care anymore, my tin-foil hat has lost its shine, and my kids trampled it underfoot. In an economy where the Australian dollar is declining against the Greenback, G-Suite was the cheapest and most reliable option I could find. They'll price and bill me in AUD, and I can claim the expense as a tax offset since I'm a registered business here in Australia. For a princely sum of $5 a month, I've got a working email system again, along with 30GB of storage. I'm also keen to explore the other features offered by the suite, something which I've only really scratched the surface.
So far, so good. Setup was trivial, though you do need experience editing DNS records — next to configuring Postfix in VIM though, that's a cakewalk, and Google walks you through the process step-by-step. The longest part was migrating my emails, which included some pretty big files from the designers I work with. Once done, I downloaded the Gmail app for my iPhone and iPad and was done. By comparison with my old server, Google is astonishingly fast, and Gmail beats the socks off the old version of Roundcube I was using.
Yay! One less thing to worry about!