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Old 21 May 2017, 12:14 AM   #1
altmodisch
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Fastmail vs Google apps

Just wondering... Given a Google apps account costs exactly the same as a standard fastmail account, what attracts people to fastmail?
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Old 22 May 2017, 11:07 PM   #2
ioneja
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Well for many folks, firstly, that FastMail is not Google.

Google Apps (or "G Suite") as Google likes to call it now, still tracks everything you do. Even though you are paying for it, Google is tracking you. Even though there are no ads in paid G Suite, Google is still tracking you, across everything, across the whole Internet, since it's still plugged into Google in general. You can limit that to some degree with the paid G Suite of course, but you are leaving a personal trail in places you may not realize. That bugs some people, so much so that it supersedes every other issue/feature. Fastmail does not track you at all. Zippo. No tracking, no profiling for marketing data, no sharing of any profiles, internally across a massive platform or externally, etc... In fact, the whole privacy policy in general of G Suite is terrible compared to FastMail -- just read the policies. Additionally, FastMail is located in Australia, and even though the servers are located in New York (actually New Jersey now), it's harder for various reasons for the US Gov to eavesdrop on FastMail accounts, although there are other services out there that do one or two steps better than FastMail in that department. In any case, for those that want to argue that point, FastMail is considered a step or two better than GMail and G Suite in terms of privacy in multiple areas.

Then, IMO, there are a huge number of smaller issues and features that may motivate various folks to pay for FastMail -- and those often boil down to personal preference. For example, in my case, I love how the way FastMail handles domains and aliases. I love the way FastMail allows you to send from any of those domains and aliases as that identity, without revealing the root account. Just look at the headers of any email sent from gmail or G Suite and compare those headers to FastMail. Then send from an alias in either account and you'll see what I mean.

Some people love sieve scripts. Or the fact that FastMail employees are actually the owners of the company. Some people love the standards that FastMail supports (and even maintains). Some people love the way security is handled.

The list goes on. Dozens of little items that some people really love about FastMail that don't exist in G Suite or that Google handles very differently. Sure you have massive collaboration and file features of G Suite, etc.... but can you set up a simple website in 2 minutes with a custom domain and host static HTML files and large files directly without an app framework interfering or messing them up? Nope. But you can in FastMail. The whole file back-end is incredibly simple, but amazingly useful for simple hosting, which Google can't do. Some people just love that. In fact, the burstable file bandwidth and performance of static hosting on FastMail is a secret weapon that most people don't know about... it's really impressive. Features for file hosting and web hosting? Not so many. Performance? Fantastic. And my uptime for my simple static websites has been... you guessed it, 99.99%-100%. And that's included for FREE with my FastMail email account. I was actually able to shut down one of my paid hosting services that I used for simple static file hosting... FastMail does it better and faster. If people only knew how useful that static hosting is... shhhh... let's keep it a secret. Of course if you need any kind of scripting or customizations to your web hosting, then FastMail won't do it... they keep it very, very simple for a reason. They are not a web hosting company. But for some people, what they have built-in is all they need. For me, they've saved me money. Even if I didn't use their email! :-)

Some people also just want a small little specialized service like FastMail to keep on running, and hate to see huge corporations swallow up the little guys and make things worse overall. Some people just like the people who own and run FastMail. (Although some don't. :-) )

Granted, G Suite is extremely powerful, few would deny that. It's a massive suite of tools that can cover tons of things that FastMail doesn't do. But just because you get the kitchen sink thrown in with G Suite doesn't mean you want or need to use a kitchen sink, let alone a kitchen! FastMail is very specific in what it does. G Suite tries to do everything, and in some cases it does it very well, some cases not so much. And then tracks you. ;-)

In my case, I use both. I have clients that love the features of G Suite and for practical purposes I just caved in and use the same tools they do for their projects. The collaboration tools of G Suite are outstanding.

However, I happily pay for FastMail too for many reasons, and I get a ton of value out of it in areas in which G Suite can't compete.

For you, your personal matrix of reasons to go with one or the other (or both) would be very different than mine. My humble suggestion if you are curious would be to really examine all the features -- and I do mean all of them -- even experiment with them for a few months (it's not that much money to pay for a little while) that FastMail provides and you might (or might not) discover a few little gems in there that make it hugely valuable to you, personally.

My two bits only.

P.S.: I also use several other email hosting services, and have paid for and experimented extensively with dozens of them, enterprise and consumer, over the years for clients and myself. I personally recommend FastMail, Runbox, LuxSci, followed distantly by G Suites (aka Google Apps), which I only use out of necessity for clients. Those services tend to balance most pressing issues for most people IMO. BTW this forum is the single best place of advice for anything to do with email that I have ever seen. Search here and ask questions, and you will get a lot of good info.

Last edited by ioneja : 22 May 2017 at 11:22 PM.
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Old 22 May 2017, 11:50 PM   #3
odedp
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Isn't the fact that we're talking about google enough to choose Fastmail?
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Old 23 May 2017, 06:13 AM   #4
TenFour
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Here are some things in favor of FM:
1. Many people don't have the need for the various online services included with G Suite, which could be just further complication for them.
2. IMHO G Suite is not the easiest to setup, though there are lots of help resources.
3. It is rather a pain to deal with Google's security hoops at times, like when traveling outside of your home territory and they keep locking you out due to strange activity.

Some things in favor of G Suite
1. The cloud apps and storage can be very useful.
2. IMHO Google's spam and junk filtering is the best in the business.
3. Very high security and reliability, IMHO.

I personally am not wild about the scanning of emails just because I like my privacy, but that ship has sailed long ago. You are just kidding yourself if you don't think you are being tracked a million other ways, whatever email provider you are using. Sure, FM says they don't track, and I believe them, but only because they seem to be a trustworthy lot. How do we really know? Witness what just happened with Unroll.me and their selling of your email data to Uber. Even if FM isn't using your data your ISP is tracking it, possibly your government is tracking it, Google searches are being tracked, your phone purchases are being tracked, etc. etc. The only real way to opt out of this is to opt out of the modern world and hide in the desert somewhere, and even then they found Bin Laden! The point being that even when a person has every incentive in the world to not be tracked down (in order to stay alive) their movements and activities were tracked. Instead, I suspect you are much better off just being another needle in the giant haystack of humanity that doesn't care at all that their online lives are being tracked and organized by many companies. I read just today that using a Tor browser or a VPN is a red flag for spying agencies to search your data more carefully.
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Old 23 May 2017, 07:06 AM   #5
BritTim
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For most people (leaving aside privacy concerns) either G-Suite or FastMail can meet their requirements well. Just considering email in isolation, I think FastMail is a little better, though some of its differentiating features are being withdrawn. Still important for some
  • G-Suite provides no easy way of achieving auto BCC on outgoing messages. It is actually pretty difficult to find a workaround when this is a requirement.
  • For users of Apple Mail and the iOS Mail app, FastMail provides excellent push support.
  • For users of external mail clients, the FastMail IMAP support is completely standards compliant. Google's support is weird, and this can lead to practical issues.
  • FastMail provides near complete sieve support.
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Old 23 May 2017, 07:18 AM   #6
TenFour
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Quote:
FastMail provides near complete sieve support.
Another argument for another thread, but I think sieve filtering is a huge waste of time. Gmails spam and junk filtering are nearly perfect, in my experience, and let everything else flow into your Inbox. Then use Gmail's superior search to find things far faster and more accurately than any folder system you could possibly filter for. I think filtering email into folders makes some people feel good because they crave organization, but in reality it doesn't make you any more productive. In fact, it makes it harder to find things because you can't remember exactly which folder it is in.
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Old 23 May 2017, 07:42 AM   #7
BritTim
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TenFour View Post
Another argument for another thread, but I think sieve filtering is a huge waste of time. Gmails spam and junk filtering are nearly perfect, in my experience, and let everything else flow into your Inbox. Then use Gmail's superior search to find things far faster and more accurately than any folder system you could possibly filter for. I think filtering email into folders makes some people feel good because they crave organization, but in reality it doesn't make you any more productive. In fact, it makes it harder to find things because you can't remember exactly which folder it is in.
For most people, what you outline is most often good enough. For business people who wear many different hats, and must keep clear boundaries between their different business interests, FastMail works really well. You use a separate folder hierarchy for each business, and a different default identity for each hierarchy. Part of this support leans heavily on the sieve features.
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Old 23 May 2017, 06:45 PM   #8
Pfolson
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Over the last few years, I've started to think that worrying about Gmail tracking is pointless. You can take every privacy precaution in the world on your end, and use the most privacy-conscious e-mail provider, but if you send an e-mail to somebody using Gmail, you're going to be scanned and tracked anyway. I know in my case, every single person I correspond with regularly is either using vanilla Gmail or using their own domain through Google Apps/G Suite. A large percentage of my semi-regular correspondents do as well, and I assume many of the businesses I deal with are using some type of e-mail system with Google on the back end. So being with FastMail, as much as I love them, isn't really helping me at all in that regard. 99 percent of the e-mails that I write are ending up in Gmail's hands anyway.
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Old 23 May 2017, 08:14 PM   #9
ioneja
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pfolson View Post
Over the last few years, I've started to think that worrying about Gmail tracking is pointless.
The last several years have tempted me to think the same, but recently, I've changed my mind about this. I think every little bit can help.

For example, in my case I've slowly been encouraging people (in a very low-key way) in my circles to NOT use Google... well short of full on lobbying, just subtle nudges here and there... and in some cases I'm responsible for the IT for some people, and for those I set up 80% on FastMail -- and the result has been that a growing number of family members (including my son), friends and clients have moved away from Gmail and other services. So today, I'm probably dealing with only 50% of my circle using Gmail, maybe less. I have full-on conversations with many people that never cross into Google-land... whole business correspondences, important family discussions, casual conversations about movies, etc... taking place *outside* Google.

That's a lot less tracking -- it feels pretty good that 100% of my correspondence with some key family, for example, are 100% non-Google. Those conversations will never be cataloged in some Google server.

When you add in that text messaging (and sadly, Facebook) is starting to replace certain kinds of conversations, less and less traffic is flowing through Google's email servers (although one may very easily argue that text messaging and Facebook messaging are their own privacy disasters).

Anyway, it's a nice feeling that a little nudging has resulted in what I view as positive change. And while, yes, I do use Google services for some clients as I mentioned, just to cave in to their collaborative needs, I was impressed this morning when I noticed just one nice example -- a massive conversation with a long-standing client of mine hasn't touched Google for over 5 years. Pretty cool.

So the battle is not lost. Groups of people can indeed be "off the Google radar," and you can turn the tide for your own circles of people.

And, I might add, I could reduce that 50% significantly lower if I just pushed a little harder and pulled back usage of collaborative tools (and just used different ones here and there)... with effort, I bet I could get it down to about 25% of my key circle. So I'm definitely no longer pessimistic about reducing my tracking/footprint. And I'm not a paranoid VPN or TOR user, etc... I do agree that blending into the background noise is one reasonable approach for anonymity in our current world, but you can make a small, but notable difference to your own circles.

Last edited by ioneja : 23 May 2017 at 08:20 PM.
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Old 24 May 2017, 08:48 AM   #10
TenFour
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It is impossible to avoid sending to people who use Gmail, at least here in the USA. My entire family uses Gmail and I have talked to them about switching, but the services that come with Gmail are too valuable to all of them. My daughter is at university where every student uses Gmail (school email) and collaborates using Google docs etc. We all use Google photos to save all our images from phones. I am currently hiring at work and I would guess 90% of the applicants have a Gmail address. Most of our board of directors have Gmail addresses. The consultant we just hired for an expensive project runs everything with G Suite. Etc. Etc. It is hopeless to escape from Google for most of us. And then there is all the other tracking of our activity that goes on via other services. Read this article about supercookies and evercookies.
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Old 24 May 2017, 09:34 AM   #11
joe_devore
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Cool

I too have a gmail as my 2nd, MAIN being FastMail ^_^
I use GMAIL for things like newsletters and receiving spammy like crap...
things I don't want cluttering my FastMail Inbox...
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Old 25 May 2017, 05:10 AM   #12
jhollington
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BritTim View Post
Still important for some
  • For users of Apple Mail and the iOS Mail app, FastMail provides excellent push support.
  • For users of external mail clients, the FastMail IMAP support is completely standards compliant. Google's support is weird, and this can lead to practical issues.
  • FastMail provides near complete sieve support.
Those three are probably the main technical reasons I'm with FastMail, and that's coming from somebody who is still paying for a G Suite account (I mostly don't want to lose my Google ID, but I also do like the Google Drive unlimited storage I get with it).

I also thing that FastMail has done a great job of simplifying the management interface for things like aliases and domains. G Suite has some very advanced mail routing capabilities, but they can be a bit inscrutable at times.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TenFour View Post
Another argument for another thread, but I think sieve filtering is a huge waste of time. Gmails spam and junk filtering are nearly perfect, in my experience, and let everything else flow into your Inbox. Then use Gmail's superior search to find things far faster and more accurately than any folder system you could possibly filter for. I think filtering email into folders makes some people feel good because they crave organization, but in reality it doesn't make you any more productive. In fact, it makes it harder to find things because you can't remember exactly which folder it is in.
I think you're right that there's a tendency of people to over-manage e-mails, but I think there are two key places where advanced Sieve rules can be highly useful, although it requires a bit of Sieve skill to craft them artfully...
  • Firstly, as BritTim already pointed out, some people wear different hats, and/or want to funnel all of their email into a single "unified" mailbox, but not necessarily have it clutter their inbox. For instance, I get a lot of routine, "solicited spam" as part of my day job, in the form of things like press releases, product announcements, etc. This is all valuable stuff, but I absolutely do not want it touching my Inbox as it's just a lot of distraction and clutter. Hence, I've crafted Sieve rules that dump anything addressed to that work address into a sub-folder unless it's from a known contact or is a reply to something (caught by searching the header for "In-Reply-To"). I then scan through that folder every weekday morning to see what I need to deal with, but I can safely ignore it on weekends (and other non-work days).
  • I have a "Low Priority" folder that automatically traps messages that don't explicitly have one of my addresses in the "To" header. This allows me to somewhat replicate Google's "Priority Inbox" model, but in a far more deterministic fashion. At one point I got a bit more fancy with folders for things like social notifications and reading items as well, but in the end I decided that just left me with too many different folders to check on a regular basis. While it was nice to know that if I saw an unread badge count on my iPhone Mail icon it likely represented something important, the reality is that I find that Apple's "VIP" notifications feature does a better job of that for me.

All of that said, I do wish there was a form of "ManageSieve" interface, as creating Sieve rules that rely on address lists was cumbersome enough for me that I mostly gave up. I used client-side rules in Apple Mail to do this for a while, combined with some clever AppleScripts for auto-updating the address lists based on what was in those folders, but I really prefer server-side Sieve filtering for this kind of thing.
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Old 25 May 2017, 06:30 AM   #13
TenFour
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Google's "Inbox by Gmail" does pretty much what sieve filtering does, but using a graphic interface. The system "learns" your preferences after awhile, and pretty reliably funnels emails into various categories you can set. I tried it for a month or two and found that I still was never 100% certain that everything would be filtered correctly, so I spent more time snooping through all the categories than if I just noted everything arriving in chronological order and dealt with it. In any case, if sieve filtering is what you want, FM provides it, but I suspect only a small subset of FM customers utilize it. I have found over the years that filters can be very tricky in actual use. Sometimes you find that an organization that usually sends nothing but promotional literature has sent a critical announcement using the same email template, address, from, to, etc., and that critical notice goes right into your promotional folder only to never be seen.
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Old 25 May 2017, 06:36 AM   #14
jhollington
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TenFour View Post
Google's "Inbox by Gmail" does pretty much what sieve filtering does, but using a graphic interface. The system "learns" your preferences after awhile, and pretty reliably funnels emails into various categories you can set. I tried it for a month or two and found that I still was never 100% certain that everything would be filtered correctly, so I spent more time snooping through all the categories than if I just noted everything arriving in chronological order and dealt with it.
Yeah, I used Inbox by Gmail for several months as well, as I really liked it in concept, but as time went by, I found the same issues that you did, plus I was never particularly thrilled with its presentation of categories. I found that it started to feel more cluttered than useful after a while, and the filtering kind of defied any kind of chronology. It ultimately kind of made my head hurt

That said, the real problem with GMail's auto-filtering solutions is that when you go down that road, you really need to start relying on the web interface and Google's own apps; third-party e-mail clients become almost useless. As an iPhone user, I've never been particularly thrilled with Google's Gmail and Inbox apps, if for no other reason than they don't focus enough on reformatting messages for mobile readability. Gmail for iOS actually got that right about a year and a half ago, and I was sort of hoping they'd bring it to Inbox, but instead the redesign of the Gmail app last fall reverted it back to the old behaviour.

Quote:
In any case, if sieve filtering is what you want, FM provides it, but I suspect only a small subset of FM customers utilize it. I have found over the years that filters can be very tricky in actual use. Sometimes you find that an organization that usually sends nothing but promotional literature has sent a critical announcement using the same email template, address, from, to, etc., and that critical notice goes right into your promotional folder only to never be seen.
Yeah, I think it's dangerous to use any auto-filtering system, whether it's Gmail or Sieve, to dump things into folders you never look at, except in extremely specific scenarios. My structure is more about deferring things to specific times and contexts than it as about merely ignoring stuff.... I find that if there's something that's worth putting in a folder I'm going to ignore anyway, I might as well unsubscribe or otherwise just stop receiving it entirely.
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Old 25 May 2017, 06:51 AM   #15
TenFour
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Yeah, I think it's dangerous to use any auto-filtering system, whether it's Gmail or Sieve, to dump things into folders you never look at, except in extremely specific scenarios.
I am reminded of a fairly large organization that in an emergency used its email marketing system to blast out a warning to everyone in the group to shelter in place during a terrorist incident, and letting everyone else know that they were safe but wouldn't be responding to messages. The system would have alerted everyone within minutes, but I wonder how many messages were filtered into the "Newsletters" folder?
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