As I’ve said in blog posts before, I am a strong believer in internet decentralisation, especially with regard to email. Today, I’m going to explain my whole system – from email clients to server, from DNS to domain.
The Server (VPS)
For the VPS (virtual private server) I run my email server from, I went with a €5/mo plan with the German company Contabo. But it’s always worth looking around for good deals with VPS’, as pricing can be very competitive. Linode, for example, will give you a $100 free 60-day credit if you use this URL: linode.com/unplugged (this code is from a podcast I listen to – Linux Unplugged).
My server runs Ubuntu Server 18.04 LTS, though I plan to update this to 20.04 LTS soon. Debian is a great server OS too.
The Email Server
For the email server, I use Dovecot, Postfix, Spamassassin, and OpenDKIM. I did try set this up myself, but found it to be a huge pain. Instead, I used EmaiwWiz by Luke Smith, which set everything up, though I did have to comment out one line in Dovecot config about SSL, so maybe watch out for that. Other good email software examples are MailCow, iRedBox, and MailInABox – the issue I had with all of these is that they require Nginx to run, and I much prefer Apache.
Emailwiz is a very customisable solution, for example, if you want auto-replies, virtual users, etc, you may want to install PostfixAdmin. To add aliases (firstname.lastname@example.org > email@example.com), you can do it via CLI or using Webmin.
*sighs*. It took me a long time to find the right domain – 4 months. At first I just used jacobsammon.com – but this had issues. First off, firstname.lastname@example.org is long, and people have to spell my last name – I was going to buy jacobsalmon.com for this very issue, but it was snatched up by some bot as it expired (I checked WHOIS and it had been registered 15 minutes ago).
In the end, I opted for eml.pm – I love it. It’s short, recognisable, and actually means something. Eml means email, and .pm means private message (not really, but that’s how I see it). This has a few caveats, though, .pm is a ccTLD with restrictions requiring you to be a resident of the EU or EEA. I got around this as I registered it 3 days before the end of the UK-EU transition period, and AFNIC have said I can keep it and renew it. If you are wanting a .pm domain, I recommend using INWX and using their proxy service; the entire domain with the service will cost around €13/year.
Mine personally was registered with OVH, if you’re eligible to have a .pm, they have quite cheap pricing (£8.50/year ish), and include DNS, WHOIS protection, a 5gb email account, email forwarding, and web hosting.
So I know I mentioned that I registered eml.pm with OVH, and that they include DNS, but I decided to switch to Hurricane Electric, because when I enabled email for my email redundancy (more on that later), OVH overwrote some of my DNS, and it was much easier to move to Hurricane Electric.
Hurricane Electric are actually really good. Better than I expected. Though the interface isn’t super user-friendly, you get used to it – I quite like it.
Other free DNS services include places like Cloudflare. I personally host my own DNS server, but didn’t put eml.pm on it, because if my main server goes down, and DNS, my email redundancy becomes futile.
I recently wrote a blog post about email redundancy, sort of explaining it. So I use OVH’s included email forwarding and have it set so some addresses forward to other email providers (ProtonMail).
When OVH gave me the records I needed to add to my DNS to allow for forwarding, I changed them a tad.
OVH wanted me – from memory – to put their primary server at an MX priority of 1, and secondary at an MX priority of 100. Instead, I put their primary at 30, and secondary at 50 (my main one is at 10).
This mean if an email is not able to reach my main server, it’ll then go to OVH’s primary, then OVH’s secondary. I took down my email server and did a test – this all works.
Email Clients and Webmail
For a long time, I used Rainloop webmail, I still actually have an instance installed on my Nextcloud instance. But, I recently found something much better: Roundcube. I can’t recommend Roundcube enough, it’s modern, fast, responsive, and supports hundreds, if not thousands of great plugins.
As a local email client, I use Thunderbird. It’s not perfect, but I like it.
In summary, I really like my email system. I do pay around £5/mo for it, but have 200gb storage and loads of other great features. It’s cheaper than any of the privacy-based mail providers, and I pay in cash, not with my privacy.