Email is the hub of almost every business. It's the easiest way to communicate, both internally and externally. It's where you get your most important notifications. And it gives you storage space for archiving critical information and shared files. While it might be tempting to pick your email provider based on brand familiarity, it's important to review your options before committing to a service that will become your team's most-used service. The best email hosting provider will not only let you reliably send and receive email for your own domain, but it might also offer additional tools, such as shared contacts and calendars for your company.
To make your choice easier, we tested and compared the top business email hosting services. Here's what each does best—as well as alternatives for hosting your own email.
The 3 Main Options for Email Hosting
When shopping for email hosting, the first decision you need to make is how you'll host your email. You have three main options:
Shared Web and Email Hosting: Most web hosting providers also offer email hosting. For example, if you host your website through a provider like InMotion, you can host your email there as well. Often, email hosting is included with your web hosting subscription for free.
Self-Hosted Email: If you have your own servers, you can host your own email instead of going through a third-party provider. While self-hosting provides more control and customizability, it has its disadvantages. The added costs of servers and systems admins to maintain them, along with the challenge of keeping your email from being marked as spam, often makes third-party hosting the better option.
Third-Party Email Hosting: If you need more features than what your web host provides, look into hosted email providers. A third-party email host lets you avoid the costs of self-hosting. Plus, a subscription to a hosted email service often comes with other tools you need to run your business: shared contacts and calendars, built-in video conferencing, team chat, and more.
Finally, it's important to understand the difference between an email hosting provider and an email client. An email host is what lets you send and receive email across networks. An email client (or email app) is the application you use to write and read emails. Your email host and client do not have to be the same. For example, you can send and receive emails hosted through G Suite on a desktop or mobile Microsoft Outlook app.
In this piece, we're looking specifically at email hosting provider features and not necessarily at the features of their built-in email clients. If you're looking for an email client for your business, check out our recommendations for best email apps.
What Features to Look for in an Email Hosting Service
When you combine your email and web hosting, there's not a lot to look for as far as features go; you get whatever features your web host happens to offer. And when you self-host, you build your own features; the options to choose from are more for the tools you use to manage and customize your email.
The real decision-making, then, comes when you're shopping for a third-party email hosting service. There are a lot of features to consider and evaluate, and what's important varies from business to business. For example, businesses in healthcare and banking have strict compliance regulations to adhere to that may not be as crucial for a marketing agency.
So rather than looking at every possible feature of email hosting providers, we looked at the features that apply to most business types:
Custom Domains: All of the email hosts featured below let you create email accounts using your company's website domain address.
24/7 Support: If you don't already have a systems administrator on staff, you shouldn't need to hire one just to manage your email. We selected tools that offer around-the-clock support, so there's always someone to help when you have questions or issues.
Security Features: You could route all email through a third-party application to get features like spam- and virus-filtering, but most businesses are better off using a host that has those features built in.
Mailbox Storage: If your employees make business decisions or communicate with clients/customers by email, they'll need plenty of storage room for archiving old emails. The providers we selected offer a minimum of 2GB of storage per user.
Sending Size Limits: Each featured provider lets you send emails and attachments that are at least 25MB in size. Many also offer file sharing or FTP tools that let you send larger files.
Using these criteria, we selected the following eight hosted email providers. Read on to learn more about each option, or view our comparison chart at the end of this piece to find the one that's best for your business's unique needs.
The 8 Best Hosted Email Services
Office 365 for companies that use multiple Microsoft apps
G Suite for simplicity and keeping everything on the cloud
Zoho Workplace for email hosting and collaboration tools on a tight budget
Rackspace for companies that only need email hosting
Intermedia Exchange Email for companies that need help migrating to a new email host
IceWarp for agencies that need to create email accounts for their clients
FastMail for customizable storage options to manage costs
Greatmail for low-cost email hosting with minimal features
Best email hosting service for companies that use multiple Microsoft apps
If your employees rely on Microsoft Office apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to do their work, the best option for your email hosting is probably Office 365's Business Premium plan.
Office 365 Business Premium bundles all of the features you need from a hosted email service—email sending and receiving, custom domain addresses, and spam and data loss prevention—along with the Office apps your employees use daily at work. With a single subscription, you get hosted email and web, desktop, and mobile access to Microsoft's Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, SharePoint, OneDrive, Skype, and OneNote apps.
And in addition to the standard Office apps, Office 365 Business Premium also gives your employees access to some of Microsoft's newer workplace tools, including Microsoft Teams (a team chat tool), Yammer (an internal social media app), and Microsoft Planner (a team task management app).
Email hosting with an Office 365 subscription is provided through Microsoft Exchange, which is also available as a standalone subscription if you don't need all of the add-on apps. And both the lowest-price standalone Exchange plan and Office 365 Business Premium give each of your users up to 50GB of mailbox storage.
Office 365 Tools: Email, Calendar, Contacts, File Storage and Sharing, File Editing and Collaboration, Voice and Video Conferencing, Instant Messaging, Team Chat, Internal Social Network, Intranet, and Tasks
Office 365 Price: From $12.50/user/month for the Office 365 Business Premium plan that includes hosted email for up to 300 accounts, 50GB storage per account, and access to all apps listed above; from $4/user/month for the Exchange Online Plan 1 that includes email hosting, shared calendars, and a global address list.
If you're concerned about the privacy of your email but don't want to use one of the major providers, consider ProtonMail (from $6.35/user/month). ProtonMail offers end-to-end email encryption by default and is HIPAA and GDPR compliant, making it a reasonable alternative for companies that need fewer tools and features but are required to adhere to strict industry regulations.
Best email hosting service for simplicity and keeping everything on the cloud
If your organization prefers using cloud-based tools, G Suite is your best bet for email hosting.
G Suite is Google's alternative to Office 365, combining email hosting with the company's own communication and collaboration apps. With a G Suite subscription, you get a minimum of 30GB of storage space per user—though higher-tier plans provide unlimited storage—as well as shared contacts and calendars. Plus, Gmail's recent redesign even lets you view your calendar without leaving your Gmail inbox.
You also get access to Google's entire set of workplace communication and collaboration tools, including Hangouts for messaging and voice/video conferencing, Team Drives in Google Drive for shared cloud file storage, Keep for note-taking, and access to Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides—some of the simplest file editing and real-time collaboration tools available.
Google's administration tools are simple to use as well, and increasingly have the advanced features businesses need, such as Google Vault for compliance archival. And since it's still the Gmail your team already knows how to use, onboarding will be easy.
G Suite Tools: Email, Calendar, Contacts, File Storage and Sharing, File Editing and Collaboration, Voice and Video Conferencing, Instant Messaging, Team Chat, Internal Social Network, Intranet, and Tasks
G Suite Price: From $5/user/month for the Basic plan that includes core Google apps and 30GB storage per user; from $10/user/month for the Business plan that includes unlimited storage (for accounts with five or more users), Vault, and audit reports.
Learn everything you need to set up, manage, and collaborate with G Suite for your team in Zapier's free eBook, The Ultimate Guide to G Suite.
Best email hosting service for email and collaboration tools on a tight budget
Zoho Workplace is Zoho's version of Office 365 and G Suite, offering hosted email, calendars, and contacts, as well as Zoho's own communication and collaboration apps: Docs (for cloud storage), Office Suite (for creating and collaborating on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations), and Cliq (for team chat).
Zoho Mail is a modern take on email with social networking-style features. Instead of sending a long message with a subject and signature every time, you can send a quick stream message to colleagues—or share an email from a client that you need to collaborate on. It includes shared email inboxes as well, so everyone on your marketing team can share the same partner and press emails, searching through them all along with their personal emails. And, it's a tabbed app, so you can switch between your inbox, calendar, and a draft email in a tap.
Zoho's admin panel for email administration is a bit less intuitive than those of some of the other hosting services, but it makes up for it with extremely detailed step-by-step instructions for how to do just about anything you need to do on its platform. And if you have five or fewer employees, you can get email hosting for your business domain and Zoho's ad-free email client for absolutely free.
Zoho Workplace Tools: Email, Calendar, Contacts, File Storage and Sharing, File Editing and Collaboration, Instant Messaging, and Team Chat (Basic Plan); Voice and Video Conferencing and Internal Social Network (Professional Plan)
Zoho Workplace Price: Free for up to five users, email hosting for a single domain, and 5GB storage per user; from $3/user/month for the Basic plan that includes email hosting for multiple domains, 30GB storage per user, and access to Zoho Office Suite, Docs, and Cliq; from $6/user/month for the Professional plan that includes 100GB storage per user and access to Zoho Meeting, Connect, and ShowTime.
Not sure which company's collaboration apps are right for your team? Check out our comparison of the best office suites to find the perfect fit.
Best email hosting service for companies that only need email hosting
When you need both email hosting and a variety of communication and collaboration apps, the suites above make a lot of sense—you get multiple tools for a single monthly premium. But if all you really need is email hosting, it doesn't make sense to pay extra for all of the add-on tools. In that case, Rackspace may be ideal.
Rackspace's core hosted email service provides the basics you need to manage your team's email, calendars, and contacts. Access all three on Rackspace's webmail application, or sync it to your preferred desktop and/or mobile email client. The lowest-cost plan provides only the basic features you need, though higher-tier packages are available that offer tools like cloud storage and instant messaging.
For more advanced email features including push email, shared calendars and contacts, and archival tools, Rackspace also offers a hosted version of Microsoft Exchange. It's a cost-effective way to get the same features as running Exchange on your own servers—without having to maintain or install anything. You can even use both together, opting for the cheaper email accounts for some team members and paying extra for Exchange only for those who need its extra features.
Rackspace Tools: Email, Calendar, and Contacts (Basic Plan); File Storage, File Editing, and Instant Messaging (Plus Plan)
Rackspace Price: From $2/user/month for Basic hosted email that includes webmail access and 25GB storage per user; from $3.50/user/month for Plus hosted email that includes instant messaging and 30GB cloud storage; from $7.99/mailbox/month for hosted Exchange that includes Exchange features, 100GB mailboxes, and instant messaging.
Best email hosting service for companies that need help migrating to a new email host
Intermedia's Exchange Email is ideal if you're nervous about migrating your existing company email to a new host yourself. When you sign up for email hosting with Intermedia, they move all of your data for you and get you completely set up on your new system—all at no additional cost.
The company's Exchange Email product uses Microsoft Exchange, so it comes with all core email hosting features, including shared contacts and calendars. And if you're an email-heavy or attachment-heavy company, Intermedia is ideal because you get unlimited mailbox storage on even the lowest-priced plan.
All Exchange Email packages also come with free access to Intermedia AnyMeeting (the company's voice and video conferencing solution) and a minimum of 2GB storage in SecuriSync (Intermedia's cloud storage and file backup tool). And for businesses that only have very basic email needs, Intermedia also offers a POP Business Email plan that provides 1GB of mailbox space per user.
Intermedia Exchange Email Tools: Email, Calendar, Contacts, Voice and Video Conferencing, and File Storage and Sharing
Intermedia Exchange Email Price: From $7.49/user/month for the Exchange Email plan that includes unlimited mailbox storage, free migration, Intermedia AnyMeeting, and 2GB of cloud storage.
Automate Intermedia with Zapier's Intermedia AnyMeeting integrations.
Best email hosting service for agencies that create email accounts for their clients
If you work for a company that needs to provide your clients with email accounts—a web development company, for example—IceWarp gives you the tools you need to manage email accounts and addresses on multiple domains. Plus, IceWarp supports white labeling, so you can add your company's branding to the webmail accounts you create for clients, or you can customize webmail for different clients with their own branding.
In addition to email hosting and shared calendars and contacts, IceWarp also offers its own suite of collaboration tools as part of your subscription. You get access to IceWarp's custom document, spreadsheet, and presentation editors; team chat; and voice and video conferencing. And if you use Windows, you can access all of IceWarp's tools on its desktop office app.
IceWarp Tools: Email, Calendar, Contacts, Team Chat, Instant Messaging, File Editing, Tasks, File Storage and Sharing, and Voice and Video Conferencing
IceWarp Price: From $3.50/user/month for the Standard plan that includes 50GB mailbox storage per user, support during office hours, team chat, and voice/video conferencing; from $7/user/month for the Professional plan that includes 200GB storage per user, 24/7 support, and 99.99% guaranteed uptime.
Best email hosting service for customizable storage options to manage costs
For a tool focused just on the email essentials of messages, contacts, and calendar events, FastMail is a great tool for individuals and businesses alike. It's powerful and fast, with web and mobile apps that make it easy to figure out who said what in an email conversation. You can add multiple domains and subdomains to your account to give each team member an email address that matches their department if you'd like. And, to sort through your emails, you can add quick filters or program advanced filters to organize your personal messages or store archives for compliance.
FastMail focuses on the core email experience, but it also includes the business-focused team features you'd expect. You can share calendars and contacts across your entire company, add custom branding to the app and login screen, and add a company footer to everyone's emails. It even includes some bonus features, letting you store files alongside your email attachments and access them via FTP. You can publish those with a simple personal website, hosted in your FastMail storage, as well.
But the most unique thing about FastMail is that you can customize storage options for different users. For example, if most of your employees will never need more than the 25GB storage offered through FastMail's Standard plan—but you have a designer who needs much more storage—you can pay extra to increase the storage for only the designer. That means you don't have to pay for a higher-tier plan based on the unique needs of just a few employees.
FastMail Tools: Email, Calendar, and Contacts
FastMail Price: From $5/user/month for the Standard plan plan that includes mail on a custom domain, 25GB storage per user, and push mail, calendar, and contacts; from $9/user/month for the Professional plan that includes 100GB storage per user and data retention policies.
Best email hosting service for low-cost email hosting with minimal features
Greatmail offers basic email hosting and custom domain addresses with two plan options.
Its Standard plan costs a mere $1/month for each mailbox (with a minimum of 15 mailboxes), and gives you 10GB of storage for each. It's a truly bare-bones plan that gives you built-in spam protection, access to its webmail client, and POP3/IMAP and SMTP connections for connecting to an email client.
Greatmail's Groupware plan offers a bit more, including shared calendars, shared contacts, and 25GB storage per mailbox. It connects with any email clients that support POP or IMAP protocols and supports Exchange ActiveSync (EAS), so you can access your email, calendar, and contacts using your preferred desktop or mobile email application.
It's a very basic offering, but that makes it perfect if basic is all you need. Plus, its lack of add-on features makes it one of the least expensive email hosting providers on this list.
Greatmail Tools: Email (Basic Plan); Calendar and Contacts (Groupware Plan)
Greatmail Price: From $1/mailbox/month for the Standard Edition plan that includes 10GB storage and email access; from $2/mailbox/month for the Groupware Edition plan that includes 25GB storage and shared contact and calendar features.
Host Your Own Email Server
From the earliest days of email, if you wanted email, you had to host an email server. Until the mid-2000s, that was still nearly the only way to get email on your company's own domain.
Even today, there is still a wide range of great tools to host your own email, many of which are free. That's one of the best things about email: it's a service you can run on your own that works with every other email service automatically. Whether you're using G Suite, have Microsoft Exchange in a private VPS, or run your Postfix on your own server, you can email anyone else and know they'll receive your message, regardless of what email service they're using.
But self-hosting your email isn't easy. As Digital Ocean software engineer Mitchell Anicas cautions, "setting up and maintaining your own mail server is complicated and time-consuming [and] most people will get more value, in the form of saved time, out of using a paid mail service."
Linux and macOS come with Postfix, the core terminal tools you need to run an email server. Windows Server includes a built-in SMTP server for a basic email experience. Both are a Mail Transfer Agent that can send and receive emails for you—and you could set them up for basic email features.
Want webmail and more advanced features that an email service would offer?
macOS Server, a $19.99 add-on for macOS, includes an easy-to-configure email, calendar, and contacts sync server to use with native email apps.
For the most features, you could license Microsoft Exchange Server 2016 (pricing available on request) for email and Office Online apps from your own server—or you could even still use IBM Notes and Domino (pricing available on request).
You'll get the most customized email experience with your own data center's security—at the expense of software licenses and maintenance time. For most small businesses, hosted email makes the most sense, while self-hosted email might make the most sense in companies with in-house servers and a dedicated IT team.
Which Business Email Hosting Provider Is Right for Your Company?
Take a look at our comparison table below for a quick look at the key features available from these business hosting services. (Scroll to the right for more.)
Minimum # of Accounts
Maximum # of Accounts
Windows, macOS, Linux
Prices Starting At
Note: Maximum number of accounts may not be a true limitation. In some cases, you need to upgrade to a higher-tier plan to add more users than the maximum. In other cases, you may get a discount if you have more than the stated maximum. Check with each provider for more information.
When managing email for an entire team or company, email isn't quite the simple service you're used to as an individual: The tools you use for your business require a bit more thought and care.
But it can still be a set-it-and-forget-it service. With today's cloud email services, you'll only need a few hours to add your domain to your email service, set up new accounts for your team, and import their old data. Your service will take care of the rest, making sure your team has their emails, contacts, and calendar appointments whenever they need them.
Ready to set up hosted email for your team? Here's our guide to set up G Suite for your domain, and how to import your team's old data to the new G Suite account. Need to send bulk emails? Check out our guide to transactional email for drip and automated messages, and our recommendations for the best email marketing apps for your marketing emails.
Originally published in May 2017, this post has been updated by Jessica Greene with each email hosting provider's latest features and pricing, plus great new providers like Intermedia, IceWarp, and Greatmail. (Lotus Notes screenshot via IBM; Outlook Web Access screenshot via Techgenix; Zimbra Collaboration screenshot via the Zimbra blog.)