Jun 25


Like me, you may have been with your internet service provider (ISP) for quite some time. You may also have taken up their offer of a free set of email addresses when you started, for example, for your family members. Well, the time may come when you may want to change ISPs but the problem is you will probably forfeit that email address you’ve by now handed around to friends and families and also to online newsletter subscriptions, forums, logins and as your contact address.

I was with Virgin Broadband in the UK ever since I took up a broadband internet connection in 2006, according to their first email to me. They recently decided to move us all over to TalkTalk which I wasn’t happy about for a number of reasons. I decided to move to BT Broadband and when I contacted Virgin for a MAC code to complete the move, they informed me I would have my Virgin emails for up to 3 months and then it would disappear.

That was fine; it would give me enough time to find a new email provider and inform all my contacts. And that’s my first point. If you do use an email address provided by your ISP, it’s worthwhile finding out just how long they will support it after you move away from them.

Right, now to find an independent web-based email service preferably with a free option. I won’t be using the free email offer from BT Broadband having learned my lesson with Virgin, so I dug through my bookmarks on free email providers in Diigo and came across this 2011 post on MakeUseOf. One of the suggestions there is Zoho Mail. I remembered Zoho from mentions on various tech podcasts and I always had a hankering to give them a try as a Google alternative but never got round to it. Well here was my chance to try them out.

So I signed up for a free Zoho Mail account (@zoho.com). This gives me 5GB free mailbox storage which should be more than enough for my personal use. The interface is nice and it’s ad-free. But the major benefit for me is that the email account is independent of my ISP and I won’t lose it if I move broadband provider again.


If you have your own domain (e.g. yourname.com) you can set up a free email account on Zoho Mail with up to 10 users each with 5GB mailbox storage.

If you do fancy trying a free Zoho Mail account, sign-up is a little confusing. You have to click the button on the Pricing & Sign Up page which looks like this:


After that, sign up is very straightforward and you’ll have a free web-based email account in no time. I decided to set up IMAP, which isn’t the default setting in Zoho Mail. There’s a great explanation of IMAP versus POP here. Basically, IMAP allows you to retain email on the remote server for online access while also allowing you to set up access on a desktop email client such as Thunderbird with the option to retain local copies there permanently. To set up IMAP in Zoho Mail, click Settings at the top right of the screen, then go to Email forwarding and POP/IMAP. Here you can set up email forwarding and POP or IMAP access. Disable POP access and enable IMAP access. You can also see the settings there that you need to set up IMAP access in Thunderbird so you can set up and store local copies of your Zoho Mail there as well if you wish.

You can also install Zoho Mail apps on your Android or iOS phones and tablets so you can access your emails there too.

I’ve been with Zoho Mail for just a week now and I’m pretty pleased so far (by the way, they aren’t sponsoring this post). All in all, it took me about a day’s work to change over all my Virgin email addresses to Zoho Mail, and I’m still seeing a number of Virgin emails coming in that I’d forgotten I had and I’ll have to change over. Hopefully after the 3 month period, I’ll have caught just about everything so I think it pays to start transitioning to your new email provider just as soon as you can after you’ve made the decision to switch ISPs.

Better still, don’t start using ISP email in the first place and save yourself this headache if you move providers later.

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