Zoho Mail and Its Limitations For Free Accounts

Screenshot of Zoho Mail

There once was a company called AdventNet that created IT software – network monitoring, help desk ticketing, etc. Eventually they started this fledgling division called Zoho which seemed to me (at the time) like a distraction from their IT business. But Zoho grew and grew and eventually AdventNet changed its name to Zoho. Zoho still makes a line of IT software, but it is their Zoho Suite that more people are familiar with.

Screenshot of Zoho Mail

I’ve always liked their software, though sometimes it has been a bit rough around the edges. Part of this is because they usually offer free versions with a fairly robust featureset for those who only need a few users or to monitor a few systems.

In general I haven’t found these limitations to be too much of a nuisance, but I recently started using Zoho Mail and have been frustrated by the number of features which are only available in their paid version. Granted, the paid version isn’t bad – $28/yr. per user – but it isn’t what I’ve come to expect from Zoho.

I figured it would be helpful for others who are considering Zoho Mail as a solution for their needs to have a concise list of some of the more notable of these limitations…as the 25 free users offer is quite attractive at first glance. Without further ado, here is my list of functionality not available in the free version:

  • Mail Forwarding – Want to setup an email address [email protected] and forward it to [email protected]? You can’t on a free account. (Granted, you can create an email alias for an account).
  • POP/IMAP/ActiveSync – These are all methods of retrieving mail from Zoho’s server and are used by email client software like Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, or Mailbird. (Zoho does have a robust web interface, similar in functionality to Gmail’s, so this is only a deal breaker if you use a software email client).
  • Email Routing – Want to have emails sent to [email protected] routed to a third party helpdesk like Zendesk or Freshdesk? You can’t, it’s a premium feature. (That said, you can probably setup these and other services to access the account automatically and pull the emails).

Besides these limitations, Zoho Mail seems full-featured, the user interface is quite nice, and one can customize things with one’s custom domain rather than having @zohomail.com emails.

What alternatives do you have? At the price of free I’m not aware of many with any robust implementation. I’m luckily enough to be grandfathered into a G Suite account from back in the day when Google was still handing them out for free. šŸ™‚

The only other completely free solution I’m aware of (at least for a few users) that offers similar functionality to Zoho Mail (e.g., custom domain email rather than @provider.com email) is Bitrix24, but I’ve never personally used them (interestingly, they also have a decent suite of applications and offer a free phone number as well – though it doesn’t appear to come with any minutes, but per minute pricing is cheap). Do you have suggestions for alternatives?

If we look at paid alternatives things begin to open up a bit for us we can add Google Suite, Microsoft Office 365, Rackspace, and so on to the list. Yet Zoho Mail’s prices still seem to be among the best.

Its also worth noting that most web hosts I’ve used (e.g. Bluehost, SiteGround) offer free email hosting as well. These services tend to be fairly full-featured but really lacking in the UI department.

Why I Love Unroll.me And You Should Too.

I’ve been using unroll.me for some time now – perhaps a year or two – and it is an awesome tool for anyone who has a gmail account.

no spam!
no spam! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are like me you get a lot of spam messages – just total crap like “hey, you are cute, want to video chat?” or “do you need medications? we have viagra!” or “you don’t know me but I want to give you $10m.” This sort of spam, Google does a pretty good job of handling – but then there is another, legitimate form of spam – these bulk emails sent out by various companies that you probably said hi to once in your life and now send you all the time emails about their latest products, sales pitches, and newsletters. They can become very overwhelming. At times I receive 30+ in a single day.

Unroll.me helps with this. Each day instead of receiving a mass of emails you receive a single “rollup” email from unroll.me containing all the newsletters, etc. you likely don’t want/need to read. You can then review them at a glance and decide on several actions: (a) you can unsubscribe from them (and unroll.me handles all the fancy stuff, don’t worry about jumping through hoops – click unsubscribe and let unroll.me take care of the rest), (b) you can leave the newsletter in the rollup, so it just comes once a day along with all your other bulk emails in this rollup from unroll.me and you can decide at a glance if it is worth opening today, and (c) you can choose to have the email (and future instances of it) delivered directly to your mailbox if it is something important and you do want to read it.

You can always access your “rolled up” emails at any time in the unroll.me label unroll.me automatically creates – so its not like you lose any messages.

unroll.me just recently finished a rewrite of their user interface and the improvements are great and make the service much more intuitive. I highly recommend this service – and you really can’t argue with the price (free).

MailStore Home – For Long-Term Email Archival.

You want to save your emails forever – but for whatever reason, keeping them “online” is not an option. This used to be much more of a dilemma before Google brought Gmail on the scene and started offering gobs of free space and forcing most other major email providers to do the same. Still, there are a few reasons you might want to keep emails forever in an “offline” manner:

  • Backups – You want to ensure that if Google shuts its doors, you don’t lose the last ten years worth of emails.
  • Space – You are an email fiend and manage to consume the vast amounts of free space given you by your email provider.
  • Corporate Restrictions – You are part of a corporation that places limits on your mailbox size – and you’ve reached the limit.
  • Archival – You want to keep the emails, but don’t really want them showing up in your searches through your mailbox.

The last reason is why I use MailStore Home these days. See, I like to keep all my emails for historical purposes – but I don’t necessarily keep them because I’m going to reference them. When I search my Gmail I don’t need to see these emails in the results – they are historical…but I still want to be able to access them just in case someday I need one. So, I use MailStore Home.

MailStore Home is a nifty and free product available for non-commercial use (e.g. don’t use as an employee of a corporation). It has been around for years and I’ve used it on and off-again for years. It creates a local store of your emails which is searchable and browsable through a friendly and intuitive UI.

There are a few weaknesses to the program:

  • Backups – It doesn’t automatically perform some sort of cloud syncing backup, though it does offer the option to backup to Hard Disk Drive or USB. I use SugarSync, so this isn’t really a problem – since SugarSync takes care of the cloud backup for me.
  • Automation – You have to run MailStore Home manually – it won’t just automatically pull down all the latest emails from your email account. Bahh humbug. It isn’t a major pain, but something worth nothing.

Granted, there is a reason this is called MailStoreĀ Home – namely because it is their lite product for non-commercial use. They do offer a for-pay server product which looks pretty amazing as well and probably addresses some of these problems.

Ohh, and did I mention they have a non-profit discount on their server product?