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. ­čÖé

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).

Goodbye Firefox?

The Horror

I still have my t-shirts. I’m not sure how they’ve held up over so many years, especially with how frequently I have worn them – one for Firefox, one for Thunderbird – both from the official Mozilla store.

Image representing Firefox
Image via CrunchBase

I’m fairly certain I’ve been using Firefox since 1.x, and perhaps even before. I jumped ship from Internet Explorer as quickly as possible and having been a long-time fan of Netscape Navigator, Firefox with its relations to Netscape was appealing to me.

Today I did something that I’ve seen coming for a long time now. I’m not sure if it will stick – but I’ve done it.

  • I exported my bookmarks from Firefox into an HTML file (I probably have several thousand, carefully categorized).
  • I imported my bookmarks from the HTML file into Google Chrome (it looks like they came over without a hitch).
  • I closed the almost-always-running instance of Firefox.
  • I unpinned Firefox from my Windows taskbar.

Now I sit┬ástand in front of my computer, the monitor flashing its warm blue glow, my fingers typing on the keyboard as if nothing has changed, and yet something has changed – something significant. For over five years now a large portion of my life and work has occurred via the Firefox browser, and now, now it is no more.

What Happened?

Firefox’s bloat over time was a big hassle for many – but I held onto Firefox through all of that. The slow release cycles compared to Google’s Chrome drove others crazy, but I held on through that.

What finally drove me (several years ago) to begin using Chrome for at least a significant portion of my web activities was the profiles – something that Firefox never really was able to handle well, as far as I know, still can’t. I have different “personas” on the web – they are all me (Dave Mackey) and I don’t pretend to be different people, but I operate for different functions. I am the personal me, I was the corporate me, I am the techie me, and I am the pastor me. Each of these personas was best served by a separate profile. With thousands of links organized into categories, it was too confusing to try and keep track of everything all mashed into one profile – so now, my ministry links are in my ministry profile, my personal links are in my personal profile, and so on.

Any Hope of Reconciliation?

Sure there is. I have never used Chrome as my 100% primary browser. Up to this point I’ve primarily used Chrome for web app (GMail, Facebook, Calendar, Asana, Keep) and have used Firefox for browsing and discovery (e.g. StumbleUpon, Digg, RSS, Zakta). There may be issues that arise when I use Chrome for everything that weren’t present when I used it for only these app’ish purposes…but I sort of doubt it.

Still, there is hope for reconciliation in my relationship with Firefox. Why? Because, quite honestly, I don’t trust Google. No, I’m not paranoid. Yes, I let them collect all sorts of info. about me and use it to target their advertising at me. I’m not worried about that – I’m worried about commitment. Google has axed far too many products or twisted them beyond recognition to be entirely trusted. I now Google Reader is the latest example, but there have been so many others – anyone remember their attempt with wikified search? Or how about that note taking application – what was it called?

So, Google, here is your word of warning: I’m watching you. Customer acquisition isn’t the whole game, to win customer loyalty you need to be loyal too, and you’ve fumbled quite a few times in this area!