Three secure email alternatives to Google and Microsoft

Source: Unsplash/Christin Hume

The recent Optus data breach has reignited conversations about data storage and privacy here in Australia. While there’s not much you can do if your personal data has been stolen, there are things you can do to bolster online security hygiene – for yourself and for small businesses. And it starts with secure messaging services.

There are plenty of secure email client alternatives to big conglomerates like Google and Microsoft. And they offer end-to-end encryption, custom domain names, multiple users, and more. And most even have a free option.

Here are three of the most popular services.

Proton mail is one of the most popular encrypted messaging providers in the world.

Proton Mail offers a zero access guarantee, its servers are protected by Swiss privacy laws, and it offers self-destructing email.

Although there is a free model, it also offers commercial options for a fee associated with custom domains with additional features and technical support.

Proton Mail Unlimited also offers up to 500 GB of storage, up to 20 personal calendars and Proton Drive Proton VPN.

However, it should be noted that subject lines are not end-to-end encrypted.

“Whether notified of a valid Swiss court order, we have the possibility of delivering the subjects of your messages”, the Proton Mail FAQ reads.

If you’re looking for one of the easiest and most accessible encrypted email services, Proton Mail is a great option.

Here are some of the main pros and cons:

Advantages:

  • Free plan;
  • trading options;
  • Custom domain options;
  • Catch all emails for paid plans;
  • IMAP support for some desktop email clients through Proton Bridge;
  • It has an app;
  • Servers in Switzerland;
  • Self-destruct function;
  • Password protection for individual emails;
  • open-source;
  • 2FA options available; and
  • Available in over 20 languages.

The inconvenients:

  • Limitation of the number of e-mail addresses, even for paid accounts. This makes it better suited for small organizations;
  • You need an email address or phone number to sign up, or you can donate to Proton instead;
  • It retains certain metadata, such as the sender’s and recipient’s email addresses and the IP address of incoming emails and the subject line; and
  • No POP3 support.

Price: €0-9.99 ($13.23) per month (plus extras).

Tutanota is similar, but much cheaper, than Proton Mail. It uses its own encryption standards, which means it will encrypt your subject line, and also offers a fully encrypted address book and calendar, even on the free plan.

There’s also a free option if you’re an individual who doesn’t need some extra bells and whistles.

If you are looking for more users and a custom domain, Tutanota can do that for you. However, it is less robust than Proton Mail. You can only get five alias accounts and 10 GB of storage, even on the “Teams” account. That being said, it’s only €4 per month, but adding additional users costs an additional €2 ($2.65) per month. This makes it a much better option if you’re working in a small team or just starting out.

Advantages

  • Free plan;
  • Commercial accounts available;
  • Custom domains supported;
  • Ability to create a white label design for your inbox;
  • Servers located in Germany are subject to strict German privacy laws;
  • Anonymous registration;
  • IP addresses are not logged unless the company receives an order from a German court regarding suspected criminal activity;
  • End-to-end zero-knowledge encryption;
  • Password hash;
  • Encrypted attachments;
  • Encrypted contacts; and
  • Web, iOS, Android, PC, Mac and Linux are all supported.

The inconvenients:

  • No email support for the free account;
  • Limited support in general;
  • Registration can take up to 48 hours;
  • Storage only goes up to 10GB, and that’s only on the most expensive plan; and
  • Messaging rules are only available on paid accounts.

Price: 0-€4 ($5.30) per month (plus extras).

If you are looking for a secure yet more robust option for your business, you may want to consider Mailbox.org.

Unlike Tutanota and Proton Mail, it packs a ton of features, storage, and support to suit an organization. This includes encrypted and ad-free video conferencing, push notifications, and spam/virus protection.

It has a custom domain option as well as up to 25 users for paid accounts, which makes it a decent option for small and medium businesses.

It also offers mobile synchronization for your mail, calendars and contacts as well as the ability to use Word or OpenOffice documents and spreadsheets from your browser.

Being a more comprehensive service provider, unfortunately there is no free option. However, the “Light” plan starts at only €1 ($1.32).

  • Business oriented;
  • Great additional tools and features to support businesses;
  • Custom domains supported;
  • Up to 25 users for paid accounts;
  • Servers located in Germany are subject to strict German privacy laws;
  • Anonymous registration option;
  • End-to-end encryption and zero knowledge;
  • Nature-friendly;
  • Encrypted contacts; and
  • Web, iOS, Android, PC, Mac and Linux are all supported.

The inconvenients:

  • No free option;
  • Storage only up to 25 GB for mail and 50 GB for cloud;
  • Metadata is not encrypted; and
  • Topic titles are not encrypted.

Price: €1 to €9 ($11.92) per month.

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