Rackspace Email Hosting vs. Google Apps

I’d been using Google Apps for receiving emails sent to my domain up until an hour ago. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m running my app on Slicehost, and as usual they had some great instructions for using Google Apps for your email needs.

That was working kinda ok but there were a couple of things that annoy me about that solution. First is that I just don’t want Google involved in every single thing I do online. I generally trust them, but there are some things I don’t want to use them for, namely anything to do with my business (I don’t use Google Analytics either). The second is that I think it’s highway robbery to pay $50 per user per year for the premier account. I only need 2 right now, but down the line I might need more. I didn’t relish the thought of giving them $300 or $400 a year to provide a beefed up version of their free tools.

So today I discovered that Rackspace has an email hosting solution as well. And if you’re a Slicehost customer and need 3 or fewer inboxes (that me!) it’s only $3/month. The normal starter package’s price is $10/month for up to 10 inboxes, which is still totally reasonable. So in less than an hour I converted from Google Apps to Rackspace Email Hosting. And of course they have the usual helpful configuration instructions to get you started.

I have a couple of concerns that I’ll follow up on in future posts. The first is that according to the representative I chatted with there’s a limit of about 200 outgoing emails per hour. I think that’s going to be ok for my app, but I guess I’ll see. The other is that I’m pretty useless with mail configuration things and I’m a little nervous about how much effort will be involved in connecting my local postfix to their smtp server for outgoing email. I’m sure I’ll figure that out eventually though.

In any case, for $3/month, moving back to Google won’t be a huge issue if it should come to that. Hopefully it won’t. I’ve already gotten a few small tastes of the fanatical support from Rackspace and I have to say it’s pretty nice so far.

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13 Comments so far

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Slicehost, Digital Curator. Digital Curator said: slicehost: http://bit.ly/56UBTb great post outlining use of the Rackspace email offer with @slicehost.. http://bit.ly/52e6cP ^DigiCura […]

  2. Twirrim on December 29th, 2009

    If you’re running your own mail server in any way or form there is no point pushing your e-mail out through Rackspace’s SMTP servers. Even if you’re not its very easy to set up your own outward bound mail server. If you’re running Debian or Ubuntu try:

    Or otherwise consider this exim cofiguration:

  3. Eric J. Gruber on December 29th, 2009

    “I only need 2 right now, but down the line I might need more.”

    I’m a Slicehost customer and proud of it, but this logic is flawed. The proverbial “but I might need X someday” is why people spend more on what they don’t need.

    If you’re happy with it, great. Me, I’m a fan of saving my money and putting it toward actual business costs rather than imagined ones.

    For further reading: http://bit.ly/WhenItsAProblem

  4. Adrian L on December 29th, 2009

    Interesting to hear about your move to Rackspace email.
    As Google Apps standard is free for up to 50 users are there any other benefits of using rackspace for email hosting?
    I’m in the mind of letting Google own everything I do but Email with Google Apps so so very easy and free.

  5. vdibart on December 29th, 2009

    @Adrian – I agree, it’s free and easy to use. But I don’t necessarily want to rely on “free” products for something so core to my business as email. What if they go down? What if someone hacks my account? Who do I call for support? For Analytics you could make the case that it doesn’t matter, but for your organization’s email…..that’s deadly. So I’m willing to pay for the added assurance that my business means enough to them to support the product. Given those parameters, would I rather pay $4/person or $1/person? I think the choice there is pretty clear. (Edited to correct price per person per month for Google – thx michael)

  6. vdibart on December 29th, 2009

    @Eric – Actually you might have misunderstood my argument. I *am* saving money by moving to Rackspace – both now and as I add more email accounts. I agree totally with you about not spending money on what you don’t need, which is why I moved off of Google Apps in the first place. Thanks for the link – it’s a great read.

  7. vdibart on December 29th, 2009

    @Twirrim – Actually there is one benefit to shopping this out to Rackspace, which is actually what spurred my initial investigation into alternatives. I had a bunch of emails get blocked by MSN’s spam filters because my I have a dynamic IP. I’m assuming (hoping?) this won’t happen if I route through Rackspace. And on the receiving side I can make use of Rackspace’s filtering and spam controls. Lastly, it simplifies my infrastructure some (don’t need to dedicate a machine to email or have a good portion of one machine dedicated to email) and I believe saves me some headaches with administration. As many others have said, sure I *could* run an email server. But why when it’s so easy and cheap to offload that hassle to someone else so I can focus on application development?

  8. Cameron Nouri on December 29th, 2009

    @vdibart – Welcome to Rackspace! Enjoyed reading about your decision process here. We are seeing more and more customers who are going through the same decision process around Google Apps. I am sure many will find this post helpful. Would you mind if we shared this with potential customers going through the same process?

    Also if there is anything we can do to help you further with your transition, set up, or any questions you may just let us know. You can reach me directly on Twitter (@rackapps) or by email cameron.nouri [at] rackspace.com

    PS — You are correct about the IP management. We have an entire team dedicated to IP reputation and management, so we don’t get emails blocked by spam filters at MSN (or others) for IP blacklisting.

  9. michael on December 29th, 2009

    like Adrian I wondered what other benefits you found using rackspace for email hosting? I hear that you like the support, but your pricing comparison seems a little bit off. Google premier is $4.17/month/user ($50/user/year) with 25 gigs storage per user. Rackspace costs $1/user/month for the first 10 gigs, but adding their backup service or additional cloud disk space quickly brings you over the $4/month mark. In my business we use Google Apps as a replacement for an exchange server (we love the integrated calendar) The Rackspace equivalent doesn’t compare at $12.50/month per user.

  10. vdibart on December 29th, 2009

    @michael – you are right about the math being off. I’ve corrected it in my comments above and been more explicit in the main post. Thanks for pointing that out.

    I think the point you make is important. I’m not in the market for an Exchange server, so that’s not part of my consideration. I am using this as a server for application-generated emails as well as for some limited “contact us” type emails, so my use case may be different than yours. So no, the difference between 25GB and 10GB was not significant to me.

    The last point about backups is also important, but probably not in the way you intended. You seem to assume that Google’s service automatically includes backup. Afterall, we’ve all come to trust Google with our data. For personal use that might be acceptable, but for business use I feel the equation tips the other way. Not only am I not so sure Google is foolproof I feel that they have no incentive to help me restore lost data if it should happen. Rackspace charges extra for that service, but at least it’s an option – at least they don’t pretend I’ll never need it. It’s my responsibility to ensure my data is backed up, not Google’s responsibility.

  11. greho on January 20th, 2010

    Google offers backup/archiving on their premium ($50 per year) accounts. Adding Google’s Postini services adds $25 per year per mailbox.

    As for same-same comparisons.. The analogs are Google Apps Premier with Postini and Rackspace Exchange Hosting plus archiving.

    Google Apps Premier Email plus Postini archiving = $50/yr $25/yr = $75 per year per mailbox.

    Rackspace Exchange Hosting plus archiving = $12.50/mo $3/mo x 12 = $186 per year.

    Keep in mind, if you *need* all the features of Exchange (syncing to-do lists and notes, for example) then Google Apps is not competitive, and there are Exchange hosts in the $8 to $10 range.

    If your big needs are email, web-based email, calendaring, and organization-wide contacts, Google works just as well.

  12. techpop on December 30th, 2011

    Was curious to see where you are now with your email hosting. I’m in a similar position. I have about 10 websites and trying to consolidate all the emails into one place so it is easier to manage. Don’t want to do forwarding, really want aliases. Also I want my apps to be able to send out email from the appropriate domain as necessary.

    Any advice?

  13. Talk Solar Panles on January 17th, 2012

    We use Rackspace for about 50 company mailboxes. Their service is brilliant, and it’s so much more reliable than when we ran email on our own server – I’d recommend them. The one thing I’d love to know is in detail what is permissible under their send rate limits and so on… for example we have several thousand newsletter subscribers and I’m a bit worried about sending out a huge email regularly in case they ditch us as a customer!

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