Self-Hosted Email vs Email as a Service

June 5, 2015

Email inboxMany small business owners, including those who manage bed and breakfasts or vacation rentals, struggle with how to manage their company email. There are so many different options out there that it can be hard to know where to even begin.

When setting up email for your business, your first choice will be between self-hosted email and Email as a Service (EaaS). Increased competition has led to affordable pricing (around $4-$6/month/user) for both options. Because of this, it is necessary to consider other factors when making your decision.

A self-hosted email account is the traditional email approach for businesses. Email hosting is commonly included in web hosting packages from domain providers such as GoDaddy or 1and1, but it can also be purchased independently. Self-hosted email is usually accessed through an email client on your computer, such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird. Many providers offer web-based access as well.

Email as a Service is a common approach for personal email (think Gmail or Yahoo! Mail) but it is also a practical option for businesses. While free email accounts are available, most business owners find it worthwhile to upgrade to paid versions. Paid versions, such as Google Apps for Work or Microsoft Office 365, give business owners the option for a custom email at their company’s web domain. These options also come with extra email storage space, 24/7 tech support, multiple user accounts, and other benefits that make them great for business owners.

Here are the main pros and cons of self-hosted email versus Email as a Service to help you determine what email option is best for your business:

Self-Hosted Email


  • Increased privacy because the email is on your server.
  • Often included with your web hosting plan for free or a small fee.


  • Takes a greater amount of time and technical skill to set up than Google Apps.
  • Can be a challenge to migrate your emails if you change web hosts.
  • Downtime and reliability vary between providers – some are much better than others, but they are rarely as good as Email as a Service.
  • Dependable spam filtering is rarely included and costs extra to add on.
  • Options for web-based email access are improving but still lag far behind Email as a Service options.

Email as a Service (specifically, Google Apps for Work)


  • Great webmail/online user experience and simple setup.
  • World-class spam filtering.
  • Highly secure, enforced SSL connections, and 2-step verification.
  • Easy integration with multiple devices.
  • Near-zero downtime.
  • No need to backup emails or transfer them if you change your domain host.
  • High-quality, enterprise-level user administration.
  • Google Apps for Work can almost completely replace Microsoft Office.
  • Google Apps for Work includes features such as email aliasing, forwarding, filtering, labeling, messaging, and app integration.


  • Free versions use metadata and habits of your email use for marketing and advertising, paid versions do not.
  • Free versions are not ideal for business because they lack the 24/7 phone and priority email support you get with a paid option.

The paid version of Gmail/Google Apps, called Google Apps for Work, is the industry leader for business webmail. It is what we at Q4Launch often recommend to our clients. Google Apps for Work has tremendous flexibility and a wide variety of features such as Group Inbox Sharing, Messaging, Drive, and Calendar.

Ultimately, you should base your decision on the unique needs and wants of you and your business. It is important to be aware of pros and cons of self-hosted email versus Email as a Service, as well as the potential issues that can arise based on what setup you choose.

If you have more questions on what is the best business email option for your bed and breakfast or vacation rental, please contact Q4Launch!