Avoid a Mess: Keep Email & Web Hosting Separate

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Let’s say you’re a fitness coach who’s constantly sending meal plans, workout programs, and feedback to its clients.

One day, you wake up to a few emails from clients asking how much longer until they get their programs.

Since you typically send all programs within 24-48 hours, you’re left wondering what the heck happened.

You then go check your sent emails to make sure you didn’t forget to hit the send button.

You find out that you did send them a few days ago, so you ask your clients to please check their spam folder.

Ta-da!

Your clients find their programs in their spam folder and are happy and ready to get swole.

Well, that happened to me when I was starting out and was hosting and sending my emails from my web server.

So please, learn from my mistakes and get yourself a proper email hosting provider for your business.

Keeping your email and web hosting separate will help with:

  • Deliverability – emails sent from your WordPress site tend to end up in your recipients’ spam box or not delivered at all due to security restrictions on your web server.
  • Spam – web hosts typically have terrible spam filters, so you risk having your inbox filled with it.
  • Reliability – if your web server goes down, both your website and email will be unavailable.
  • Storage – all the emails and attachments your send and receive will take up disk space that could be used by your website.
  • Migration – migrating a website can be pretty simple, but migrating emails can be a little more challenging.

In this article, we’ll take a more in-depth look at each of these, go over the best email hosting providers, and learn how to set up email separate from your web host.

Contents

  1. Why you should keep email & web hosting separate
  2. Best email hosting providers
  3. What are MX records?
  4. How to set up email on a separate server

Disclosure: You should always assume that pretty much every link on this site is an affiliate link, and if you click it and buy something you like, I’ll earn some money to help me buy a DeLorean, build a time machine, and travel back to the 90s so I can watch Hey Arnold! and eat Dunkaroos again.

Why You Should Keep Email & Web Hosting Separate

I know using the free email hosting service that comes with your cheap web hosting provider seems like a good deal, but here’s why you shouldn’t use your web server to send and receive emails:

1. Low Deliverability

The main reason you want to keep your email and web hosting separate is to prevent your emails from ending up in your customers’ spam folders or not be delivered at all.

Most common email providers like Gmail and Outlook have very strict spam filters.

For example, things like images, links, and even some keywords like “buy now,” “special deal,” and “weight loss” can trigger spam filters.

This is why most email marketers now prefer sending plain text emails.

A few years ago, it would have been fine to send emails from your web server.

Unfortunately, the incredible growth of online businesses brought with it a growth in crappy marketers who send out spam emails as a lazy way of making a quick buck or scamming people.

This ruined everything for all the other bloggers and entrepreneurs trying to run a legit business.

Getting your mailed delivered has become a challenge in itself.

So why are emails from web servers often marked as spam?

The answer is simply: IP reputation.

Cheap shared hosting providers like Bluehost tend to pack as many users as they can into the same servers to reduce cost.

The issue with this is that if someone on your server is sending out spam, it will get the IP blacklisted and affect your deliverability and the reputation of your site as well as everyone else on the same server.

With how cheap and careless most hosting providers are, chances are there’ll be a least one person in your server sending out spam.

Basically, your deliverability is extremely dependent on your neighbors.

There are several sites you can use to check your mail server IP reputation, but here are two of my favorites:

So, when choosing an email hosting provider, you must find one that’s:

  • Trusted by other email servers
  • Pays attention to their reputation
  • Checks the emails sent by its users

Many cheap hosting companies don’t even care about the quality of their hosting, which is what they “specialize” in, so chances are they won’t care at all about their email reputation.

2. Bad Spam Filters

Web servers are not very good at detecting and filtering spam email. Therefore, it’s very likely that your inbox will end up flooded with it.

As the spam filters of providers like Gmail and Outlook get better, so do scammers at replicating legit-looking emails.

They can even spoof your own domain name and make the emails look like they’re coming from your own address.

Email spoofing FBC

I’ve had this happen to me as well, and I only noticed it when I went to mark the email as spam and block the sender.

Once I got the “are you sure you want to block this sender?” message, I saw that it was my own email address that I would be blocking.

What the heck! That’s so not Raven.

While it can be almost impossible to prevent 100% of spam emails, there are certain measures that can be taken by these web hosting providers.

But as I mentioned earlier, email hosting is its own game; cheap shared hosting providers won’t spend time and money analyzing and improving their spam detection filters.

Email hosting can be even more complex than web hosting; that’s why premium hosting companies like Kinsta don’t offer it, even when their plans start at $30 per month.

They focus on what they’re good at – WordPress hosting.

You can’t expect good web and email hosting for $5 per month.

Besides, even if they could prevent spam from hitting your inbox, why would they?

They want you to consume a lot of resources and use up your disk space so they can force you to upgrade to the more expensive plans.

3. Reliability

Another reason to keep your email and web hosting separate is that if your server goes down, both your website and email will stop working.

This means that your clients and potential customers won’t be able to reach you on your website or email.

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard people say not to put all your eggs in one basket, right? (I know, I know… so cliche)

But it’s true, and it applies to your email and web hosting as well.

Even though most hosts try to keep websites up as much as they can, there’s always the possibility of something happening and servers going down.

Some issues might be fixed within a couple of minutes, others in a few hours, and some could take days or even weeks.

Whether you’re a small business owner, freelancer, or part of an established agency, downtime can affect your reputation and cost you money.

4. Storage & Speed

All the emails and attachments you send and receive will take up disk space that could be used by your website instead.

Taking up tons of disk space will not only slow your site, but it can get you banned from your server.

It’s not uncommon for some cheap shared hosting providers to ban users for consuming too many resources.

Others will force you to upgrade to a more expensive plan that allows for more storage.

So the money you’ll save on a good email hosting provider will be spent on a more expensive hosting plan that’s still pretty crappy.

5. Tricky Migrations

If you’re using a cheap shared web host, chances are you’ll end up moving in the future.

Migrating hosts can be pretty simple, especially since many hosting companies offer free migrations.

However, you want to know what they don’t migrate?

Emails.

Why?

Because, as I mentioned earlier, good hosting companies don’t typically offer email hosting.

When switching email hosts, you have to redirect all mail traffic to the new server.

During the update, there might be a period of time when some emails go to the old server, and some emails go to the new server.

So you’d have to find a way to check both the old and new servers to make sure you don’t miss any emails.

You also have to make sure that there are mailboxes setup on the new server, which match the mailboxes on the old server, so that when you’re set on the new server, mail sent to these mailboxes don’t bounce (because they don’t exist).

Plus, there’s always the risk of losing emails and contacts during a transfer.

Best Email Hosting Providers

“Thanks, Christian! I’m going to keep my email and web hosting separate now, but where should I host my email then?”

Well, there are several email hosting providers, but here are a few of my favorite ones:

  • Google Workspace (formerly G-Suite) – the go-to for most bloggers and businesses. Great reputation, deliverability, and spam filters, which is not surprising since they’re one of the biggest email companies in the world. The only downside is that, at $6 per month, they’re one of the most expensive ones. This is what I use for my main fitness site. (get Google Workspace)
  • MXroute – another email host with good deliverability but half the price of Google Workspace. Spam filtering is not as good as Google Workspace or Microsoft 365, it can be a little more technical to set up, and they don’t have a way to download your emails, so you’ll have to use a third-party tool. They also expect you to know how to use email and configure your DNS, but they do offer support if you need them. If you constantly use email to message your clients, I’d use Google Workspace instead, if not, you could try MXroute. Their plans start at $40/year, which comes out to ~$3/month.
  • Microsoft 365 – slightly cheaper than Google Workspace ($5/month), and some say it has even better email deliverability. It also comes with the web versions of Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.
  • Rackspace – another email hosting provider you might see mentioned here and there. Just like MXroute, they’re about ~$3/month and have good deliverability and okay filters.

What Are MX Records?

When talking about email hosting, you might hear the term “MX records” thrown around a lot.

Mail Exchange (MX) records are domain name system (DNS) records needed for delivering email to your address.

In simple terms, an MX record is used to tell your incoming emails where to go.

If your MX records are not pointed to the correct location, you won’t receive emails.

Marshalling

Picture the MX records as a marshaller and your emails as an airplane trying to park at the airport.

Without the marshaller (MX records) giving instructions, the airplane (emails) wouldn’t know where to park (mail server).

How to Set up Email on a Separate Server

To set up your email, you’ll need your MX records to point to the server of your new email hosting provider (e.g., Google Workspace, MXroute), not the server of your web host.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Get your new MX records

Obtain the MX destination details from the provider who will host your emails (e.g., Google Workspace, MXroute).

For example, these are Google Workspace MX record values:

PriorityValue/Destination
1aspmx.l.google.com
5 alt1.aspmx.l.google.com
5alt2.aspmx.l.google.com
10alt3.aspmx.l.google.com
10alt4.aspmx.l.google.com

So if you were using Google Workspace, these would be the values you’d use.

2. Locate your current MX records

The next step is to find where your current MX records are so you can update them with the ones from the previous step.

MX records are managed by your web host or wherever the DNS is for your domain (e.g., Cloudflare).

How you access this information will be different depending on where your site is hosted (e.g., Bluehost, SiteGround).

To find instructions on how to edit MX records for your current web host, simply try searching their documentation (knowledge base) or googling the following term:

Edit MX records “your hosting company”

Just replace “your hosting company” with the actual name of your hosting company.

If you’re having trouble with this, you could also contact your hosting company’s support and see if they’re willing to help you out.

3. Edit your current MX records

Now, you can either delete your existing MX records and add the new ones or simply edit your existing ones.

You just have to copy your new MX records (from step 1) and paste them into the appropriate place at your web host.

You’re basically telling your web host, “please direct emails to my email host from now on.”

Push it somewhere else meme

4. Wait and Test

While changes often propagate within a few minutes, they can sometimes take up to 24 hours.

So wait between 15-30 minutes and send yourself an email to test everything.

If you don’t receive it, then wait the full 24 hours and test again.

Note to CDN Users

If you’re using a content delivery network (CDN) like Cloudflare for DNS, you have to update your MX records there as well so they match both locally and globally.

If you forget to do this, you’ll run into email delivery issues.

FAQs About Email Hosting

1. Can you host email and website separately?

Yes, you can (and should) host your email and website separately. This is what this post was all about.

2. Does web hosting include email?

Some cheap shared hosting providers like Bluehost include free email hosting, however, good web hosts don’t typically do.

This is because email hosting is very complex and good web hosts focus on the quality of their main product, which is WordPress hosting.

Their goal is to provide users with the best performance, security, and reliability, not to make sure that your emails are delivered.

Surely, you wouldn’t ask your plumber to fix your car, right?

Final Thoughts: Keep Email & Web Hosting Separate

Many cheap hosting companies tie email and web hosting together even though these are completely different separate applications.

This might seem convenient at first, but as you learned from this article, keeping your these things separate is extremely important.

The few extra dollars spent on a decent email hosting service that actually delivers your emails and is more secure for both you and your customers is definitely worth it.

Especially when your business’ reputation and earnings are at stake.

Chris

Christian Coulson

Christian is an industrial engineer with a background in programming who's used his knowledge and experience to grow 7Sigma Physiques—his fitness coaching business and blog with thousands of monthly readers.

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