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What is SquirrelMail Hosting?
If you need an established, standards-based webmail application for yourself or your enterprise, check out Free and Open Source (FOSS) SquirrelMail. Where would we be without email? For all the attention being given to Facebook, IM, text messages, and Hipchat, email still reigns supreme for online personal and business communication.
Many people use a commercial email service like Gmail. There's even some people still out there with Hotmail or Aol accounts. But if you want to present a professional persona to the world, your business card shouldn't list your customer service email address as [email protected]. You need to run your own mail service, with email addresses at your own domain name.
This isn't really difficult. Almost every hosting company offers email service as part of your hosting plan, and you can usually set up email addresses from the control panel.
But then, once you've set up an email address, how do you read and send email? You need an email client.
How does Email work?
An email server is a software program that (often) runs on the same computer as your web server. It's job is to connect to the internet, receive any messages intended for it, and send any messages you ask it to send out to other people.
To simplify things, let's gloss over how messages get routed around the internet once they leave your mail server. The thing you need to worry about as a business owner or personal email user is how you deal with those messages once you have them.
A mail server isn't used for writing messages, or for reading them. It's job is to send and receive messages. (By analogy, you don't ask your post office to read your mail, do you?)
You have to fetch your messages and bring them into an app that lets you read them. That same app lets you write messages and then send them back to the mail server for sending out. The app that does all this for you is called a client.
Your mail server is like your local post office. The client is like your mailbox and postal carrier.
Webmail and mail clients
In the past, mail clients were always desktop programs. You may still use one: Microsoft Outlook is probably the most well-known mail client. Today, phones also usually have an embedded mail client.
The way these work is that the messages are fetched from the server (over the internet) and stored locally on your computer or device. This is very efficient, because you can read and write email even when you aren't connected, and lots of messages can be bundled together all at once for delivery.
The problem with a local mail client on your own computer or phone is that you have to use your own computer or phone to access your email. The price for efficiency is a potential lack of convenience.
Webmail is a mail client that is not local to your machine but sits on a web server (often, the same one as your mail server) and lets you interact with it over the internet. It's not quite as efficient as a local client, but you can access it from any computer with a web browser.
SquirrelMail Web Mail Client
SquirrelMail is a Free and Open Source webmail application written in PHP.
It's licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), which means it can be used and distributed for free. SquirrelMail is scalable up to thousands of users with hundreds of simultaneous connections.
Squirrel Mail supports third-party plugins and extensions, and there are currently over 200 available, including support for and enhancements to features like spell check, spam filtering, user administration, calendaring, folders, address books, email signatures, and auto-responders.
Translated into more than 50 languages and usable anywhere via most Web browsers, SquirrelMail is widely accessible.
The only real downside to SquirrelMail is that the web interface is not well optimized for mobile devices. However, a single email account can be accessed by more than one mail client. So that shouldn't stop you from connecting your phone's native mail client to the mail server directly, and using SquirrelMail whenever you are sitting at a traditional desktop or laptop computer.
Many hosting providers offer SquirrelMail directly from the web hosting control panel.