Email is an essential communication tool used around the world. Most hosting providers include support for one or more email accounts with their hosting packages.
Importance of Webmail
Webmail or email is accessed using an online-only client. It is has been an important tool for busy professionals as a business on the Web becomes increasingly mobile.
Many hosting providers include support for email as part of their standard packages. As one of today’s leading forms of interpersonal communication, email is an essential part of running a successful website and business. An important part of any modern email service is webmail.
How is Webmail Different from Traditional Clients?
This is what your login screen looks like with webmail.
Traditional email clients are installed on your machine or run from your local server. Webmail, on the other hand, is (as the name implies) accessed directly from the Web via the browser on your device.
Webmail makes it easy to take your mail “on the go” without having to install a specific application. No tinkering required with mail settings on your computer, tablet or smartphone. You just type in the Web address provided by your host, enter your email username and password, and you’re in!
Functionality of Webmail
As a rule, webmail has many of the same functions as standard email, including composing, replying, forwarding and support for attachments. More advanced webmail clients also offer synchronized archiving with your desktop client. This allows you to access your local archive from your mobile device.
Webmail is email accessed using a web browser. Thanks to services like Gmail and Hotmail, most web users will understand how this works. Web hosts also offer webmail services so that their customers can log into their email accounts without using email software. But webmail is not equal to every hosting plan.
Limitations and Browser Access
Some webmail clients, however, require a constant connection to the Internet to function. Offline message downloads or archiving are therefore out of the picture.
This means you may not be able to read mail offline or even compose a new message since the browser cannot load your mail environment to do so.
Why Use Webmail?
Most of us carry a phone or tablet that connects frequently to our email server. At specified intervals, the device may connect to your mailbox, look for new messages and download them to your device.
You might prefer Push email. This is where a new message is downloaded as soon as it arrives. With IMAP, you can synchronize your view across multiple devices.
Web Browser Access and Tools
Webmail is a little different. It allows you to access your email account using a web browser. Web hosting companies offer webmail tools. You can access any mailbox without downloading or installing anything at all.
You’ll normally find webmail options in your host’s control panel software. For many hosts, that’s cPanel, but it may also be Plesk, or your host’s custom control panel. The way the webmail system works depends on how your host has provisioned it.
Webmail is handy to have on your account for a number of reasons. Firstly, you log in using a simple form: just tap in a username and password. Webmail also allows you to check messages from anywhere. No software is required to be installed.
There are also some downsides of using webmail, as opposed to modern e-mail clients.
Or, rather, the lack of them. If you have a Gmail account, you might be surprised by how few options your host’s webmail software gives you in comparison.
Again, or lack of it. Your webmail account probably isn’t provided over a secure server, unless you’ve set this up with your host. Extra attention is required with webmail when dealing with security.
The user-interface is extremely bland, although RoundCube is a better example.
In general, webmail interfaces are known to be dated, bland and not necessarily attractive. While functionality is obviously key, having an attractive user-interface is still a pleasing factor to have.
Most webmail clients do not possess modern features such as HTML formatting. Automatic replies, prevention settings, and timers are also missing.
If you’re looking to move over to webmail from modern clients, you could be taken by surprise!
Clunky URLs are a pain to copy, store or access.
Long, messy and clunky URLs when accessing your webmail. This isn’t exactly handy for anyone.
Speeds may be slow, depending on your web hosting provider. This is of course not a generalistic fact but could arise as an issue.
None of these cons are deal breakers, but they make webmail slightly less pleasant to use.
Types of Webmail
Your options will vary from host to host. Here are four of the most common:
Many hosts have their own custom clients, too. Let’s take a brief look at the 6 webmail clients mentioned above.
Squirrel is one of the most dated webmail clients. The design is virtually from the 90s.
Squirrelmail has a very basic user interface. It works very well on slow connections but is not very easy on the eye. On the plus side, it has industry-standard navigation, so you can use it without prior experience.
An open source webmail client. The first stable release was published in April 2014 after eight years in development.
Horde has a relatively standard and functional interface. A tight competitor of RoundCube.
A well-rounded webmail client that has various quirks which won’t sit well with everyone. It works fine but requires some patience while you learn your way around.
A Windows-only application that can be accessed via the Plesk control panel. Not the most glamorous webmail, but basic functionalities suffice.
A webmail client which requires no database to run – it has built-in 2FA, along with social media authentification. Security is less of an issue here.
A relatively new webmail client focused on privacy. These guys prioritize encryption and user experience with an open-source code. Again, if security is your fear, MailPile is a good choice.
Accessing Your Webmail
It is incredibly simple to access your webmail via cPanel – just one click.
When it comes time to log in to your webmail email account you’ll have a few different options. These options depend on the email hosting provider you choose.
Most people don’t end up using their webmail accounts as their main email solution. Instead, webmail ends up as a backup, or as a tool for email forwarding.
Webmail Access via cPanel
That being said you can typically access your webmail client via your host’s cPanel, or whatever control panel they have installed.
You’ll find an email account feature, and then select your webmail tool of choice (profiled above). You can also access your webmail client via your website’s domain name. For example, http://mysite.com/webmail will take you to a login page to access your email.
Webmail Clients vs Desktop Clients – Simple Comparison
A majority of e-mail users have e-mail accounts with modern webmail clients. These are Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo, to name a few. While these clients are still classed as Webmail, they differ from your traditional online webmail clients, provided by hosts.
Webmail and Desktop – Side-by-Side
Perhaps the second most popular choice for e-mail use is a desktop client. Popular ones include Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird or Opera Mail. Let’s take a look at how a desktop client compares to a webmail client.
Desktop clients are generally secure, although they rely on your machine’s security too.
Addition of custom domains is supported free of charge in most cases.
Desktop clients support multiple account management.
Primarily available, although sync process takes significantly longer.
Offline mode is readily available, to compose or archive.
Generous amounts of storage.
Additional security measures such as 2-factor authentification can be limited.
Adding custom domains can cost extra, depending on your hosting provider and plan.
You cannot access two accounts at once, even if they’re under the same custom domain or hosting plan.
Most host webmail clients have mobile support, therefore accessing your account is simple.
Must be connected to the internet to use any features.
Limited storage, depending on your set-up and plan with your host.
Both options have the upper hand in certain aspects. Moreover, users looking to make the best of both worlds tend to levitate towards online clients such as Gmail or Hotmail.
How Hosting and Webmail Work Together
Some hosts offer you choices between webmail clients, both before and after logging in.
When you sign up for a hosting service provider you’ll also have the ability to create a domain-specific email address. Also known as a business email address.
Creating E-mail Addresses with Webmail
The number of email accounts and associated email addresses you can create depends upon your hosting plan. Some plans allow for unlimited email accounts, while others are limited based on your plan.
Typically, most beginner hosting providers will include things like a free domain name and an associated email account.
Access form Your Hosting Account
So, your hosting account will provide you with access to your webmail client.
You’ll have the ability to set up an email account that’s tied to your domain and: decent amount of storage and the ability to create send and receive emails. Sounds like a pretty good deal.
Do I Need Webmail Support?
Most of us have a webmail account we can access in a pinch — such as a spare Gmail account — and we can bash out a quick email in seconds.
But could you access critical business email in a couple of minutes using the same method? It’s still handy to have webmail access to your host’s email accounts, even if it’s basic and a little unattractive.
You never know when you’ll forget your phone, or need to print something out from an internet cafe on the run.
Other Ways to Access Webmail
There are other ways to access your email via a third party service, and you can also set up various forwarding rules. But as solutions go, none of them are as neat. For emergencies or speed, it’s worth checking that webmail is included in your web hosting service.
If you know for sure that you only require webmail hosting for a single domain, then SiteGround is a great choice. It’s very beginner friendly, provides top-notch support, and is very high performing across the board.
Now, a basic plan will only come equipped with limited email inbox storage, but you can create unlimited email accounts.
If you’re looking for one of the cheapest entry points into webmail hosting, then check out iPage. With iPage, you can create unlimited email addresses, plus you’ll even get a free domain name when you sign up.
Plus, there are built-in features like autoresponder creation and email forwarding to helping you get the most out of your new email account.
What to Look for in a Webmail Host
Most beginner hosts come equipped with webmail access. Depending on the host you choose you’ll get access to a different suite of features. Below you’ll find some of the main webmail hosting features you’ll want to look out for:
Webmail access via cPanel or URL
Multiple webmail clients available like Squirrelmail, Horde, Roundcube, or Smartermail
Ability to add anti-spam and virus protection to your email account
Email forwarding via IMAP or POP3 to send your webmail emails to your main inbox
Ability to add multiple business email addresses without an added fee
Ability to create unlimited domain specific email addresses
Unlimited email storage space
Other features in The Best Email Hosting Services 2019
Webmail is a way of accessing your email through a web browser, rather than an email application on your computer. Sites like Gmail and Hotmail use a webmail interface, but you can also use a webmail interface provided by a hosting provider.
Why do people use webmail?
Webmail lets you access your email from anywhere.
Is webmail always provided?
No. Some hosting companies don’t provide any kind of email service at all. This is particularly true of managed WordPress and site builder hosting, when you may simply get a web login and file storage space.
What features can I expect to get from webmail?
Webmail is inherently more basic than a full email application. You should expect to be able to read, reply, forward email, and attach files to a message. You should be able to create a signature, and file email into folders.
Webmail usually lacks complex filtering, labels, auto-responders, or backups.
Can I use webmail on a shared hosting plan?
Normally, webmail is provided if your host offers cPanel. Look in the fine print for the package you’re interested in.
Is webmail secure?
Webmail is only ever as secure as your web hosting server. Unless you purchase an SSL certificate, the security will likely be quite basic.
Can I use webmail offline?
No. You need to be connected to the internet to log into your email account through a browser.
What webmail applications will be provided by my host?
If you have a Linux hosting plan with cPanel, you’ll probably be offered Squirrelmail, RoundCube, and/or Horde. There’s no real difference between these, so you can use the one that you prefer.
If you don’t have Linux or cPanel, check with your host to see what they provide.
What are the disadvantages of using webmail provided by a hosting company?
You will probably find that webmail interfaces are more basic than email applications. If you use your email address for business, this may be limiting.
Hosting your email on the same server as your website can also be problematic if there is an outage at your host. In this scenario, a third party webmail service would provide better continuity.
And you may need to access your email through your hosting control panel, which can be irritating.
Do I have to know how to program to use webmail?
No. Your host will usually set up webmail when it installs your hosting control panel.
What are the requirements for webmail hosting?
You need to have enough server space to store your web hosting files and emails. If your mailbox grows too large, this may have an effect on your website disk space.
Do I need managed hosting to use webmail?
No. Webmail is normally provided as standard, although it’s a good idea to check with your host to make sure.
What are the alternatives to webmail?
You could use an email forwarder, which forwards messages to another email address. You could also retrieve email through POP3 or IMAP, instead of the webmail interface. Another alternative is hosted email, like Gmail or Hotmail.
Is webmail as good as Gmail or Hotmail?
Gmail offers a large amount of free storage space, and it can be upgraded to use a business domain. Gmail is also much more feature-rich, and the interface may be easier to use depending on your own personal experience.
How does webmail compare to Microsoft Exchange as an email platform?
Microsoft Exchange is a corporate-class email platform, which usually has a web-accessible front end. Exchange has many more features than just email, and is best for companies that have fully invested in the Microsoft ecosystem.
About Kevin Wood
Kevin got his start as a web developer. Now he spends his time as a technical writer and poet. His main interests are technology and human potential. When he's not diving headfirst into technical topics, you can find him scrawling lines of poetry and getting lost in the woods.
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Who's Best for Webmail Hosting?
We think SiteGround is the best choice for Webmail.