Last updated: March 5, 2019
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.
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.
VPS Standard plan
$14.99 / mo
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 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.
This webmail application allows both individuals and businesses to manage their email. It’s free and open-source, released under the GNU GPL, which means it can be freely downloaded, used, and even modified for free.
Since it uses HTML4, you can access it through any browser. The downside is the lack of a mobile interface. However, you can work around this problem by connecting your phone’s native mail client directly to the mail server.
It supports both IMAP and POP3/SMTP protocols.
No, some of them provide a different webmail application.
Yes. There are more than 200 plugins to choose from which include spell check, spam filtering, address books, calendars, and auto-responders. These are not required, but are often installed to make for a more personal email experience.
Not without downloading a local server environment as it requires PHP to run. It’s not meant to be used as a traditional desktop email client such as Microsoft Outlook. You can, however, access it from any browser.
It uses transport layer security (TLS), secure sockets layer (SSL), and STARTTLS.
If this is offered through your hosting company, they may provide support. SquirrelMail also provides support for end users and administrators through its website.
As opposed to local email clients, attachments are never automatically opened or downloaded, the amount of spam is reduced, you can process email from any device, and there is no waiting for messages to download which saves space on your computer.
Yes. You can download a stable version of SquirrelMail from the official website and install it on your server using FTP or the command line. Before doing so, check with your hosting company to ensure that your server has all the necessary requirements.
It is available on all platforms supporting PHP. Some of the platforms commonly used alongside SquirrelMail include OS X, FreeBSD, and Linux.
Yes, as long as the server has support for PHP which most modern hosting companies do.
The webmail portion of SquirrelMail dates back to 1999, making it one of the first standards-based webmail applications to gain traction.
The application has been translated to more than 50 languages, including Chinese, French, Spanish, German, and Arabic.