Surveillance tech has made popular email services fragile—but there is a way out!

The market is flooded with email services for business and personal use, but which one would work best for you? Our experts help you understand the metrics.
For the longest time, our standards for email services were lenient. The yardstick for picking the best email providers used to be—who packs the coolest features for free? Today, our criteria are nuanced and multilayered, making the hunt for an ideal email service provider fairly complicated. One of the crucial factors is the safety of the transferred data—something Big Tech email services cannot guarantee.Luckily, the likes of Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook no longer have a monopoly over free email. Email services with impressive features and high safety standards are popping up everywhere, so it’s important to do basic research and comparison to find an ideal one. We have prepared this guide to help you make an informed choice among top providers using five criteria:
  1. Privacy and data security
  2. Analysis of features
  3. User experience
  4. Pricing
  5. Terms of service (ToS)
We’ll also introduce you to Skiff—one of the best free, privacy-first email services in the world.
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#1 Privacy benchmarks for good email service providers

Email communication is not private by default. Every email you send or receive passes through multiple servers across different networks. In most cases, an email service provider (ESP) has access to your messages and scans their content for personalized ads. Your security is also at risk if your email gets intercepted due to server- or network-level hacking attempts.Encrypting emails is the ideal solution for protecting your online privacy. Encryption is a cybersecurity measure that converts messages into ciphertext. The original message can be retrieved with a decryption key or password.Almost every ESP (even Gmail) has standard encryption protocols in their operational setup, but unfortunately, they are not enough to keep your messages safe. The truth is that security is a relative concept in the current digital landscape. Unless your service provider uses end-to-end encryption (E2EE) protocols, your online privacy remains vulnerable. Let’s understand:
  • Where standard email security fails
  • Why E2EE is crucial for security

Drawbacks of regular email security protocols

Standard email encryption protocols mostly work on a network level and are controlled by your service provider or the network itself. ESPs typically use:
  • In-transit encryption—Encryption protocols like Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) keep data confidential while they’re being transmitted between servers
  • At-rest encryption—Your data is encrypted while sitting in cloud storage or resting on a server before transmission. An industry-standard algorithm like Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is used to deploy at-rest encryption
These protocols do the bare minimum to protect your data, generally falling short because:
  1. Messages do not remain encrypted at every node on the network
  2. Encrypted communication can still be compromised if someone steals the decryption keys stored on the provider’s public servers or if a company insider chooses to maliciously (or non-maliciously) look at your data
Take this example for further clarification—you send an email to your lawyer. The message leaves your device and reaches Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) servers. SMTP has no in-built security, so a man-in-the-middle attacker can easily view or tamper with your message.If your provider has configured TLS encryption, the message will be encrypted as it travels to other servers, but a sufficiently capable hacker can retrieve the decryption key stored on the server and access it. Top email service providers don’t always encrypt stored data, so your security is controlled by external variables.End-to-end encryption significantly improves email security by offering a streamlined encryption technique and more control to the users.
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Why an E2EE email service is the best in terms of security

End-to-end encryption is designed to protect users from variables beyond their control. The message is encrypted on the sender’s end and decrypted on the recipient’s end (hence end-to-end), so no one in between can take a peek. Unlike in-transit or at-rest encryptions, the network does not hold encryption and decryption keys—the user controls them. Even if a hacker infiltrates a network, they will find your message in an unreadable format.Let’s revisit our example from the previous section—you send a message to your lawyer, but this time, it’s end-to-end encrypted. To up the stakes, say a hacker is also looking to steal your attachment. Here’s how the communication will play out:
Party/ComponentWhat happensMessage status
YouYou create the message, and your device encrypts itEncrypted (before it leaves the browser)
ServersThe message is relayed across servers and may rest on a server momentarily before moving to the next oneEncrypted
Bots and hackersIf your message gets targeted by bots or hackers, they won’t be able to see the contentEncrypted
Lawyer (recipient)The recipient’s device uses a decryption key to decipher the messageDecrypted

Which service providers offer E2EE security?

Many email service providers advertise themselves as a complete encryption solution, but they merely offer a combination of in-transit and at-rest encryption.Only a handful of end-to-end encryption email providers exist on the market, and each has its pros and cons. Some have strong cryptography tools but are intended for tech-savvy users. Many services are not transparent about their cryptography model, making it hard to judge their efficacy.Skiff is a revolutionary email service built on E2EE architecture—it’s the new user favorite for safe online communication! The free-to-use platform also has a complete privacy-oriented product suite with tools for document storing, collaboration, and scheduling, so it can easily replace your current email provider in terms of features.Create a free Skiff account in under five minutes and check out the service for yourself!

#2 Desired features of email services for business and personal use

Comparing the features of various email providers is crucial if you’re looking for a long-term solution. You can evaluate different services based on whether you need an email for business communication, personal use, or both.

Features necessary for efficient business email communication

The ideal email service for businesses should be reliable and easy to use and support the communication needs of businesses and startups. Here are some must-have features:
  • Custom domains—Customers don’t find businesses with freemail domains like Gmail and Yahoo credible enough. Your provider should help you establish your brand by allowing the use of one or more custom domains
  • Email aliases—With email aliases, you can have more than one username leading to one inbox, such as [email protected] or [email protected]. That way, you don’t have to manage multiple user accounts
  • Search and archiving features—A business email would be crippled without features for searching, tagging, and labeling communication
  • End-to-end encryption81% of organizations around the world face phishing and similar email attacks, which happen because messages get intercepted on the network. Only services providing end-to-end encryption can protect you from network-level security threats
  • Task scheduling—Compare the calendar or task scheduling tools of different providers. The features should be intuitive, accessible across different devices, and fully encrypted
  • Collaboration features—Gmail has been one of the most popular collaborative platforms because of an easy-to-use Google Workspace, but businesses have started looking for alternatives due to privacy concerns. You can go for email service provider like Skiff if you want a functional, collaborative workspace with end-to-end security features

Features to look for in an email provider for personal use

Email service for everyday personal use shouldn’t be too complicated. It needs to include the following features:
  • Free storage—Most providers offer limited storage for free. If privacy is not one of your main concerns, Yahoo and Gmail are great options, offering 1TB and 15GB of free storage, respectively. In the privacy-first landscape, Skiff offers 10GB of free storage, Tutanota has 1GB, and ProtonMail offers 500MB
  • Spam filters—Go for services with built-in spam filters, so you don’t have to manually analyze the safety of inbound emails
  • Email aliases—Email aliases have also become essential for personal use. You can use them as throwaway accounts while signing up on sketchy websites without giving access to personal identifiers
  • Multi-platform access—Quality email service providers usually offer multi-platform access across Android, macOS, and iOS devices, supported with sync and customization features
  • Ad-free—Providers like Yahoo, AOL Mail, and GMZ support advertisers by clogging inboxes with personalized ads. If you want to avoid that, check a service provider’s ad policy before you commit
We also recommend checking customer reviews and running trial accounts before choosing an email service.

#3 Pricing and the choice between free and paid email service providers

Most ESPs have free and paid packages, while some have paid-only plans with free trials. Gmail and Outlook are two of the largest freemail providers, and their paid plans are of reasonable cost.If you want better security for your account, you have limited options for freemail. Due to increasing cases of identity thefts and attacks on email accounts, many privacy-conscious users are willing to pay for a secure email service—but privacy shouldn’t ideally come with a price tag. Fortunately, Skiff is one of only a handful of end-to-end-encrypted email service providers that have decent and generous free plans for average users.If you decide to get paid service for personal use, compare email providers to make sure you don’t pay for unnecessary (read: business-focused) features. On average, paid email plans range between $10 and $30 per month.

#4 A reliable email service will have transparent terms of service

Most of us never read a provider’s Terms of Service (ToS), but the devil is in the fine print. These documents reveal what’s expected of you as a customer, including aspects like:
  • Whether you’d be scanned for ads
  • If a third-party (the government or the provider) can access your account
  • What customer support you can expect
  • How private your attachments are
Many email service providers avoid stating clear terms in their ToS, which is a red flag because the user never knows if their data is safe or being treated as corporate fodder.

Why Skiff is the best email service for any user

Most email services are not perfect—you typically have to compromise features for privacy or the other way around. With Skiff, there is no trade-off between safety and functionality. Skiff has designed its email and productivity suite to:
  • Establish E2EE security as a norm, not a privilege
  • Host basic and advanced features you’d need for personal or business use
Sign up for a free account and gain unrestrained access to Skiff’s multi-faceted products—Skiff Mail, Skiff Pages, Skiff Drive, Skiff Calendar—presented in the following table:
Skiff servicePrime features
Skiff MailSkiff provides end-to-end encrypted email service with an ad-free inbox and intuitive design. You get unparalleled ease of use in one of the most secure setups possible! The features include free email search and archiving, customization and labeling, free aliases, custom domains, mail scheduling, signatures additions, smart spam filters, email import, and migration support
Skiff Pages Skiff Pages is an E2EE collaboration platform for creating documents like notes, wikis, and tables. You can add collaborators to your workspace and edit documents in real-time
Skiff DriveEvery user gets 10 GB of free storage on Skiff Drive that can be expanded up to 1 TB. Skiff also enables optional integration with IPFS (InterPlanetary File System), where your data will be stored in E2EE form in a decentralized location
Skiff CalendarUse Skiff Calendar to enhance your productivity. It can be synced across devices, keeping your event entries (personal or business) end-to-end encrypted

Why Skiff is a class apart in email services

Skiff was created to give full data ownership to users. Its encryption framework is stable and built on the zero-trust principle. Besides the sender and the recipient(s), no outsider, including Skiff, can scan, access, or view your inbox, drive, or calendar content.Skiff’s servers have additional security protocols to withstand different types of malicious attacks. If you want to strengthen your account security, activate the two-factor authentication (2FA) option once you sign up.Check out some of Skiff’s distinguishing features:

What to expect from Skiff Free and Paid Plans

Skiff’s business model is based on providing a privacy-focused environment for free. The company never leverages user data for profits, nor do it has access to it. You can start with the free plan and upgrade to paid Pro and Business tiers if needed. Here’s what to expect:
Drive storage10 GB15 GB100 GB1 TB
Sending messages (limit)200/dayUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Folders and labels5UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Custom signatures
Auto reply
Schedule or undo send
Email + doc text search
E2EE link sharing
Document limitUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited aliases4101015
Custom domains0125
Workspace collaborators666Unlimited
Doc version history24 hours24 hoursUnlimitedUnlimited
The platform has a zero-knowledge signup/login process. The best way to try Skiff is to create an account—here’s how:
  1. Go to the signup window (use any browser or download the Android, iOS, or macOS app)
  2. Set up a username and password
  3. Enter your inbox
Skiff welcomes user reviews on our social media handles, as the development team is constantly analyzing feedback to add new features. You can contact Skiff’s customer service if you have any questions or join the platform’s Discord server or Reddit communities for more support.

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