The need to attract and retain customers in a fiercely competitive market means UK internet providers (ISPs) often include a range of extra perks and benefits in their broadband plans to help boost the perceived value users get in return for their monthly bill.
Bundled perks such as anti-virus software or public Wi-Fi access can be real money savers, but making use of some others, for example cloud storage or email accounts, can actually make switching broadband providers at a later date a major hassle.
This is because in many cases, as soon as you change, you lose access to your emails and files.
Sometimes it’s possible to pay a monthly fee to keep email services alive, but this tends to be really poor value, especially as there are plenty of other options around, some of which are completely free.
If you’re already using your ISP’s email or cloud storage service, we’d recommend exploring the alternatives long before you consider switching to a new broadband supplier.
Some of the biggest names on the web are generous enough to give away free email accounts which are at least as good, and often a lot better, than the ones which come as part of your broadband package:
The most commonly used alternative to an ISP’s email is Google’s Gmail – not only is it completely free, but many smartphone users already have a Gmail email account they created when setting up their Android smartphone.
When you set up a Gmail account you also create a free Google account which gives you 15GB of cloud storage, unlimited free photo storage, plus access to Google’s online apps and services such as its Google Docs word processor.
Even better, your Google account can be used to store up to 50,000 songs separate to your Google Drive space allocation, all of which can then be accessed via the Google Play Music mobile app.
Apple has its own free suite of services which includes an email address and if you already have an iPhone, Mac or iPad, there’s a good chance you might have already created an iCloud account.
Like Google, Apple offers an online version of its word processor, Pages, plus its spreadsheet app Numbers, and a calendar and contact book that can sync between all your devices. It also offers 5GB of free online cloud storage.
Microsoft’s Hotmail was one of the first free email providers on the web, and now offers free email, calendar and contact book services via Outlook.com. You can also sign up for Microsoft’s OneDrive online cloud storage which comes with 5GB for free.
Amazon offers all customers 5GB of online storage for photos and videos while Prime members get unlimited full-resolution photo storage.
If the free storage quota isn’t enough for your needs, each of the above services is also happy to sell you additional space. But some of you may already be paying for space you’re not using, so read on…
While we don’t recommend paying to retain your current ISP’s free email address, there are some great paid-for options which won’t only ensure you’re able to stay in touch with your important contacts, but will let you do so from an email address linked to a custom domain name of your own, something that always looks far better on a business card than a free address.
Domain Registrar Email
Buying your own domain name might sound scary but domain registrars such as 123-reg.co.uk and IONOS (previously 1&1) make it an absolute doodle – find a domain that’s not already been bought, give them your contact and payment details and once the domain is registered you can use it to set up email accounts.
Rather than expect you to buy a fully fledged hosting package, most of the biggest domain registrars will happily sell you a stand alone email account which can be up and running with just a few clicks.
Typically you should expect to pay around £2-3 per month per email address for a personal / basic grade email service and around £10 per year for your domain name.
Microsoft Office 365
The venerable PC productivity suite has taken on a new life as a subscription service – prices start from £5.99 per month for a personal account, with additional Home (up to 5 users) and business tiers.
Alongside applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, all of which can be installed on PC, Mac, Android and Apple’s iOS devices, an Office 365 subscription includes access to a ‘premium’, (basically ad-free) version of Outlook and 1TB (1,000 GB) of cloud storage via OneDrive.
The premium version of Outlook can be used with a custom domain name to create email addresses, however Microsoft requires that you buy the domain from GoDaddy to use this feature. If you already have a domain elsewhere, you must transfer it to GoDaddy before it’ll work with Outlook.
If you’re happy to accept that restriction, the combination of custom email address, 1TB of cloud space and full access to Word etc makes the monthly fee pretty decent value and if you already have a subscription and aren’t using these aspects of the service, now might be a good time to check them out.
Google also has a paid-for service which will let you use your own domain. Starting from £4.60 per month for a single user, G Suite also includes cloud storage, file sharing and video conferencing apps.
WHEN TO SWITCH FROM YOUR ISP SERVICES
Moving services is always disruptive, so if there’s little to no chance of you changing ISPs then it’s probably not worth the work involved in changing your email address or cloud provider.
But if you are thinking of moving, we’d recommend switching these services as soon as possible, especially your email address which you should then update in all your online accounts ASAP to ensure you don’t get locked out and then use for all new messages.
Tip: Leave your ISP email address set up in your computer / phone until you do move your broadband services but if any of your contacts keep using it, make sure to remind them that it’s changing or reply from your new address to limit the number of messages going to the old one.