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I know the original motive for this query is long gone but just to bring folks up on the state of things, I use a Web-based e-mail solution a lot simply because I'm on the road serving clients at their sites of business and need to remain in touch with them, my business partners, and prospective clients.

I also have a need for retaining very large amounts of data and e-mail, principally because clients often transfer large files to me as attachments.

Finally, clients seem to prefer this because otherwise they need to await my approval and entry into their e-mail systems in order for me to be able to communicate with them.

I had been using Yahoo! for this purpose, including subscribing to get additional e-mail storage space on their servers. Yahoo! went through some hiccups earlier this year and put me "on the street" without e-mail for several days. Worse, I got little help from their customer service folks because they are almost non-existent. Most of the replies sent when you e-mail Yahoo! customer service are created by a pattern matching bot.

Fed up with Yahoo! I hunted around and found a gem: FastMail. Their address is Don't be put off by the odd domain suffix ".fm". That actually corresponds to a Micronesia domain but this Australian company decided to use a suffix which is an acronym for the name of the company.

They feature lightning fast receipts and deliveries of e-mail, very high reliability, thorough customer service, a very cleverly designed interface, the ability to actively respond to spam, a definable hierarchy of mailboxes, and several neat "skins" to pick from in their appearance.

The active spam mechanisms are neat. You can set up your own filtering rules or using theirs or a combination. You can respond to spam manually. All this can be done to a batch of messages as well as single ones. The response used is a "bounce" which sends a message back to the sender of the original saying your e-mail address does not exist. This is useful because even if a spammer does not get you to buy anything or even if you tell them to go away and not bother you again, it is worth money to them to know that an e-mail address is legitimate, simply because they can then improve the quality of their list and sell that refined list to other spammers. Bouncing impedes that process.

Of course, it's possible a spammer can get around this if you open the e-mail, even in FastMail: HTML e-mail, which almost any on-the-Web service supports, can signal a spammers server that someone activated the links in the e-mail body and if they can correlate that to a particular e-mail address (which they might, if they code the HTML in the message body uniquely), they know that the e-mail address exists even if they get a bounce on the e-mail channel.

Anyway, check it out.

Despite its deep integration with Windows, I would not use any of the MS Outlook e-mail services because of their porosity with regards to security and privacy. Use FastMail with a browser instead.

Don't want to be subject to the security exposures of IE or the bloatness of Netscape? Try Opera! See

- Jan

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