Runbox is a mail hosting provider based in Norway that prides itself in its security and privacy under the Norwegian legislation. This is a brief review of its PROs and CONs and happens to be Part I of my recent switch of the web hosting provider.
I used to host my websites and mail with DreamHost for many years and I was pretty happy with them except for a handful of occasions when something stopped working and getting support wasn’t exactly great – they took time to respond and it seemed to me that they have tiers in their support with the tier 1 guys not being helpful while the the tier 2 guys being quite good. But apart from that, it worked well – their administration panel is excellent, you get SSH access to the server and pretty much everything is unlimited.
However, over the years the number of websites I’d host dwindled to a few and I realized that I could host them elsewhere cheaper or even free and that the mail hosting is the only significant and tricky feature. I decided to split the hosting and find one mail-only provider and one web hosting provider. After reviewing many email hosting services (Amazon WorkMail, FastMail, ProtonMail, Hushmail, Neomailbox, etc.), I finally settled on Runbox, mostly due to: hosting and aliasing several domains for 1 mail account, geographical location of the servers (=not US) and price.
+ App passwords – Usually you get one set of credentials for your mail account. With Runbox you can set up multiple passwords for your account, e.g. one for each device. This is super useful in case a device gets lost or compromised. You can simply revoke its password without having to re-set it in all of your devices.
+ Security features – Apart from app passwords, Runbox has another useful security feature: Two-Factor authentication. You can enable TOTP (Timed One-Time Passwords) and use another device to calculate the codes, or you can create a static list of OTP (One-Time Passwords).
+ Reliability – Hosting services sometimes run into problems due to which the service is down or limited and Runbox is not an exception. Yet, in the past 2 months I haven’t encountered a single problem.
+ Reasonable pricing – Mail hosting only is surprisingly expensive and to have several mail accounts under several domains costs as much as web hosting which usually includes mail as well. I wouldn’t call Runbox cheap but it is still within the boundary of “reasonable”, especially if you pay within 24 hours after opening an account for which you get 1 year free as a bonus.
+ Spam filter trainable via an IMAP folder – You can train the server-side(!) spam filter simply by moving a message into the spam IMAP folder.
+ Cross-domain aliases – Multiple domains and aliases are supported for a single account. This is probably one of the less needed features for a personal account but it’s something necessary for me.
+ Easy account transfer – Input a host address and credentials of your current IMAP account and Runbox will transfer all your emails and give you a result log. They use imapsync for the transfer which means that you can actually do it yourself the same way but last time I checked the program required a manual install of a couple of dependencies so letting Runbox do it for you might save you a bit of hassle.
+ Good documentation – Not that there is that much need for documentation, yet it might answer some of your questions.
- Outdated administration + web mail interface – It’s a kind of interface that might have looked appealing 10 years ago. The administration interface is functional and it really does function well. The accompanied web mail interface works too but the design of modern web mail clients (e.g. RainLoop or Roundcube) is nowadays much further. For a company that has mail services as its main product I’d expect that they could hire an UX designer to help them design it. If you are the type who likes to use a web mail interface on daily basis, you are probably not going to be thrilled.
- Unsophisticated server-side filters – There is one permanent mail protection filter where you can set scanning for viruses and spam, and blacklist or whitelist certain recipients. Then there is an option to add custom filters to match and action upon mail that fits certain criteria. The first problem is that the string matching supports only “contains” and “doesn’t contain” conditions. There is no “equals”, “begins with” and “ends with” conditions, nevermind regular expressions. The second problem is that only a single condition is supported so you cannot setup a compound “IF this AND/OR that” conditions.