I have, for some time now, run my own Internet domains for purposes of having what are essentially vanity email addresses and web sites. The longer I’ve done this, however, the more picky I’ve become about what kind of service I have my email stored on. I use, primarily, IMAP to access my mail, but I do on occasion require a good web mail client for those times when I don’t have my own computer(s) available to me.
In the past, I have made due with borrowed capacity on other people’s servers, running my mail through UW IMAP or Dovecot IMAP or even Courier-IMAP. All three are very capable, stable IMAP servers, though I’ve had the most reliable mail with Courier over the years. For a web front-end, if there’s been one, it’s usually been either SquirrelMail or IMP. Both are serviceable, though SquirrelMail tends more towards the no-frills just-get-me-my-mail-please approach, whereas IMP has tried for a long time to be a flashy, high-class webmail package. Neither one was really good enough, in my eyes, but then again, I’m tough to please for web apps.
The most important thing of all for me for email is reliability and stability. After that, I look at things like “how hard is it for me to manage” and “does it also make my wife happy?”. It’s on this third point that I started becoming restless with the options I had available to me, and started looking with some envy at Gmail. Zimbra, too, was under serious consideration, but it’s a heavy enough application for a server that I could not simply toss it on someone else’s server when I was already getting access for free.