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Fastmail review: basic service for a premium price

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If you've recently found out about the most popular email service providers' privacy issues, you're not alone. Fastmail, however, has had people's privacy on their minds since the late '90s. For a really long time, this mail service was the go-to choice if you wanted secure communications.

A secure email provider is a simple way to ensure your communications remain private, but they're difficult to get right. Yet with such a long tenure on the market, surely they've managed to succeed? Let's find out in our Fastmail review.

Rating:
2.1
Price:from $3.00/month
Free version:No
Storage:2–100 GB

Fastmail: main pros and cons

Visit Fastmail to learn more about the features

What is Fastmail?

Fastmail is a security-focused email service provider. If you're tired of the email services like Gmail that serve you ads, you will find none of that here. However, the service has no free version even for individuals. Fastmail business accounts have a separate tier of offerings, including the option to set up a custom domain and more.

FastMail review: is it too basic for its high price tag? video screenshot

Previously owned by Opera, Fastmail has been operating independently since 2013. The product is run from Australia by Fastmail Pty Ltd., although the main Fastmail servers are based in New York and Amsterdam. In 2019, the product came out with a new visual identity and changed their title from FastMail to Fastmail.

Fastmail features

  • Proprietary anti-spam filters
  • Email search feature
  • Aliases
  • Calendar, email, and contacts in one app
  • Customizable notifications
  • Import/export from other email services

Spam filtering

If someone has sent you a spam email, you must be on some spam mailing list. Most modern providers have intricate spam filters in place that minimize the junk in your mailbox. Fastmail allows custom spam rule settings that enable you to discard messages without the need to see them instantly. You can configure other messages to go into a specific spam folder.

fastmail spam protection

No message that goes through Fastmail can escape Apache SpamAssassin, an open-source anti-spam filter. Message headers are analyzed on the ever-changing set of rules that determine whether the message is potential spam. For example, it cross-references message headers with the Bayes database of known spam message addresses. It also gives users the possibility to customize it.

You can find the specific email that you need using Fastmail's built-in search feature. You can add advanced search parameters in the email header using To, and From. That sounds like a pretty generic function, but there's more to it. You can save your searches and add them to the sidebar. That helps if you repeatedly find yourself looking for particular emails. You can also search in a specific folder to avoid overlap with the items in the main directory.

It helps that once you get your search results, you can organize them further with an additional set of rules. For example, you can specify a rule that, based on the results, would put all emails that fit the criteria into a separate folder. For productivity, such a feature is a godsend.

Two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication or 2FA, adds an additional measure of security. Using it, you can set up other requirements when logging in that help to confirm your identity. As of this moment, Fastmail supports 2FA via TOTP apps, separate hardware authenticators, and SMS messages.

This feature protects the safety of your email box even in cases when your password leaks out in the open. This way, even with your password, the attacker cannot achieve anything. There is a requirement to add a recovery phone. That way, if you ever lose a 2FA device, you won't be locked out of your account.

Aliases

Need a burner email that you could use to receive mail and then quickly dispose of it? Aliases are one of the best solutions for that. You can use up to 600 aliases even on a Basic account. The emails sent to your alias accounts get placed in your separate inbox folder. You can set your aliases to bounce back all incoming messages to avoid spam altogether. Plus, it's super easy to dispose of an alias – you can delete it from the main menu, and the whole operation lasts seconds.

Control what's important

Most likely, a message from someone close is more important to you than a weekly newsletter. Thus, Fastmail gives you the choice of receiving notifications of the emails that are truly important to you, rather than alerting about every single new message. You can enable automatic contact gathering and be alerted only about emails from senders that you know. You can also select the chosen few to be on your VIP list. It's also possible to set up notifications if an email arrives in a particular folder. In short, when you receive a notification from the Fastmail app, you'll know that it's something that you should check right away.

fastmail notifications management
Fastmail notifications management

Fastmail security and privacy

You may assume that Fastmail is open-source, but that's only half the answer. The truth is that it's partially open-source. What does this mean? Well, their email service runs on Cytrus IMAP software for servers. Fastmail are active contributors to this truly open-source project.

Then, there is the JSON Meta Application Protocol or JMAP protocol used for email synchronization. It's extremely friendly for mobile devices and is stateless, which genuinely helps with compatibility.

Aside from that, everything in between is proprietary code. It's impossible to inspect it or make an informed judgment on their implemented security measures. However, judging from the fact that their web client still runs on Javascript, the only natural conclusion is that their security could use some work.

Encryption

As you've probably noticed, the word "encryption" didn't appear up to this point. That's no coincidence. The reason for that is simple – Fastmail doesn't have end-to-end encryption. It uses encryption, but just server-side. This means that the service provider could theoretically access your communications, which is something that would be impossible with end-to-end encryption.

If you need to send an encrypted mail, you'll have to manually set encryption up and it will have to be done client-side. Such public key encryption measures like S/MIME or PGP are absent here. What you get instead is support for SMTP, POP3, and IMAP. That's far from ideal. Their privacy-minded customers would surely appreciate safer encryption options.

Otherwise, the service uses TLS/SSL that encrypts emails while in transit. It's nothing to scoff at, but Gmail uses precisely the same encryption method, and you won't hear me praising them for their top-notch encryption.

Privacy

Fastmail is an Australian company, and their main servers are based in New York and Amsterdam. That, combined with the lack of end-to-end encryption, is not a great look for this service. Both Australia and the US are Five Eyes countries. This means intelligence agencies in this surveillance alliance would have ways to access your data should the need arise. Of course, we are talking about a national security matter here, which shouldn't concern regular users, but it's still worth a mention.

Australia is not a privacy-friendly country - it has a draconian active data retention law. There is even a loophole in the legislation that requires cybersecurity service providers to enable backdoors to decipher encrypted messages.

Thus, in terms of privacy, you could certainly do better. For example, Protonmail is based in Switzerland and has end-to-end encryption.

Fastmail data centers

As mentioned, although Fastmail is an Australian company, their data centers are in the US. Their main servers are in a New Jersey, New York Internet data center. There are also several scattered in other locations. For example, there's one in Seattle. The company claims their data centers have 24/7 onsite technical support and active monitoring for anything suspicious.

Fastmail developers also say the staff performs routine maintenance and has no access to your data. Also, all data between data centers is transmitted via an encrypted VPN connection. That's all well and good, but in my opinion, that's not enough considering the scope of surveillance in the US. Yet I must stress again - if you're a regular user, perhaps this shouldn't concern you.

Fastmail pricing and plans

Fastmail has three different plans for different types of needs: Basic, Standard, and Professional. Let's take a look at each of them.

VersionPrice
Basic$3.00/user/month
Standard$5.00/user/month
Professional$9.00/user/month

Fastmail Basic

The Fastmail Basic plan provides the best overall package for regular users. You get an ad-free service with calendars, contacts, and 2GB mail storage. Besides, there's also the possibility to add up to 600 aliases. Surely, customer support and mail import functionality are also there. All of this can be yours for $3/month per user. This converts to $30/year if you opt for the yearly plan, which would be $2.50/month.

Considering that the storage isn't encrypted, it's strange that you get only 2 GB. Overall, the price/value ratio seems really strange, especially considering there's no free version.

Fastmail Standard

Fastmail Standard includes all the features that you can find in the Basic version and more. With this plan, you can use custom domains and share them with other users. It adds calendar groups and a snooze feature. The latter allows you to move messages out of your inbox and puts them back in when you are ready to respond.

The best thing about this plan is the expanded storage - up to 30 GB per user. It costs $5/month if you don't want to commit to a yearly plan. Should you decide to be in a long term relationship with this service, it's $50/year or ~$4.17/month.

The difference between storage in Basic and Standard is vast – 28 GB. The price difference is ~$2. That shows how disproportionate the price increase is. You're either stuck with a basic version that underperforms or pay more to get the necessary amount. It's a decision of questionable value.

Fastmail Professional

The Professional plan is a solution for businesses that seek an alternative to Google's G Suite. Whether this move ever succeeds remains to be seen. You get all the features that you've seen in the Standard edition plus not a lot more, actually. The only change is the storage increase from 30 GB to 100 GB and an added infinite email retention archive. This safeguards your emails keeping backups in their servers so that they would never get lost, no matter what.

The price increase is just as steep: from $5/month to $9/month if you opt for a monthly commitment. However, if you subscribe for a year, it costs $90/year or $7.50/month.

The storage increase is good, but whether it's worth that price bump is for you to decide.

Ease of use and setup

First and foremost, Fastmail is a web-based email service that also offers mobile apps. There are no browser extensions and no desktop app. The best you could do if you need a more advanced mail client is integrate Fastmail into Windows Outlook or Apple Mail.

Web browser client

Fastmail may not have plenty of applications, but the number of things you can do with just their web client is huge. You can easily import the data from your previous email service provider or periodically fetch emails from those accounts. This also applies to calendars and contacts. It's possible to classify calendars so that you can separate your work and personal schedules.

fastmail web browser client

Suppose you're in the habit of accidentally deleting important messages. In that case, you can restore all deleted files up to 7 days after you misclicked. When the email is open, you can customize notification messages that pop up on the screen. The customization only seems to work with an open web browser. If you're using Outlook or Apple Mail to fetch your emails, this won't work.

The only thing that seemed out of place for a secure email service was the requirement to provide a phone number. Not only is this inconvenient, but it also links your email with your identity. That's not something that should belong in a private email's resume.

Mobile apps

On mobile, the features are virtually identical to the web client. Arguably, they are even better on smartphone apps because it truly gives the spotlight to the customization of notifications. It makes much more sense there because, realistically, no one is keeping their email tab open at all times. Nor should you do it, knowing that it runs on Javascript.

fastmail android app

There's even the option to save data on mobile devices. You can turn off the retrieval of remote images in your email messages. Plus, there's plenty of customization options to make the app look the way you want it to look. You can also set up unique notification sounds for your new email and calendar updates alerts. The security is also one of the things that you can reinforce by requiring authentication to enter the app. Overall, mobile apps is where they put a lot of effort, and it shows.

Customer support

The main Fastmail customer support channel is via tickets. You can submit them from their homepage by indicating your email and submitting a query. The response time varies, but you can expect it to take at least 7 hours. There's no live chat option, so if you need quick help, you're out of luck. Plus, it seems that their customer support is in Australia. So, it's likely that the more significant the timezone difference between your location and Australia, the longer you'll have to wait. You can also use their self-help section on their webpage. In most cases, you should be able to find the needed answer right here.

Fastmail alternatives

Fastmail vs ProtonMail

ProtonMail is what you would get if Fastmail developers did more to provide a secure email service. Not only does it not track you. It's as ad-free as it gets. Plus, your mailbox is much safer because your conversations use end-to-end encryption. The kicker is that you get all of this for free forever. You will only have to pay if you need even more features. In terms of security, ProtonMail blows Fastmail out the water.

Fastmail vs Tutanota

Think of Tutanota as a gold standard of how a private and secure email service should be. Not only offering end-to-end encryption but also not requiring any personal information when registering. Plus, each sent email strips all metadata from message headers keeping your IP address private. You also can use this service free of charge and upgrade to the paid plan if you like it. If not, continue using it as a free service as long as you like.

Fastmail vs Zoho Mail

What Bollywood is to Holywood, Zoho Mail, is to Gmail. It's a relatively secure email service from India that offers emails as only one product from their suite. The main selling point is its integration with other products. Plus, you still get end-to-end encryption with 5 GB of storage even as a free user. That's a much better option than what Fastmail has on the menu.

Fastmail review: the bottom line

The biggest drawback of Fastmail is that it's lost between ease of use and privacy. Ultimately, the service tries to wage war at the two frontiers but ultimately underdelivers at both.

If privacy is what you're looking for, Fastmail is not a best choice. It's based in Australia and is not end-to-end encrypted. When it comes to accessibility, the service is locked behind a paywall. Yes, you get to avoid ads, but you can also get identical (and more) offerings with ProtonMail or Tutanota for free.

In conclusion, not only do you have to pay up if you want to access the service, Fastmail doesn't seem to be worth it. At least not when you consider the other alternatives.

FAQ


ProtonMail Review: one of the most discrete email providers

Zoho Mail Review: closes alternative to Gmail that you could find

Tutanota Review: private email service with a no-nonsense approach


Comments
joe
joe
prefix 9 days ago
I'm a longtime Fastmail user that has been a user/customer since just about the beginning. I'm sorry to see such a negative review. There are too many reasons to list for why I continue to pay for Fastmail, but I have been a user of dozens of emails services and my career is in tech -- I've leaned heavily on common and unique features in FM. I would not trust such a crucial service to anything but Fastmail. I will say that I think 2 stars is overtly silly for a class-leading service and discredits the reviewer somewhat. If Fastmail is a 2, then kindly suggest what's better and why.
Robert
Robert
prefix 1 month ago
Thanks for this review, Justinas. There were a few new facts about Fastmail that made me less interested than I was just days ago. But isn't that the point of a review? (rhetorical).
John
John
prefix 2 months ago
End to end encryption? Only if you are emailing other people that use it. That Amazon receipt? Not end to end encrypted.
EIRL PES
EIRL PES
prefix 3 months ago
Spam filtering is even very aggressive, almost too much.

For some not-famous email providers, you need to set your friends ou family as “VIP” to let come in all their emails.
Dave
Dave
prefix 4 months ago
Fastmail is overpriced for what you get. And what you get is a meager set of features. The email service is so basic, it feels like something from 15 years ago. I’ve heard, and know this from my own experience, that requests for new features from existing customers get ignored, for the most part. I’m a customer, but will be moving away from them. I don’t need 600 aliases. It’s also greedy that they don’t have Snooze included in the basic plan, but have to pay $50 a year to use it, as part of standard plan. Fyi, the plan prices in Euro are higher than the ones in USD.
hadaso
hadaso
prefix 5 months ago
I think comparing Fastmail to services that provide end to end encryption is wrong: the privacy Fastmail offers means only that they don’t use and they don’t sell customer’s data. They don’t promise that the NSA or KGB (or whatever the KGB is called nowadays) would not be able to to get to your data if they really want it. If the NSA would really need your data they would get it, and they don’t need your data to be in the USA: you can hide it in a nuclear facility in Iran and they’ll take it from there. If you’re just into crime and you need to keep your data from law enforcement, then you might be out of luck, but anyway AFAIK Fastmail stores the data in the USA and the keys to access the data outside of the USA, so it is possible for law enforcement to get it, but it requires cooperation between two legal jurisdictions, so unless you’re a pretty heavy criminal, you are very well protected by the bureaucracy of international cooperation. Most people don’t need more than the encryption Fastmail and Gmail use: between client and server and between server and server.
Lalan
Lalan
prefix 5 months ago
Fastmail is just awesome. I think most people do not need strict encyption like tutanota or protonmail; but fastmail’s 20 years experience plus great values makes it a deal-breaker. I do not mind the five-eyes theory because company’s location is mostly a marketing gimic. About fastmail, I also like that I can breeze through my day with email, calendars, and contacts all in one app, and all safely.
Wally
Wally
prefix 6 months ago
Number one reason I use Fastmail has to do with calendars. When I subscribe to calendars on Gmail or Office365 the updates can take up to 24 hours. My business software uses calendar subscriptions for my scheduling and sales calendars. With Fastmail the update happens within 5 minutes. Crazy that big players like Google and Microsoft do not provide this functionality.
Hi
Hi
prefix 7 months ago
The one thing I wish you would not have done is sided with ProtonMail through the whole article. All I see is, ProtonMail does this well and ProtonMail does that well. I’m assuming you got sponsored to write the blog of sorts. If Zoho is from India, ProtonMail is from Switzerland… Make sure you mention things like that…
Michael
Michael
prefix 7 months ago
Now fastmail has this ANNOYING weekly popup that reminds you, by definition, AGAIN AND AGAIN that, according to Fastmail of course, you should, essentially, provide Fastmail with backup information like another email account, etc. I am not going to do be badgered into it, and as unfortunately I am paid up for over another a year and Fastmail will not give refunds, I am riding Fastmail out until my term expires. Then good-by. Fastmail can badger others on a weekly basis. I mean, really, when you get down to it–the arrogance. I contacted Fastmail once about it.
Jason
Jason
prefix 7 months ago
“ProtonMail is what you would get if Fastmail developers did more to provide a secure email service. Not only does it not track you. It’s as ad-free as it gets. Plus, your mailbox is much safer because your conversations use end-to-end encryption. The kicker is that you get all of this for free forever. You will only have to pay if you need even more features. In terms of security, ProtonMail blows Fastmail out the water.”

This is ridiculous. You make a trade-off and with ProtonMail your trade-off is pretty much all of the stuff that makes Fastmail a good email service. Multiple custom domains, many many aliases including catch-all, being able to actually *search* the body of your email, calendaring, Gmail-style labeling, etc. Tired of these comparisons that never mention a THREAT MODEL. As soon as you send email to anyone outside of ProtonMail all bets are off.
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 6 months ago
Custom domains, multiple aliases are also available for ProtonMail. The search function is a bit limited, so this may be the only real trade-off features-wise. They still allow you to send encrypted messages to external recipients.

All of this was mentioned to show how ineffective FastMail seems compared to the services that use better security methods. They may be lacking quality of life features. Still, ultimately they get you a better privacy and anonymity combination, which is what we’re prioritizing here.
Peter
Peter
prefix 4 months ago
A significant difference between Fastmail and Protonmail aliases is that you can send email from Fastmail aliases. You can even create aliases on the fly (while composing an email). With Protonmail you can use ‘plus-addressing’ to create aliases but they’re only good for receiving emails. This is useful (eg for mailing lists) but is nowhere near as useful as Fastmail’s implementation of aliases.
Robert
Robert
prefix 8 months ago
Why do you say JMAP is propietary code? It’s an open specification: https://jmap.io/spec.html
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 7 months ago
Yes, I specifically mention that JMAP is open-source.
hadaso
hadaso
prefix 8 days ago
JMAP is not "open source" because it's not software.
It's a set of open Internet standard protocols (RFCs 8620, 8621, 8887 and 9007).
zgred
zgred
prefix 8 months ago
you don’t get identical offer with protonmail. Without aliases your mail account quickly become spammed, forever and no hope it’d stopped
With protonmail if you forgot you password all the data are lost – ok it’s rare case.
You cannot use a standard like apple mail client, the bridge comes with its own issues
Thomas Mailbach
Thomas Mailbach
prefix 8 months ago
I’m just moving my customers (and myself) from Zoho to Fastmail. What should be mentioned about Zoho is that it is often incredibly unstable and slow (emails taking hours to arrive via IMAP, very slow or impossible to send email via SMTP, etc.), and the various apps and web interfaces are incredibly convoluted and disjointed. Absolutely every interface, screen, app and form looks completely different to all the others, and it is a huge mental burden to navigate their site(s).
Barbara Holland
Barbara Holland
prefix 9 months ago
Can you tell me on fastmail how to share administrator privledges? I just started using their service. It’s pretty good, but I’m still not quite familiar with the interface. Can find any guides about this either.
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 9 months ago
Hello, Barbara. This guide should help you out.
Zolloof
Zolloof
prefix 9 months ago
How well do the google apps vs fastmail compare? How’s mobile integration? Trying to ditch all google products, they haven’t really been up to my standards recently. Plus, having everything with one company isn’t always a good idea.
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 9 months ago
Google apps have much better and broader support than anything that Fastmail has to offer. It’s not a fair comparison. Fastmail is an alternative to Gmail, which means a lack of integration with many apps.
Bob_H
Bob_H
prefix 1 month ago
I use DAVx5 to synch Fastmail with other apps. Works well. No more Gmail. Fastmail has business account sharing and search features superior to Protonmail. I can use Protonmail to plan my next bank heist, otherwise Fastmail gets the job done quicker, faster, easier.
PinkPac5
PinkPac5
prefix 9 months ago
this may seem silly but do you know on fastmail how to change color schemes? I really like to customize my apps and the visuals are a great place to start. But I can’t seem to find this particular options. Would be a shame if it doesn’t have that option.
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 9 months ago
It’s in the General & Preferences tab in Settings. They recently rolled out dark mode support, too.
Greg F.
Greg F.
prefix 10 months ago
Does Fastmail work with Chromebook? I know it would make more sense to use Gmail. but I’m already using Fastmail and was just wondering if it would work on a Chomebook – if I decided to buy one for myself. I’ve been using Windows laptops until now, but a friend said that Chromebooks are pretty good for a fair price.
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 9 months ago
Hello, Greg. Considering that Fastmail works with a web client, there shouldn’t be any problems with Chromebook. If you want to use their proprietary app, you’ll be able to download it from the Google Play Store.
Neville Davidson
Neville Davidson
prefix 10 months ago
Hello. Is it possible to migrate from gmail to fastmail without losing anything in the process? Of course the main concern is moving all of my current messages from one place to another. I’m not really sure how email migration even works. Can I make it so messages sent to one inbox get redirected to another?
Justinas Mazūra
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 9 months ago
Hi, Neville. It’s a simple task. You can go here and follow their guide. It’s a one time task after which all of your email messages will be transferred to Fastmail. It also works with the calendar.
Stephen
Stephen
prefix 11 months ago
One other thing that might be worth mentioning – you can no longer configure a desktop mail client via POP/IMAP on the Basic subscription – this is now exclusive to Standard and Professional.

I’m not sure when this change was made, but it’s pretty sneaky and quite ludicrous.

I mean, why? Well I know why – to make you spend more.
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