Setting up a secure private email server isn’t as hard as it sounds (2023)

Private email servers aren’t just for prominent politicians. If you want to remove your inbox from the clutches of Microsoft, Apple, or Google, you can establish your own. In this guide, we’ll explain why you might want to take control of managing and storing your messages, and how to set up your own private email server.

What is a private email server?

Setting up a secure private email server isn’t as hard as it sounds (1)

An email server is a data drive that stores your messages before you download them to a client on your computer or a page in a web browser. These servers rely on whichever company provided your email address, so Google runs the Gmail servers, Microsoft takes care of Outlook, and so on.

A private email server doesn’t sit in the server farms of Google or Microsoft. Instead, it lives inside your own house, and you set up your own disk drive to hold incoming and outgoing messages. That means you get to decide how they are stored and accessed. The advantage, as the name suggests, is privacy—no one else has the opportunity to look at your messages or advertise alongside them. In an added bonus, your email will keep working even when Gmail, Outlook, or iCloud happens to be down.

Although this gives you much more control, a private email server comes with its own responsibilities. Instead of mindlessly logging in to check your email, you’ll have to put in more work—but thanks to tutorials, you don’t need to be an expert to do so.

(Video) How to Host Your Own Email Server (for free)

Consider the pros and cons

Setting up a secure private email server isn’t as hard as it sounds (2)

Before we get into the technical details of setting up a private email server, you should know about the advantages and disadvantages.

In the pro column, we’ve already mentioned privacy. Sure, the employees at your email provider (probably) aren’t rifling through your messages on a daily basis. But the company might be scanning your email in order to serve you ads or inform apps like Google Assistant, which uses that information to tell you things like the date of your next hotel booking.

On the less likely side, your account could potentially fall prey to both illegal and legitimate prying. A rogue email-provider employee or determined hacker could expose your inbox. Law enforcement or government agencies could compel your email provider to turn over your account. And if you get your address from your workplace, that means your employers could be reading everything you send and receive.

A private server isn’t vulnerable to your employer or email provider (although it’s still at risk from hackers—more on that later). This setup also gives you full control over your email’s management and presentation. So you can choose everything from the software that displays the messages on screen to the aggressiveness of the spam filter. For example, if you don’t want to allow attachments over 1MB, then don’t—that type of decision is completely up to you.

(Video) The Helm Personal Email Server - New Level Of Privacy

The cons all boil down to the fact that you must take responsibility for every aspect of your email. You need to make sure your hard drive has enough capacity to store those messages. Being able to customize your spam filters is great, but again, you need to rely on yourself to find or write software that you like. Oh, and remember those prying hackers? You’ll have to pick the software that can protect your messages from them. In fact, security might be the biggest reason to avoid setting up a private email server. Tech titans like Google, Apple, and Microsoft employ whole teams of experts who can focus all their time on fighting spam, hackers, and malware. All you have is…you.

In the end, there’s a reason private email servers are relatively uncommon: Establishing them takes extra money, time, and effort. Still, they do let you wrest email control from the big corporations. If you have considered the various trade-offs and remain determined to go your own way, here’s how to start setting up your own private server.

Set up your server

Setting up a secure private email server isn’t as hard as it sounds (3)

Your first step: Write up your shopping list, which will encompass hardware, software, and web support. The initial costs should wind up in the region of low triple figures. After that, monthly running costs should hit the low double figures. Of course, this is an extremely rough estimate, and your exact needs might push the price higher or lower.

So what exactly will you need? You’ll have to buy a separate computer to act as your email server, and it needs enough hard drive capacity to hold your messages and all their attachments. Still, this doesn’t have to cost too much. Because it will handle only email, the computer won’t require too much power. In fact, you can make it work with a cheap Raspberry Pi ($40 on Amazon) and an SD card for storage.

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On top of the computer itself, you’ll need a domain name for your email server. This is the section of your email address that follows the @ symbol, such as Once you buy that domain, you can use it to set up as many email addresses as you want. For example, you might want a separate email address for each family member:,, and so on.

Running your own email server also requires a reliable, high-speed internet connection. This ensures your account will remain accessible at all times—otherwise, someone might email you only to see their messages bounce back. If your existing setup lags, you might have to upgrade to high-speed residential or business-class broadband.

On top of that, you’ll need some software: an operating system (either Linux or Windows) to run the server, virus protection, a set of programs (such as MailEnable or Postfix) to sort and route the email, and perhaps a spam filter (like SpamAssassin) on top of that. The exact combination of tools will depend on your choice of operating system.

Setting up a secure private email server isn’t as hard as it sounds (4)

After you’ve purchased everything, it’s time to set up the hardware and configure the software. However, the exact process will depend on the hardware and software you’ve chosen—and you have a variety of options for both. We don’t have room to cover all the possibilities here, but luckily, the internet abounds in step-by-step tutorials.

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For example, tech DIYer Sam Hobbs has a great tutorial for setting up a Raspberry Pi server. If you want that server to run Linux, we can recommend two excellent setup guides from technology publication Ars Technica and software developer Cullum Smith. If you prefer to work with the Windows operating system, you can check out instructions from the hMailServer application. Choose the process that matches your individual preferences.

Try an easier shortcut

If you’re willing to pay for assistance, you can hire an IT professional to sort out the process for you. Once you get help with the initial setup, you can then take charge of the various apps and services, ensuring that they keep ticking along as needed. This option cuts down on the hassle while preserving some of the privacy.

Even with professional help, not everyone feels comfortable setting up a physical server. In that case, you might skip the hardware option and pay a cloud hosting company to store your emails for you—here’s a guide to setting up a private server in the Amazon cloud. A cloud-based server lets you side-step the pressure of figuring everything out yourself, because the provider will configure local storage and mail management. On the other hand, you lose some of that privacy benefit—instead of trusting Apple or Google, you’re now forced to trust the hosting company.

Another way of simplifying this process is with a tool like the newly-launched Helm, which acts as an all-in-one private email server solution. Its creators say you can set up the Helm-based system in just a few minutes, personalized domain name and all. You still keep the physical server in your home, but it comes with on-board software that will take care of most of your email management: protection, encryption, and letting you access your messages from any device. This takes some of the decision-making out of the equation, which simplifies the whole process.

(Video) Create Your Own Email Server (Free Quick Setup) with CyberPanel

However, Helm isn’t quite as cheap as the DIY Raspberry Pi method. For $500, you get the server hardware and a one-year subscription to Helm’s email-management software. After that, you pay $100 per year to keep covering the programs. This works best if you’re hoping to reap the advantages of a private email server without going through as much hassle—and you don’t mind paying for it.


Is a private email server more secure? ›

With email security being a major concern, especially with issues like phishing emails, many organisations prefer the use of private email servers as they are more secure compared to public hosted email servers.

Why is a private email server more secure than Gmail? ›

The security rationale for owning a private server is straightforward. The main way hackers break into email accounts is by phishing, sending links to fake login websites that trick you into giving away your password. But traditional email servers don't use the web at all.

What is a private email server? ›

A private email server would be the email system that's offered by the private server. In other words, with a private email server you have your own email system, from computers to programs. You run it, use it, manage it and limit (allow and prevent) access to it.

How do I setup a private email? ›

It's quick and simple for anyone to set up an email address and send messages.
Method 1: Use False Details with a Standard Webmail Provider
  1. Sign up for a new account with fake details. ...
  2. Create a new anonymous phone number. ...
  3. Use private browsing to access your email account.
23 Aug 2021

What is the most secure email server? ›

14 Top Secure Email Providers in 2022
  1. ProtonMail. ProtonMail is the most well-known secure email provider. ...
  2. is a secure email service aimed at business users looking for an alternative to Google or Microsoft tools. ...
  3. HubSpot. ...
  4. Zoho Mail. ...
  5. Tutanota. ...
  6. Posteo. ...
  7. Thexyz. ...
  8. PrivateMail.

What is most secure email service? ›

6 Most Secure Email Providers
  1. ProtonMail. ProtonMail was founded in 2014 at the CERN research facility by Andy Yen, Jason Stockman, and Wei Sun. ...
  2. Hushmail. ...
  3. Tutanota. ...
  4. CounterMail. ...
  5. Mailfence. ...
  6. Librem Mail.
27 Sept 2022

How hard is it to host your own email server? ›

As is evident, setting up your own email server is not that difficult. In fact, it should take you less than an hour to get it up and running, if you don't run into any unexpected issues.

Is a private server secure? ›

Because a VPS separates your files from other users on the OS level, it truly is a private server. This means your website lives within a secure container with guaranteed server resources — think memory, disk space, CPU cores, etc. You don't have to share any of it with others.

How do I secure my email server? ›

Encryption: When securing your mail server, make sure you are using secure connections. Encrypt POP3 and IMAP authentication and use SSL and TLS. Mail relay configuration: Avoid being an open relay for spammers by specifying which domains/IP addresses your mail server will relay mail for.

How much does it cost to set up a private email server? ›

It can cost anywhere from $50-$100 per month for better broadband depending on where you live. A private email server then will cost around $500 to set up. You can maintain your personal email server for $70-$100 per month based on the services you choose.

How much is a private server? ›

The average cost to rent a small business dedicated server is $100 to $200/month. You can also setup a cloud server starting at $5/month, but most businesses would spend about $40/month to have adequate resources. If you wanted to purchase a server for your office, it may cost between $1000-$3000 for a small business.

How do I setup a private server? ›

How do I set up a private server?
  1. Disable all permissions for @everyone.
  2. Create a new role in the server.
  3. Enable permissions for the role.
  4. Assign the role to your server members.
31 May 2022

What is the most private free email service? ›

What Is Free Private Email?
  1. Zoho Mail. Zoho offers a mail service targeting professionals and users who take their privacy seriously, and there are also Zoho applications for things like chatting, notes, and calendar, which you can integrate with your email account. ...
  2. ProtonMail. ...
  3. Tutanota. ...
  4. ...
  5. Mailfence. ...
  6. Yandex. ...
  7. GMX.

What is the best free secure email service? ›

Following are some of the best encrypted and anonymous email service providers:
  • ProtonMail.
  • Titan.
  • Gmail.
  • Zoho Mail.
  • Bluehost.
  • Outlook.
  • Startmail.
10 Sept 2022

Is private email POP3 or IMAP? ›

You can access Private Email via Webmail, or configure your mail client to retrieve and send messages through IMAP, POP3 or SMTP.

How does a secure email work? ›

Secure Email Means Encryption

Simply put, encryption creates secure email by scrambling the data so only someone with the right password or other authentication can decrypt the message. In many cases, this process of encryption and decryption takes place without users ever knowing.

How much does secure email cost? ›

NeoCertified Secure Email Pricing
Secure Email License (Single User)$8.25 per user/mo (billed annually) 1 Secure Email License
10+ Secure Email LicensesQuantity Discounts Available 10+ Secure Email Encryption Licenses
9 Nov 2021

Is Gmail a secure email provider? ›

When possible, Gmail protects your info by automatically encrypting your emails, which turns them into a code during delivery. This security tool is called Transport Layer Security (TLS) and helps prevent others from reading your emails. Want to get more out of Google apps at work or school?

What is the easiest email to set up? ›

Best Free Email Accounts
  • Gmail: Best for Offline Accessibility.
  • AOL: Best for Interface Organization.
  • Outlook: Best for Multiple App Integrations.
  • Yahoo! Mail: Best for Lots of Storage.
  • iCloud Mail: Best for IMAP.
  • Mozilla Thunderbird: Best for Managing Multiple Accounts.
12 Jan 2022

What is the most secure way to send a message? ›

Signal is the secure messenger I see most frequently recommended by cybersecurity and digital privacy experts. It offers end-to-end encrypted messaging, audio calls, video calls, and file-sending. It's available for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows.

Why you may not want to run your own mail server? ›

Because mail servers are constantly handling attachments of potentially harmful files, and constantly filtering spam and spam addresses, it can be quite challenging to run a server that actually keeps up with the expectations of modern webmail providers.

Can I host my own email domain? ›

Creating a custom email account requires you to subscribe to a web hosting service. In simple words, a web hosting service is a service that lets you own 'space' on the internet in the form of custom domain names (that you'll use for your email), WordPress websites, and even fully custom websites for your business.

Why we need a mail server? ›

What Is the Purpose of an Email Server? At its simplest, a mail server collects and distributes emails to their intended destination. You can think of it as a computer that acts as an electronic post office for email, which allows you to control the transfer of emails within a network through different protocols.

What is the difference between public server and private server? ›

In this context, the public server is open to the public and you can access the server anywhere regardless of your current location. On the other hand, private server demands you to access the server through a specialized point of entry to prevent unauthorized users from making unlawful entries.

How do you know if a server is private or public? ›

A private server is a server that other Discord users can join only if they have been invited by the server owner or the server admin. A public server is a server that anyone can join if they have the link to it.

How does a virtual private server work? ›

A VPS, or virtual private server, is a form of multi-tenant cloud hosting in which virtualized server resources are made available to an end user over the internet via a cloud or hosting provider. Each VPS is installed on a physical machine, operated by the cloud or hosting provider, that runs multiple VPSs.

How do I setup a secure SMTP server? ›

So, how to configure an SMTP with SSL/TLS? It's very simple: you just need to open your mail client's configuration panel and flag “Use SSL/TLS” in the “Connection security” field. Remember also to set the right SMTP SSL port for the email transmission – normally, port 465.

How can I make my SMTP more secure? ›

Secure SMTP can be achieved through the enablement of TLS on your mail server. By enabling TLS, you are encrypting the SMTP protocol on the transport layer by wrapping SMTP inside of a TLS connection. This effectively secures SMTP and transforms it into SMTPS.

Is IMAP email secure? ›

IMAP over STARTTLS: also known as IMAP over TLS

The client is configured to communicate on the default IMAP TCP port of 143. As Kerio Connect supports STARTTLS, the connection gets encrypted using this technology. Hence, rendering the connection as secure.

How do I link a private email to Gmail? ›

In order to do so, follow the steps below:
  1. Log in to your Gmail account and go into Settings menu:
  2. Navigate to Accounts and Import tab.
  3. Click on Add a mail account option in Check mail from other accounts section:
  4. Enter the address of your Private Email account and click on Next:

How do I setup a private email in Outlook? ›

From your draft email message, click File > Properties. Under Settings, in the Sensitivity list, select Normal, Personal, Private, or Confidential. The default value is Normal. Select Close.

What can you do with a private server? ›

What can you do with a VPS?
  • Host your high-traffic website. The most obvious use of a VPS is to host your website. ...
  • Create websites for others and host them. ...
  • Create a gaming server. ...
  • Develop and test code. ...
  • Encrypt your wireless connection by hosting a VPN.
22 Jan 2021

How many users can one server handle? ›

CPU Cores. A Single CPU core will commonly handle an average of 220 to 250 concurrent connections simultaneously. If for instance, a website runs on a server that has a single CPU with 2 CPU cores, approximately 500 visitors may access and search the website at the same time.

Can I run a server from home? ›

The computer must have a USB port and a DVD drive; most servers operate on a Linux operating system, which is generally considered better for server operation. Hosting a server at home requires a strong internet connection that can meet the needs of the expected web traffic.

How do I set up a Vrising server? ›

We use Windows Server 2019 as the operating system.
  1. Step 1: Connect to the host server. ...
  2. Step 2: Install SteamCMD. ...
  3. Step 3: Install a dedicated V Rising server. ...
  4. Step 4: Release ports. ...
  5. Step 5: Configure V Rising server. ...
  6. Step 6: Start up server. ...
  7. Step 7: Joining a V Rising server.
21 Jun 2022

What can I use a server for? ›

9 things you can do with a home server
  • Store personal files. You can share data on the server's hard drive with whoever you want. ...
  • Host a personal website. ...
  • Use SecureDrop. ...
  • Have your own chat server. ...
  • Run your own email server. ...
  • Make your own VPN. ...
  • Run a Tor node. ...
  • Set up a Bitcoin node.
23 Jul 2019

Is Gmail safe and secure? ›

Your information is protected by world-class security, monitoring things like suspicious logins and unauthorized activity. You can always control your privacy settings in your Google Account. For general information about privacy on Gmail, keep reading this article.

How do I send a secure email attachment? ›

In message that you are composing, click File > Properties. Click Security Settings, and then select the Encrypt message contents and attachments check box. Compose your message, and then click Send.

Is Outlook a secure email? ›

Microsoft Outlook's email encryption services aren't as secure as you may believe. This is because Outlook encrypts email using S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) and Office 365 message encryption, which both rely on the sender and recipient having it enabled.

Which email is best for privacy? ›

The top secure and encrypted email services are:
  • ProtonMail: The most popular secure email service provider.
  • Mailfence: End-to-end encryption and a familiar Outlook layout.
  • StartMail: The email provider by the creators of Startpage.
  • Tutanota: Perfect email platform for journalists and human rights activists.

Which is safer IMAP or POP? ›

Better security:

POP3 is more secure than IMAP since it uses SSL/TLS encryption by default. This means that your passwords and email data are safe from eavesdroppers.

Does deleting an email on one device delete it on all devices? ›

You will see the emails in each place, because you're downloading a "copy" of the email to each device. So when you delete an email on your desktop computer, it will still be on your mobile device. And vice versa.

Is a private server secure? ›

Because a VPS separates your files from other users on the OS level, it truly is a private server. This means your website lives within a secure container with guaranteed server resources — think memory, disk space, CPU cores, etc. You don't have to share any of it with others.

What is the least secure email? ›

Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are clearly not the most secure email providers. None of them encrypt your messages end-to-end, and none take your privacy very seriously. Some users are still surprised to learn that Google and others scan your emails for keywords to show more personalized ads.

Is Tutanota better than ProtonMail? ›

Tutanota vs Proton Mail: security and privacy. Both services offer excellent security and privacy – it's their entire selling point. Both offer end-to-end encryption that even they don't have the keys to decrypt. Tutanota encrypts more spaces within its ecosystem, but we give a slight edge to Proton Mail.

What is the safest email provider that is free? ›

ProtonMail is an email service that provides security through end-to-end encrypted mails. It can be used on any device without installing the software.
💻 Which are the Best Encrypted and Anonymous Email Services?
  • ProtonMail.
  • Titan.
  • Gmail.
  • Zoho Mail.
  • Bluehost.
  • Outlook.
  • Startmail.
10 Sept 2022

How do I host a secure server? ›

10 Tips to Increase Security on Web Hosting Servers
  1. Use Public Key Authentication For SSH. Remove unencrypted access. ...
  2. Strong Passwords. ...
  3. Install And Configure The CSF Firewall. ...
  4. Install And Configure Fail2Ban. ...
  5. Install Malware Scanning Software. ...
  6. Keep Software Up-To-Date. ...
  7. Backup Regularly. ...
  8. Monitor Logs.

How do I make my server secure? ›

Server Security Best Practices
  1. Constantly Upgrade the Software and the Operating System. ...
  2. Configure Your Computer to File Backups. ...
  3. Set up Access Limitations to Your Computers files. ...
  4. Install SSL Certificates. ...
  5. Use Virtual Private Networks (Private Networking) ...
  6. Server Password Security. ...
  7. Use Firewall Protection.
8 Mar 2021

What is the difference between public server and private server? ›

In this context, the public server is open to the public and you can access the server anywhere regardless of your current location. On the other hand, private server demands you to access the server through a specialized point of entry to prevent unauthorized users from making unlawful entries.

Is Gmail a secure email? ›

Since 2010, HTTPS has been the default when you're signed into Gmail. This means that while your email travels between Google's data centers and the computer you use to read your email, it's encrypted and secure.

What is replacing Gmail? ›

Best Alternatives to Gmail in 2022
  • Zoho Mail.
  • Yandex.
  • Tutanota.
  • ProtonMail.
  • GMX.
  • iCloud Mail.

What is a better alternative to Gmail? ›

Our first recommendation is Zoho Mail, a feature-rich email service for small businesses and personal use. It includes a full suite of organizational tools, like a calendar, storage drive, tasks, contacts, and bookmarks, making it the closest alternative to Gmail you can find.

What are the disadvantages of ProtonMail? ›

That's not to say there aren't drawbacks or limitations. While ProtonMail users may enjoy top-notch privacy and security, it comes at the price of several limitations. Some of these limitations include a sending limit of 150 messages per day and only 500 MB of cloud storage.

Has Tutanota been hacked? ›

No, the attackers never hacked the Tutanota servers or gained access to any data stored on our servers.

Which is better Gmail or ProtonMail? ›

Is Protonmail safer than Gmail? Yes. End-to-end encryption is king when it comes to data protection. All data stored on ProtonMail is encrypted, so neither hackers nor ProtonMail employees can read the contents of your messages.

Is Gmail safer than Hotmail? ›

Gmail is less secure since it analyzes users' emails to send ads. Hotmail can be considered more secure, as users' emails are not scanned to send ads. Encryption Protocol: SSL and TLS are both supported as encryption protocols in Gmail.

Which is better Gmail or iCloud mail? ›

Gmail and iCloud Mail offer similar features, but iCloud Mail has more intuitive swipe functions on mobile devices. iCloud+ provides more robust features, but Gmail might be better as a standalone email client. Gmail provides users with 15GB of storage, while basic iCloud accounts provide 5GB.

Is iCloud more secure than Gmail? ›

Apple and Google are two of the most popular and reliable tech companies in the world, so neither security nor reliability are concerns with either Gmail or Apple Mail. You can consider this category a tie.


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