Digital Ocean’s $5/mo. fast SSD servers make a great choice for hosting your email. For a gmail alternative, try FastMail. On to Estimating Costs with AWS…
Install Your Own Private E-mail Server in the Cloud
Estimating Costs with Amazon
Fully loaded with anti-virus, anti-spam and key signing support, iRedMail requires 1 GB memory. However, you can run it in an AWS Micro Instance (640 MB) with a swap file. We’ll describe how to set this up later.
If you’re new to AWS, you should be able to run your email service at AWS in their free usage tier for one year. After one year, it will cost about $14.64 per month. But, if you spend $62 up front on a reserved micro instance, you can reduce the monthly fee to $3.66 (total monthly fee of $8.83). If you buy a three year reserved micro instance for $100, you can reduce the total monthly fee to $6.44.
If you’re an incredibly heavy email user or want to manage a number of accounts on your server, you may want to start with a small instance, which costs $43.92 monthly. But this can be reduced to $10.08 by purchasing a one year reserved small instance for $169 (total adjusted monthly rate of $24.16). If you purchase a three year reserved small instance for $257, it can be reduced to $7.13 monthly (total adjusted monthly rate of $15.79).
Storage costs as Amazon are fairly inexpensive. For 8 GB of mail and backup snapshots, you’re looking at about $1.50 per month.
Again, if you want a more economical, much simpler solution, consider FastMail. Getting off GMail to an Australian email service will provide modestly more protections from unwarranted wiretapping. Full disclosure, I receive small affiliate fees when you sign up for FastMail from this page.
You can learn more about AWS pricing,reserved instance pricing and estimate your costs with their calculator. Hosting email requires 7 x 24 access, so you’ll need a reserved instance with heavy (100%) utilization.
If you purchase a reserved instance and then later regret doing so, Amazon offers a marketplace for selling unused portions of reserved instances (for a small commission). I’ve found it works well and have sold two instances within a few weeks.
However, moving your site from a micro instance to a small instance is non-trivial and it’s not documented here. If you think you’ll have a lot of web-based email activity or a number of users, consider starting with a small instance.
You may also be interested in:
- Simplify Your Email with advanced IMAP mail filtering and digests
- How to Install Ubuntu at Digital Ocean
- Top affiliate programs for bloggers
Estimating Costs with Mailgun
It’s very important to prevent your outbound email from being filtered as potential spam and this can be very difficult when you self-host your email. You can use Amazon’s Simple Email Service which has use-based pricing. However, I’ve chosen to use Mailgun, which costs $19 per month. I’m using Mailgun because I’ve found that they offer incredible support, good documentation, helpful mailing list features and I’m able to use it for another project of mine, Geogram. I’ve also found that it’s easiest to configure. (I had a lot of problems configuring Amazon SES).
Here’s more information on the challenges of maintaining the reputation of your mail server without one of these services. Let Amazon or Mailgun do the work for you – just keep in mind that this opens up more points of surveillance if you’re not encrypting your mail – and in either case it could more easily allow for surveillance of your recipients.
Ready to sign up for AWS? Already have an account? Please feel free to post corrections, questions or comments below. You can also reach me on Twitter @reifman or email me directly. If this tutorial helped you, please share it on Twitter.