Recommended Service Providers

Mark D. Anderson (, 2003 (some updates in 2005)

In general, realize that being the value leader is a real bad sign in an ISP, because that means they will have a higher percentage of customers who will abuse the service (hosting porn, or spamming, etc.) Just like buying real estate, you don't want the nicest house in the neighborhood.

Before selecting any ISP, you should check spamhaus or other black list, to see how they rate on spam listings. If they are there, then there is some risk that your web site and/or email will be blocked as a side-effect of other ISPs blocking other abusive customers at your ISP. It also often means that they are a "value leader" and their support and stability may be in question too.

Domain Registration and Administration

Do not use,, verisign/networksolutions, or pretty much any other company whose advertising you've ever seen.

Note that domain registration (creation of a whois record) is independent of management of the domain server that is authoritative for the domain (which determines where the web and email servers are for the domain). Both are independent of actual web or email serving.

If you intend to just park the domain (no immediate plans to use it), then you only need domain registration. (Essentially all registrars offer a parking, web redirection, and email redirection even if they don't offer full DNS.)

If you intend to use the domain in a real web site, then you have to consider DNS services. Essentially all web hosting ISPs offer domain servers and domain registration. I strongly suggest that you not do domain registration or domain serving with your web hosting ISP. It is better to maintain independent control over DNS, and not rely on a particular web hosting company to do it. It makes it much easier to change web hosts, to split web and email services, and so on. Furthermore, DNS is tricky and it is best to use a specialist for it.

Here are some domain service providers to consider, depending on your needs:
ProviderRegistration?Full DNS?CostsComment
domainsite.comYY$7.99/domain-year for reg or transfer. hidden whois is $4.99/year.
dynadot.comYY$7.99/domain-year for reg or transferGood support, and pretty site. ICANN approved. $2/year more for reg masking. recommendations at WHT (along with namecheap). It does not not email forwarding for multiple email addresses (just catch-all), and doesn't offer full DNS record administration. Gradually adding basic things like CNAME records. Their response to Nick Berlette's discovery of security holes was heavy-handed. They also caved in and deleted the "A" records of wikileaks.
moniker.comYY$10.50/domain-year for .comfocuses on bulk domain trading/auctions. good reputation for support. dns management is basic
namecheap.comYY$8.88/domain-year for reg or transferA reseller for enom. They respond to support emails. They have an annoying "WhoisGuard" promotion, which should be included. Their email forwarding seems flaky, their whole site goes down sometimes, and sometimes updates fail mysteriously.
www.domainsmadeeasy.comYY$7.95/domain-year for reg or transferapproved as a registrar directly by ICANN. cheesy web site, but gets the job done. same folks as
www.gandi.netYY12 euro/domain-year for reg + DNSWeb site is a bit crude, but they have exemplary customer policies. Custom DNS is free with registration.
www.easydns.comYY$35/domain-year for reg + DNSRobust set of domain servers, and slick domain administration GUI. They respond to support emails.
www.dnsmadeeasy.comNY$60/year + $.75/year-domain for DNS
www.zoneedit.comNYapprox $5/domain-year for DNSGet five zones for free. Good web-based DNS administration for those who understand DNS.
www.dyndns.orgYY$15/domain-year for just reg, $25/domain-year for just DNS.Free dynamic dns.$15/domain-year for reg, $10/domain-year for just DNS.Free dynamic dns.

Some cons of some of these providers:

Note that if you are interested in reselling (with API support), consider and

For more than you wanted to know about DNS, see .

Web Site Hosting

Again, do not use verio, earthlink, or most any other ISP you've likely heard of, for web hosting.

There are several levels of site hosting:

Shared hosting is the most affordable and is sufficient for static-content sites and many others.

CompanySharedVirtualDedicatedColoComments YNYNPair and Dreamhost are the best of the larger-scale ISPs. YNYNPair and Dreamhost are the best of the larger-scale ISPs
openhosting.comNYNNThey are one of the few US-based ISPs offering linux vserver-based virtual servers. Support is very good. Supporters of open source.
unitedlayer.comNNNYdata centers in LA and SF. lives there. NNNYISP with data centers in Europe and US.

Pricing of site hosting is complicated, being a mishmash of per-account, per-domain, per-space, and per-bandwidth calculations. is $18/month for an account and one domain with complete cgi control.

Note that I used to recommend some small ISPs such as I no longer do. Their support is typically great, but a small ISP is generally helpless (and so are their customers) in the face of distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks. Only the larger ISPs are capable of mounting a defense -- they often aren't either, but at least they have enough bandwidth and position in their data center to do something. Small ISPs usually have to just wait for their own upstream ISP to wake up and black hole some destination IP address of the DDOS attack. For this reason, I do not suggest either, unless you are specifically interested in a vserver solution.

And be very sure you really want a virtual server, which is in a no-man's land between fully shared, and a dedicated physical host. There are problems you won't appreciate til you get into it:

  traceroute and ping don't work
  strace/ktrace don't work
  you can't mount file systems via nfs or smbmount
  you never know which of the system utils (vmstat, etc.) are virtualized
  you aren't actually isolated
  disk space is expensive
  you can't change the kernel
  the "utility" model usually doesn't actually support wide swings in
    just a single resource, such as for example needing low cpu but 4GB of swap
Not all of those things are true of all virtualization technologies, but many are.

Email Services

There are several different kinds of email service:

A good site for reviews of email ISPS is

Individual Email

For a personal individual email account, you may be satisfied with one of the free email services (e.g. gmail, hotmail, yahoo, msn). They've improved a lot over the past year (2006), increasing their account size and their spam protection. However, they generally do not offer:

You may have an email account that is available through your job, or gets thrown in from home internet services (DSL or cable). If you are happy with this email service, you would still probably like to have a more stable public email address (which will then forward to your real one). For just forwarding, I recommend:

They are a useful solution particularly to have your incoming mail split between two other email ISPs. However, pobox is not price competitive for mailbox hosting or for domain email hosting. Their admin interface is a little confusing, as well as their corporate site that tries to explain what their products are. They charge a bit for every extra alias or domain.

For just managing a bunch of forwarding aliases (no mailboxes) on a single domain, this is supported affordably by any of:

If you want good personal email service, independent of any other provider, I recommend:

They provide pop, imap, and web access. They also provide good spam and virus protection. I no longer recommend They have had continued stability problems since I started using them in 2003 til now (2006). There is no sign that they are learning their lessons. It is too bad, because their feature set and user interface are both great.

Note that only supports 5 mailboxes and above; they aren't targeted at individuals.

Organization Email

For an organization (versus just an individual mailbox), you want a single admin interface (and billing account) for multiple mailboxes on one or more domains. Stay away from the the commercial providers such as Critical Path (now owned by Tucows) or Electric Mail: they are unreliable, expensive, going out of business, or some combination thereof.

The shared hosting ISPs (dreamhost and pair) do support affordable mail hosting for many mailboxes. That is a fine solution if you don't have the needs of "power" users who want to do things like write custom sieve filters, or who want a better webmail interface than what they support.

Note that tuffmail explicitly says they while they technically support multiple domains per account, they want those domains to all be held by one entity ( tuffmail's admin user interface is far more technical (and powerful) than that of has a reseller program (they all do actually) with an API (which the others above don't have). also has a migration service to move mail from a previous ISP, which is useful for moving companies. does not support anything except domain email -- for example, they don't give out "" email addresses, generally speaking. There are some technical limitations in its service, such as a lack of sieve support, that affect only "power users".

Mailing Lists

There are several important parameters which distinguish types of mailing lists:

First, a discussion of what to avoid in mailing list services.

Almost all free mailing list services have disappeared (ListBot, OneList, etc.), except for Yahoo Groups ( ). If you want a public discussion list, they are barely tolerable: they frequently seem to drop messages, and their messages and web interface are covered with ads.

Most commercial providers of mailing list services are either for two purposes: spamming, or managing corporate newsletters (aka "email marketing"). The first is company we don't want, and the second is expensive. Some examples of the many cheaper services are:

   Microsoft bCentral ListBuilder ($30/month for up to 10k messages/month)
   Topica Email Publisher ($25/month for up to 10k messages/month)
   BIGLIST ($40/month for 500 subscribers, up to 150kbytes/subscriber)

The problem with these cheaper services is that quite often ISPs and other providers will blacklist *all* email from them, because they are a frequent source of spam. There are an endless number of the higher-end "email marketing" companies, such as:
Some lists of such providers can be found at:

Some commercial newsletter services to consider are:

listbox is the first to consider, based on the quality of the mailing lists it hosts (such as spf and ip), and the fact that it is run by the same people who run ("IC Group"). All of these vendors have a good reputation for being genuinely anti-spam. elistx and whitehat are a bit on the expensive side, and are just barely competitive with Yahoo Groups in features. is currently free; who knows if it will survive, or start limiting features, etc. does nominally provide a mailing list service ( ). However, it has been "in testing" for over 5 years now. It is free to customers who host with, but there is a limit of only 2 mailing lists per customer, so it isn't a general purpose solution.

Dreamhost offers both announcement and discussion lists:

They use Mailman for discussion lists. I don't know what software they use for announcement lists, but it isn't Mailman. It may be some homegrown cgi programs. An example of the simple Dreamhost subscribe/unsubscribe web form for announce lists is at .

Lastly, there is choice of installing and running your own mailing list software. They all have serious problems. For discussion lists, consider MailMan. For newsletters, consider phplist and Dada Mail.