5 Ways to Send Mail on the Go

Being a web worker means, almost by definition, being dependent on email. For many of us it also means connecting to the web over a variety of networks: wired and wireless, home and work, coffeeshop and client. Therein lies the problem. Sooner or later, you’ll hit some combination where the network and the outgoing email refuse to speak to each other. Perhaps your ISP blocks access to your SMTP server when you’re not logging in directly through their network. Perhaps the standard port 25 is blocked at your location.
In any case, this is a problem that cries out for solutions; we can’t stop emailing or traveling. Here are five different ways to help ensure that you can send mail wherever you are. [digg=http://digg.com/programming/5_Ways_to_Send_Mail_on_the_Go]

1. Run your own mail server. This is the traditional geek answer, whether it means setting up Microsoft Exchange, sendmail, or one of numerous other alternatives. But that doesn’t make it a good answer for most web workers. Having a functioning mail server in your home office may not help at all if port 25 is blocked where you’re working, and time spent setting up and running a mail server is unlikely to be billable.
2. Use webmail. The easy way out when you can’t connect to your regular mail server is to use HotMail, GMail, or one of the zillions of other web-based email providers. This works just about anywhere that you can get online, and all you need to remember is one more password. On the downside, it means that you may be sending important email to clients as [email protected] instead of [email protected]
3. Use Google’s SMTP server. If you’ve got a GMail account, you can hook up your regular e-mail client to send mail through Google’s SMTP server instead of your ISP’s server. The GMail Help Center shows how to set this up for every popular email client. Google uses port 465, which is less likely to be blocked than the standard port 25. On the minus side, mail sent this way will show your GMail address as its return address.
4. Use a local SMTP server. Software like 1st SMTP Server or PostCast Server allow you to run an SMTP server on your client desktop, connecting directly to destination email servers. This removes worries about connecting to your ISP’s SMTP server, but does require port 25 to be unblocked for mail to go through. It also means that mail will only go out while your client is turned on and connected; if a message doesn’t get through the first time, you might not notice that it needs to retry.
5. Use a commercial relay server. Services like SMTP.com and smtp2go offer you the use of their SMTP servers for a monthly or annual fee. These services also make their servers available on a variety of ports to get around networks that block port 25. But beware: depending on how your regular mail server’s DNS records are configured, mail sent through these relays may be flagged as spam by organizations using SPF or Sender ID to verify the legitimacy of incoming emails.