I’ve been an MSN dial-up subscriber for years, since I switched from AOL
because I thought it was micro-managing my computer; yes, you guessed it, now I
think MSN does it, too. In the last year we’ve added Road Runner high speed
wireless at our house, and I’ve been dragging my feet on dropping MSN. I use my
MSN e-mail address for everything, and I know I should not be doing that; I
hesitate to take on a road runner e-mail address because we may not keep it
forever. I want your advice about getting a new e-mail address that I can
consider permanent. I do have my own website for my real estate practice
(bought my domain from Go Daddy), but this site is also kind of micro-managed
by the realty firm I work for! Would you recommend I buy a separate domain for
my family with a couple e-mails on it? Also, if I drop my paid MSN account, can
I keep my @msn.com e-mail address as a free one like Hotmail?
You’re experiencing a very common problem. No matter what email address you
choose, if it’s on a domain you don’t control you run the risk of losing it
some day. If you have lots of contacts and correspondents, changing it can be a
So, let’s change it.
One last time.
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The key in my opinion is to have your permanent email address on a domain
that you own, you control, and that you expect to own and control forever.
As you can imagine that rules out a permanent email address using the
domains of any ISP, any company that you work for, or any organization that you
might someday leave. The domain needs to be yours, and yours alone. Fortunately
that’s not very difficult. Yes, all the real cool domain names may already be
taken, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something that will work quite
acceptably for your email needs.
So, in your case I don’t know what “kind of micro-managed by the realty
firm” means. If you left that firm, can you take the domain with you? If not
the answer is clear: get another domain. If you could take it with you, then
perhaps it’s not as big an issue. In either case, getting another domain is the
safest if there’s any question about future ownership or use.
Side note: when choosing that additional domain, be sure to consider that
someday you may be using that email address for situations you wouldn’t think
of today. Domains that relate to your current profession are kind of tricky:
they add a sense of legitimacy to your business correspondence, but if you ever
change careers, you’re kind of stuck. For example a domain like “ask-leo.com”
is more flexible since the it really only implies “ask” and “leo”. I could
change careers and the domain could still apply. (In reality I have other
domains that are more generic that I use for my email, but you get the idea.)
Keep in mind also that if you plan to use your permanent email address as part
of your business, now or in the future, you’ll probably want to steer away from
“creative” or silly domain names which could hurt your perceived
address on a domain that you own, you control, and that you expect to own and
So, once you have your domain, what’s the best way to handle all this?
Well, you certainly don’t need some fancy server, web hosting or anything
like that, unless or until you decide you actually need it. The simplest
approach is to have your domain registrar forward email to you at
yourdomain.com to you at your ISP’s email account; your msn.com address in your
example. Make sure people start to use your new permanent address, but you’ll
receive your msn.com addressed email as long as you keep that account open. If
you ever change ISPs away from msn.com, then all you do is change where that
email gets forwarded – the people that send you email need never know you
changed anything. (You’ll also need to configure your email program to send email “from” you
at your domain, even though you’re sending using your ISP’s mail servers.
Google’s GMail also allows you to do this.)
The biggest issue here is the transition. Once you have your permanent email
address on your own domain, and everything is set up so that you can send and
receive on that email address, you need to transition from whatever it is you
My recommendation is to plan on a long transition. By that I mean, plan on
keeping your existing account for a while before you drop it. Give people
notification that your email address has changed, but expect it to take some
time before all the “real” email to your old address switches over. You can
tell, though, once it does, and use that as a good indicator for when it’s safe
to drop that account and move elsewhere.
And no, I’m not aware of any way to have your old msn.com address forward
elsewhere once you leave the service. It’s also unclear if they’ll let you keep
it as a free address; certainly they have no real incentive to do it. Since
you’re currently paying them I assume you have access to customer support and
may be able to ask them before you leave.
To sum up the steps I would recommend:
Buy a new domain that you own and control; and buy it at a registrar that
includes email forwarding (most do, but check).
Set up your new permanent email address “you at yourdomain.com” to forward
to your old email address (“you at msn.com” in this case).
Set up your email program to send email “from” “you at yourdomain.com”.
Tell everyone about your new permanent email address. Start using it
yourself in all your correspondence and whatever else makes sense. Watch for
and remind people who continue to use your old address that it’s changed and
will someday go away.
Do that preceding point for a long time. I’m guessing three to six months –
maybe as long as a year.
When valid email to your old address stops, or is reduced to a trickle,
consider yourself free to drop your existing ISP and move your email delivery
to another ISP or service. Simply change where “you at yourdomain.com” gets
forwarded once that’s set up.
I know it seems a little complicated, but the fact is each time you change
your email address you will lose contacts. Depending on the nature of your life
and/or business that can be a big deal. Going through this process once sets
you up for maximum flexibility in the future.
And once it’s set up no one but you, your ISP and your registrar need know
about any changes.