Last Updated: July 7, 2021
- Ease of use: 4.5/5
- Security: 5/5
- Free plan: Yes
- OpenPGP encryption: Yes
- Online collaboration suite: Yes
- AES256 encrypted private key: Yes
- End-to-end encryption (E2EE): Yes
- POP, IMAP, and SMTP supported: Yes
Private and secure communication
- Affordable plans
- Built-in calendar, contacts, and documents
- Not open-source
- No native email client
- Free plan lacks many features
What Is Mailfence?
Mailfence is an email service provider that has been operated by ContactOffice Group SA since 1999. The company is an advocate for privacy. On top of that, it donates to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the European Digital Rights Foundation (EDRF).
Furthermore, Mailfence aims to provide a simple and effective replacement for email providers employing less reliable measures, earn on ads, and trade their users’ data. In the process, it flawlessly implements OpenPGP, uses digital signatures, and employs total transparency between the company and its users.
Mailfence includes more options besides email messaging, like a calendar, data storage, and contacts. Let’s take a look at what else it has to offer.
Mailfence has exciting features, and these stand out the most:
Support for POPs, IMAPs, and SMTPs
Mailfence includes support for email protocols. Unfortunately, the free account gives access only to the web-based app. But if you have a paid subscription, you can set up your Mailfence account with an email client of choice.
Keep in mind that Mailfance doesn’t endorse any email client software in particular. Instead, it explains what software you can use with OpenPGP extensions and apps.
Mailfence’s calendar helps you keep track of your appointments. Creating an entry is straightforward, and you can set up time, location, and reminders for any event.
Mailfence storage lets you upload from 500 MB to 70 GB of documents, depending on your payment plan.
Contacts and Groups
Mailfence allows you to save contacts and create collaboration groups. These make it possible to share documents, a group calendar, and access to shared space for individuals working on the same projects.
On top of that, group members can access the same mailbox, share group contacts, see timeslots, share calendar events, access group data, distribute documents, chat, and more. The free plan allows for only one group, while paid plans let you have up to seven.
Mailfence for Business gives you even more leeway in creating custom groups and managing accounts within them.
With Mailfence, you can sync your emails with IMAP, POP, and Exchange ActiveSync.
For additional protection, users can enable two-factor authentication (2FA).
Password Encrypted Messages
The email service provider goes a step further by integrating password-encrypted messages (PEM). The way Mailfence encryption is set up makes sure it doesn’t insist on your correspondent to use OpenPGP to communicate safely.
Also, you can send an encrypted email if you don’t know how to use PGP encryption. The recipient will need a password to decrypt the message. However, keep in mind that you need to send the email password by other means than the email client.
Locally Hosted and Total Control Over Servers
The company maintains and keeps its own servers. Mailfence server location is protected with biometric locks, video surveillance, guards, and other security measures.
Custom Domain Support and Aliases
Mailfence does have the option to change the default domain email address from @mailfence.com to your custom one.
Mailfence believes in open communication with its customers. Therefore it strictly adheres to full disclosure in company operations. Twice a year, it publishes a report sharing how many legal requests the company received from the Belgium court about its users.
But is Mailfence secure from the US government tampering?
Yes, it is. Since Mailfence is a Belgian company, it isn’t subject to NSA (the US National Security), or FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) requests. Mailfence also publishes a warrant canary stating that they don’t have software or hardware backdoors implemented.
Ease of Use and Interface
The registration process is simple and doesn’t take long. Mailfence’s free plan allows new users to get used to the interface. Online Mailfence reviews have a divided opinion on the interface’s look, but we liked the minimalistic design. There are no distractions, and it’s straightforward to navigate through default and filtered folders.
For example, the top navigation bar has simple shortcuts for email, contacts, documents, and calendars.
Documents feature from Mailfence offers users an accessible overview of their files. And the most expensive payment plan includes 70 GB of storage. Users can even set up a virtual drive on their devices protected with username and password, therefore not having to log in through the website to access their files.
Through the interface, you can access the calendar. In addition, it has an excellent overview of your appointments, which also can be color-coded.
You can install PWAs through your default browser, but keep in mind that it doesn’t support all browsers. Mailfence recommends Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android. The company decided not to distribute through App Store/Google Play. This way, it is independent of Google and Apple, and it lowers the cost of development.
Security features are the most important aspect for Mailfence users. Email messages use OpenPGP end-to-end encryption (E2EE), and this setup allows only the intended recipient to read the email by decrypting it. Also, you can send password-encrypted messages (PEM).
Keystore used to decrypt emails is isolated from third-party add-ons and plug-ins. Additionally, you can have keys for multiple accounts, easily import one if you already have it.
All connections to Mailfence servers are going through SSL/TLS whether you are using the web app or another email client. At Mailfence, privacy is essential, and PFS (Perfect Forward Secrecy) is another encryption system that email service providers use. The protocol changes decryption keys with each session, ensuring that only a portion of the data is accessible if a compromise occurs.
Moreover, Mailfence uses two additional standards: SPF (Sender Policy Framework), used to prevent address forgery (spoofing), and DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) enables server-validated digital signatures.
The level of support you receive depends on the payment plan you choose. For example, the team can be reached through email only if you are a free user. Paid levels also include email support, but they also have a contact number.
Some Mailfence reviews criticize that phone support is only available to subscribed users. However, this is necessary to facilitate the best service for customers with a financial investment. The company also reserves 24/7 support for Ultra subscription paying users.
Mailfence also has a comprehensive knowledge base and blog. These will explain common issues among users. However, if you can’t find the solution in their database, the team is responsive and professionally deals with customer inquiries.
Mailfence has a variety of plans, including:
- Free: 500 MB of emails, 500 MB of documents, one group, encryption, 2FA, and email support.
- Entry (€2.50/month): 5 GB emails, ten aliases, 12 GB documents, three groups, encryption, 2FA, email and telephone support, email protocols (POP, IMAP, SMTP), PWA, syncing, and custom email domain.
- Pro (€7.50/month): 20 GB emails, 50 aliases, 24 GB documents, five groups, encryption, 2FA, encryption, priority email and telephone support, email protocols (POP, IMAP, SMTP), PWA, syncing, and custom email domain.
- Ultra (€25.00/month): 50 GB emails, 100 aliases, 70 GB documents, seven groups, encryption, F2A, priority email and telephone support 24/7, email protocols (POP, IMAP, SMTP), PWA, syncing, and custom email domain.
The free plan is not time-limited and allows new users to thoroughly explore and use Mailfence webmail and see if it’s the right fit.
For extra privacy, Mailfence has the option to pay in Bitcoin and Litecoin. Furthermore, the company donates 15% of the Pro and Ultra plans to support EFF and EDRI nonprofit organizations.
Mailfence vs. ProtonMail
Both ProtonMail and Mailfence are aimed at the same privacy-concerned customer and use OpenPGP to encrypt the email communication. However, some differences may sway users to favor one over the other.
SSL encryption has become a standard for security and privacy-oriented websites and services, which is no different for ProtonMail and Mailfence.
ProtonMail is based in Switzerland, which also has strict privacy laws comparable with Belgium. Unlike Belgium, Switzerland is not a member of the Fourteen Eyes intelligence group. However, Mailfence maintains full transparency and a warrant canary for all legal requests every six months.
The main drawback with ProtonMail is that it doesn’t encrypt the subject lines of emails.
Both email services offer free plans for their users. ProtonMail non-paying users get 500 MB of storage and a limited number of emails to 50 per hour and 150 per day. They also have limited customer support.
ProtonMail Plus is the affordable plan that the email service provider has. Depending on the subscription duration, it costs €5/month or €48/year. Comparatively, the most expensive plan (ProtonMail Visionary) costs €24/month or €288/year.
Mailfence cost is more affordable for those interested only in encrypted email services with a lower barrier to entry at €2.50 per month.
Both ProtonMail and Mailfence have mobile apps. Users can download Protonmail’s app from the App Store or Google Play. However, Mailfence took a different approach by developing a progressive web application that behaves like a dedicated native application.
Unlike Mailfence, ProtonMail is an open-source project developed by a central organization. The open-source environment allows for the whole community to participate in improving the software.
Mailfence Review – Verdict
Mailfence provides a fully functional email service that you can use with third-party email clients or with Android/iOS devices. In addition, it has convenient features like file storage, calendar, contact list, and collaborative groups.
Mailfence employs high encryption, security, privacy standards, and transparency rarely seen in the IT industry. It’s refreshing to see in an environment where internet service users aren’t the actual product to be sold or advertised to.
Without hesitation, we can recommend Mailfence’s services to anyone who wants to use a service that cares for user privacy while providing a secure way of communication free of big tech.
Yes, Mailfence secure email is a trustworthy service established in 2013. ContactOffice Group, the company running the service, has an excellent track record as trusted by the security experts and independent review authorities. Additionally, Mailfence uses multiple security methods. It includes OpenPGP E2EE for email correspondence, SSL/TLS encryption, SPF and DKIM, Keystore safeguarded against plug-ins, and AES-256 encryption.
Mailfence is based in Belgium, meaning that it’s subject to strict privacy laws on protecting the privacy of users’ data. In addition, the company owns and operates its servers protected by advanced security measures and 24/7 protection. But there is another benefit to Mailfence working from Belgium. It’s not legally obligated to disclose any information to third parties unless ordered by a Belgian court.
Mailfence is not an open-source program. However, the back-end code is peer-reviewed by different auditing teams, including academic researchers.
The email service has a free plan, but the paid subscriptions are between €2.50 and €25.00 per month. If you want to learn more about the different options, check out our Mailfence review above.