Squirrel hosting: What it is and its benefits for you

Posted on 2nd February 2021 by Fabrizio Lucenti in Web Hosting
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It’s the most frequently asked question once people decide to buy web hosting: Should I get email hosting, too? And as soon as you realise how easy it is to set up an email with cPanel, the follow-up question is “What kind of email hosting should I get?” Squirrel hosting is a great choice for users who need a simple webmail interface that they can use to read and reply to emails. In case you have only a vague idea about what Squirrel hosting is, here’s a crash course.

What is Squirrel hosting?

Squirrel hosting (also called SquirrelMail hosting) is a service offered by some web hosts that lets you access SquirrelMail from your dashboard. Even if your web host doesn’t offer Squirrel hosting, you can usually download SquirrelMail from the official website and use FTP or the command line to install it on your server. Ask your web host if your server can support this.

This, of course, brings us to our next question.

What is SquirrelMail?

SquirrelMail is a standards-based webmail client that lets you do the bare essentials of what an email app should be able to do: read and write emails. It’s a free, open source webmail application written in PHP. Also, because it uses JavaScript and HTML 4, it’s super lightweight, which means most browsers (even older ones) can handle it with no problem.

All this talk of “webmail clients” might be confusing if you’re brand new to web hosting, so here’s a quick walk-through on email and webmail clients.

What’s an email client?

An email client is an application that collects your emails from their servers and stores them locally on your device. Email clients also let you write emails and transmit them back to the server. If you use an email client, you can read and write emails even when you’re offline. If you use a Windows device, you may have already seen an email client, because Microsoft Outlook is one of the most widely used email clients.

You’ll usually see email clients contrasted with webmail, because webmail is what most people think of when they think of email. Webmail is an email service that exists on a server instead of on your device. This means that, unlike an email client, you can access webmail only when you’re connected to the internet, but you can access your emails from any device that’s connected to the internet.

Benefits of Squirrel hosting

People who love Squirrel hosting really love Squirrel hosting, and once you take a look at all its benefits, it’s pretty easy to see why:

1. It can be used and distributed for free

Because email clients have so many great features, they’re usually paid services. But SquirrelMail is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), which means you can use, distribute, and even modify it for free. (No licence fees!)

2. It’s widely accessible

SquirrelMail has been translated into more than 50 languages, and because it’s such a stripped-down email client, it’s light enough that you can use it without switching from your favourite browser. You don’t need to worry about using any specially configured browsers to access it. Both these features make SquirrelMail widely accessible.

3. Plugins galore

Squirrel UK supports more than 200 plugins and extensions, which means you can use Squirrel UK to access modern features like spam filtering, email signatures, auto-responders, spell-check, and so much more! This is great for people who want a light, no-frills email client, but who also need the creature comforts of their most beloved plugins.

4. You can search and flag emails

Squirrel hosting focuses on only the most essential functions of an email client, but that doesn’t mean it’s primitive. You can use Squirrel UK to quickly find the emails you’re looking for and to flag the ones you want to highlight.

5. Squirrel hosting is really easy to use

Squirrel hosting’s claim to fame is that its interface is so intuitive that even beginners can use it with no trouble.

6. Squirrel hosting is secure

SquirrelMail is compatible with transport layer security (TLS), secure sockets layer (SSL), and STARTTLS. This means you can secure your Squirrel UK client using modern encryption.

7. It supports a range of email protocols

Squirrel hosting is compatible with IMAP and POP3/SMTP, which means you can use it just fine, regardless of your preferred email protocol.

8. You might prefer it to a local email client

Some people love the pared-down nature of SquirrelMail, because it differs from email clients in several important ways: your email can be accessed from any device (not just the one with the email client installed), your attachments will never be automatically downloaded or opened, and you don’t need to wait for messages to download.

Does this mean you don’t need an email client?

Squirrel hosting is great for people who want their email interface to be as simple as humanly possible, but you might still find that you need an email client. For one thing, SquirrelMail doesn’t support HTML composition; it supports only text mails. And there haven’t been any updates in a while, so you might run into difficulty even if you’re using the most recent version of SquirrelMail.

The Takeaway

SquirrelMail is an easy-to-use webmail client that’s supported by virtually all browsers. If you don’t mind the fact that it supports only text mails and hasn’t been updated recently, you’ll love it for its intuitive interface, accessibility, and compatibility with a wide range of plugins.