ProtonMail Review (2020): Is this Secure Email Provider? Let’s find out…

Ask any person to think up an email service and more so often than not, the answer is either going to be Gmail or Outlook, two giants that cover a huge piece of the business ; personal email market share.

Now as popular as they are, nothing is flawless. Gmail suffered from a data leak in 2014, with about as much as 5 million passwords being leaked and last year Outlook’s security being breached by hackers.

It’s suffice to say that everything popular in the tech world is going to be surrounded by security breaches and hackers. Microsoft’s Windows is the most popular AND the most hackable OS of all time. Hence, the updates.

But what if there is an open source alternative that is backed by a passionate group of coders who prioritize security ; privacy overall? What if this company was regulated under a country with the most regressive privacy laws? That’s what this review is about.

Behold. ProtonMail.

ProtonMail is an end-to-end encrypted email service found way back in 2013 at the CERN facility, Switzerland by programmers Andy Yen, Jason Stockman, and Wei Sun. It was initially created with the goal of protecting civil liberties online.

Ever since the onset of the service, ProtonMail has held a very strong stance for the privacy of its users. Risking as far as being banned in Russia for refusing to disclose information to a suspicion of the service being used to spread spam.

We’ll be discussing all the cost, security, usability, customer support, features, and round it all up with a rundown of the pros ; cons of using the service. Let’s start with the obvious…

ProtonMail Review: Pricing & Features

Paying for an email service may sound like a bad dream if you just require it for personal use. But it’s a necessity for business institutions that operate on a larger scale and deal with transactions containing essential information.

ProtonMail proton_plans

ProtonMail offers 4 plans with the first being free and the rest are paid. The ‘FREE’ or basic account comes with limited functionality and features which are targeted towards personal users.

The ‘PLUS’ account has added security ; advanced features which are a step up from Basic. Small to medium business enterprises are the targeted demographic here.

The ‘VISIONARY’ or the advanced account holders are accredited as supporters of the site and get the most premium features than any other plan.

Lastly, the ‘PROFESSIONAL’ plan offers encrypted hosted email specific to you or your company. You can use your custom domain name to personalize your or your employees’ email accounts.

The pricing tree is kept simple. The cheapest plan, other than FREE, is the PLUS plan at 4 euros/month followed by the costliest Visionary plan which is 24 euros/month and lastly the PROFESSIONAL plan at 6.25 euros/month/user.

That’s all for pricing. Let’s talk about how the features pan out to the cost, starting with the FREE plan:

ProtonMail free_account

ProtonMail offers a basic account for personal users who don’t wish to subscribe/pay for the PLUS account. The basic account is great for people who do not need the complexity ; security of a paid account.

ProtonMail’s basic account offers 500MB of data storage for all your email files and folders, 150 email messages sent/received per day and customer support to resolve any issues or queries.

ProtonMail plus_plan

The PLUS plan is a certain upgrade from the Basic plan. It has added security to prioritize privacy. If you’re someone who is security conscious about their emails and communication, then this plan is a must-have.

The PLUS plan offers 5GB of storage, 1000 messages, labels ; custom filters, message encryption, custom domain, 5 email aliases, and priority customer support with quick resolution.

ProtonMail visionary_plan

The VISIONARY plan is the most feature-rich and expensive plan of all. This is the full width of ProtonMail’s security prowess. This plan is suitable for professionals and security officials that deal with sensitive information on a daily basis.

Being a Visionary, you get unlimited messages but no bulk emailing, support for 10 domains, multi-user support, encrypted messages, 50 email aliases, early access to new features, custom filters ; labels, and ProtonMail’s very own ProtonVPN for added privacy when accessing the web.

ProtonMail professional_plan

As the name goes, the PROFESSIONAL plan is aimed at companies or professionals who require encrypted email hosted specifically for their purpose. You can use your custom domain to specify your profession or make domains for your employees.

See ProtonMail’s Current Plans & Pricing…

That’s all for pricing ; features. Next up is…

ProtonMail Review: Ease of Use

Ease of use is one of the most underrated aspects of an email service. Although all email services serve the same purpose, not all email services are the same.

There are certain variations that differentiate them from the other, whether it be UI, security, features, speed, etc.

ProtonMail website

The basic look ; feel of the website is very simple and minimal. The basic color palette used is very pleasant, the icons are simplistic too, no animations, navigation is smooth and the site works fast.

Let’s check out the email service itself. We’ll be taking a look into the FREE plan to test its ease of use. Let’s start from the top with the signup page.

ProtonMail signup_page

The signup page is your standard pro forma. Just input 3 details and you’re in. Username, Password and a recovery mail which has been kept optional.

Optional secondary email is a rarity since a lot of sites like to keep it necessary. But there’s also the catch where email recovery becomes impossible in the case of a forgotten password.

Since we’ll only be testing the service, we decided to skip the optional email address option and got prompted with a warning in case of email recovery. Next, the site asked for a human verification through email which is weird.

protonmail are_you_human

They can simply use a captcha verification but since ProtonMail hails itself as a staple in security, we complied. After inputting the confirmation code, the setup was complete.

ProtonMail logged_in

ProtonMail could easily win an award for being one of the fastest signup email services. The entire setup could be easily done within 4 minutes. What’s more, is that the email isn’t linked to any other email or phone number which keeps you more secure.

Talking about the interface, it feels very premium. Nothing about it speaks ‘FREE’ or basic but the functions are the same that you get with any other free alternative. ProtonMail is also Ad-free which is a definite bonus.

You have your split-screen layout to sort ; read emails which can also be changed to a full-page mode. You have the side panel that displays Inbox, Drafts, Sent, Starred, Archive, Spam, Trash, All Mail and Folders/labels.

ProtonMail search_bar

The Search bar has filter options to sort through emails thoroughly. You can use keywords, location, sender/recipient, start/end date, address, and attachments to find anything.

ProtonMail new_message

Clicking on ‘Compose’ opens up the ‘New message’ box where you type into. This box is somehow unmovable. Clicking on the arrows at the top right corner expands it a bit but no full screen. Not too huge of an inconvenience but it could’ve used more space.

Typing into it felt all the more satisfying, it’s enough to say that emails are a no problem at all. All the basic text editing tools are available.

Attaching files ; documents is as easy as it gets. You can set an expiration time on an email and also add an encryption layer for added security.

ProtonMail dpa_and_dpo

That sums up the ease of use. Setting up an account is super fast ; easy. No need to attach any external ID. The UI feels premium ; smooth and includes encryption for added security.

Hence, ProtonMail can handle your day-to-day emails easily with no hassle.

ProtonMail Review: Security

Since Hillary Clinton’s 2014 presidential campaign was completely annihilated due to an email controversy, security has become a consequential topic.

Based in Switzerland, ProtonMail has the strongest privacy laws under strict protection acts like the DPA and the DPO for both individuals and companies.

ProtonMail dpa_and_dpo

That’s enough for the laws, let’s talk about what kind of security does ProtonMail actually offers:

End-to-End Encryption

ProtonMail end-to-end_encryption

What end-to-end encryption basically means is that the data being transferred from one place to the other is password-protected at ALL times.

The data in ProtonMail’s servers, the data in your inbox and the data in the receiver’s account are sealed shut through encryption.

Hence, the chances of any third-party breach are less-to-none. What’s more, is that ProtonMail itself cannot touch your data due to the encryption clause which makes data recovery impossible.

A bitter-sweet truth but remembering the password is your sole responsibility, protecting your account is theirs.

Hardware Level Security

ProtonMail hardware-level-security

Other than using expert ensured open source code, ProtonMail has servers all over Switzerland to not let your data go into the cloud space which means it’ll ONLY be accessible to you.

Their primary data center is located 1000 meters underground to protect the servers from any natural or man-made harm and covered with security.

All the data is stored on high-density hard drives that are encrypted to the brim, so even if the data location is confiscated, your information remains untouched.

Anonymity

ProtonMail vendetta-4822543_1920

Here’s what really separates ProtonMail from the rest: No tracking or logging. Most websites that promise privacy do at least keep logs of your IP.

Not the case here, ProtonMail doesn’t even know what is in your emails since everything is encrypted.

No IP address, no metadata, no targeted ads, no personally identifiable information to track you. For the people dying for privacy, it sounds like a dream come true.

The takeaway here can be summed up as encryption is impossible to beat, your data is secured under the strong laws ; servers and no data record or interference of any kind.

ProtonMail Review: Customer Support

Remember the last time you needed customer support because of issues with your email? Yeah, me neither. Now it makes sense why most people tend to skip this section. Its email, what’s the worst that can happen?

If you’ve been reading all along, I’ve mentioned a few email leaks ; breaches. Problems occur all the time. No service is perfect and when the time comes for asking help, this is the only place that can sort it out.

ProtonMail customer_support

The Support section can be found on ProtonMail’s main website. As you can see, there are 5 sections to categorize your problem with annotations like ‘I have’, ‘I need help’ and ‘I want to’. This is ProtonMail’s knowledge base.

ProtonMail web_app

Clicking on the web app tab dropped down 2 options for ‘Login or Sign up issues’ and ‘Other problems’.

ProtonMail web_app

Clicking on ‘Other problems’ opened up further 4 options that contained subtopics for detailed articles that solve that problem.

ProtonMail support_form

Other than the knowledge base, there is a ‘Support Form’ or a ticketing system email support that can be used to report any issues/problems.

There is also an external page that can be used to report any bugs on the site.

That wraps up the security section. You get a detailed knowledge base and email support to report and get help regarding anything.

Pros

  • Premium looking and easy-to-use UI that doesn’t compromise on security
  • Option to not use a secondary email or a phone number to sign up providing a completely isolated experience
  • No IP logging, tracking, no ads, no metadata, hence no personal record of any kind
  • End-to-End encryption for the utmost level of security. No one knows what’s in your inbox except you
  • One of the fastest signup procedures ever seen. The entire process takes about 4 minutes or less
  • The VISIONARY plan comes with ProtonVPN to further encrypt your network and combat censorship

Cons

  • Customer support felt a lot lacking with no option for live chat which is more preferable than email support
  • Optional secondary email makes recovery impossible. It’s safer since the account is unlinked to anything else but also a bit risky
  • Since there’s less control by the company itself, moderation becomes difficult. For example, spamming can be an issue since the data is encrypted at all times.

ProtonMail Review: Conclusion

So after we’ve laid out everything that makes ProtonMail tick, is it worth recommending and switching in 2020 and forward? To put it simply:

YES. 100% YES.

In a world today where privacy and security have become a priority, we do need ProtonMail. Where most email services fail in comparison is that they rely on an external email/phone link to connect to your account.

This external link is often manipulable to track ; log your details and often use these details (looking at you Gmail) to target ads at you.

ProtonMail refrains from any external link and gives you the email service that you deserve. Total data encryption, a flairless ; fast UI and complete anonymity are what make ProtonMail a worthy recommendation.

Did you try ProtonMail or have been using it for a long time? How was your experience? Have any thoughts you might want to share? Please comment down below and let us know.

Summary
Review Date
Item Name
ProtonMail
Item Ratings
41star1star1star1stargray