In this ProtonMail review, we’ll take a look at the inner workings of this secure email client and see how it compares up against Gmail.
First, let’s talk about secure email clients. These services go above and beyond your regular free email as they guarantee to protect your personal details and ensure that all messages are secure. Your emails are encrypted to ensure that they cannot be intercepted or read by a third party.
A standard email account can offer a limited amount of encryption, it may be able to protect your email from its end, but cannot usually guarantee that it is protected all the way to the receiver. Secure email clients work to ensure your message is sent and received safely.
What is ProtonMail?
ProtonMail is a web-based email service created by a group of engineers, developers, and scientists in Switzerland. The group is passionate about privacy and protecting the civil liberties of individuals online. The creators used their technical expertise to develop a safe and anonymous email system.
ProtonMail servers are held in Europe’s most secure data center which is located 1,000 meters under solid rock. The company is already subject to the strict privacy laws in Switzerland, in addition to their mission to provide the utmost security. This equates to your emails being physically and legally absolutely secure.
The founding team at ProtonMail met while they worked at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. This group of technical-minded individuals started the company thanks to a record-breaking crowdfunding scheme. Since the company was founded in 2013 it has become the world’s largest secure email provider with more than one million users.
ProtonMail security features include:
- End-to-end encryption
- Open source cryptography
- Zero access to user data
How does ProtonMail work?
ProtonMail uses the latest research and technology to ensure complete security for your emails. Messages are fully encrypted using open source code for complete transparency. The research team is constantly looking at technological advances and encourage others to contribute aiming to make this the most secure email service in the world.
There’s a web-based version of ProtonMail available plus apps for both Android and iOS mobile devices. There is no software download required for the web version. Your account is synced between devices while maintaining complete security. The apps are currently available in up to 14 different languages.
One issue that some users run into is the sending limit which is applied to the free accounts; it is recommended that you send no more than 50 emails per hour and 150 emails in total per day. This is intended to prevent bulk emailing, spamming and returned emails in order to maintain the integrity of ProtonMail. Using your account normally without any spam reports or upgrading to a paid account will increase your sending limits.
ProtonMail does not currently offer POP3 services for forwarding mail from another address. Perhaps the company simply wants you to completely switch over to its service. It also encourages users to recommend the email service to their friends to reduce sending limits and build a network of users.
For professional and personal use
If you need to use a personal email address for work-related correspondence, ProtonMail is a great option. Any sensitive information sent via email regarding your work or clients is protected. Passwords or financial information can be sent without fear of being compromised.
ProtonMail Professional offers a secure email service for organizations. Benefiting from the same encryption as the regular email accounts but with more storage, users, and admins permitted. Encrypted emails help organizations to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
In July 2020, the ProtonMail team announced the upcoming launch of ProtonDrive. With it, users will be able to store their files in one place, as well as, easily upload and download them when needed. ProtonDrive will have end-to-end encryption to make sure that your data is well protected.
Is ProtonMail secure?
ProtonMail is all about security. Emails are encrypted at all times from the sender to the receiver. The company itself cannot even access or decrypt your messages making it impossible for any information in your emails or your personal details to be read or passed to a third party.
A 2-factor authentication process requires that you enter an access code that you will receive via an app on your mobile phone in order to sign in to your account. One downside to this level of security is that if you forget your password even ProtonMail is not able to recover your data. This is an email account which is well and truly yours and yours alone.
Is ProtonMail anonymous?
Rest assured that ProtonMail is completely anonymous. You don’t need to enter any personal information in order to sign up for an account. The company does not retain any IP logs so that your IP address is not linked to your email account in any way.
Your internet service provider and not even the government can access your email messages. The company feels strongly that both individuals and organizations have a right to communicate privately. Its aim is to make email messages as secure and private as possible.
However, there are many experienced users that don’t go on the internet without first being connected to a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This not only helps to anonymize them, but it also encrypts their information, often with military-grade encryption.
So, using an anonymizing VPN with ProtonMail can offer you even greater protection than using ProtonMail by itself. If you are considering getting a VPN, you can start by checking out our top 10 VPNs list.
How to delete ProtonMail
If you would like to delete your email account, simply go to the Account tab in the Settings menu and choose “Delete.” You will need to enter your password in order to confirm you want to delete the account. Be aware that the deletion is final, your account cannot be restored, and none of your data can be recovered later.
ProtonMail vs Gmail
Gmail is one of the most popular free email services in the world, but does it offer the security you are looking for? Let’s take a look at how the secure email service of ProtonMail stacks up against Gmail.
|Founder||Andy Yen, Wei Sun and Jason Stockman|
|Released||2013||2009, after 5 years of beta testing|
|Free version available||Yes||Yes|
pay for extra storage, domains or addresses for EUR1-2 per month.
|Upgrade to Gmail 1 starting from £1.59 per month which includes extra storage and expert Google help.|
|Mailbox storage||Free version: 500 MB|
Paid: 20 GB
|Users each get 15GB, shared alongside other Google services (Google Drive and Google +)|
|Max. attachment limit||25 MB and 100 attachments||25 MB|
|Security features||2-factor authentication sign-in process|
End-to-end encryption to ensure complete privacy
|Basic password sign-in method|
Transport Layer Security (TLS)
ProtonMail was released in 2013, it is based in Geneva, Switzerland and was founded by Dr. Andy Yen, who was a researcher at CERN and was working on particle physics applications. Gmail is owned by Google, it has been around since 2005 and the headquarters are in California, USA.
Free versions are available from both providers on the web and mobile platforms. ProtonMail packages cost EUR5-30 per month or alternatively, you can also just pay for extra storage, domains or addresses for EUR1-2 per month. You can upgrade to Gmail 1 starting from £1.59 per month which includes extra storage and expert Google help.
ProtonMail offers 500 MB of encrypted storage with the free version or you can pay for up to 20 GB. The maximum attachment limit is 25 MB and 100 attachments. Gmail also has an attachment limit of 25 MB and a standard account gives you 15 GB of storage. There are various additional storage packages offering up to 30 TB for a monthly fee.
Security features ProtonMail use a 2-factor authentication sign-in process and end-to-end encryption to ensure complete privacy. Gmail uses a basic password sign-in method and Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt messages, when possible. If the email providers of both the sender and the recipient do not use TLS, your email cannot be encrypted by Gmail.
As an additional benefit, all ProtonMail accounts include a free ProtonVPN account. This still young VPN service has been making strides on the VPN market, quickly becoming one of the most secure services. ProtonVPN offers advanced features aimed at the most sensitive user groups, such as activists, dissidents, and journalists. It makes sense as a bundle deal also because the VPN will help bypass censorship measures preventing users from accessing their ProtonMail account.
Read our full ProtonVPN review
Overall, our ProtonMail review results are very positive. We only have a few small issues with the service, including the sending limits and no POP3 services. We were impressed with the technical team behind the company and the level of security that they offer. The free version will probably be sufficient for most users and the paid packages offer more storage and features for those who need it.