Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Each time you change your ISP or place of employment your email address can change. Instead, get your own domain and permanent email address.
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 real problem.
So, let's change it.
One last time.
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 professionalism.
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 have today.
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.
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