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I know this, because I recently changed from my Pacbell account to a personal mailbox which I purchased from everyone.net. It took me over two months to notify everyone of change, and I'm sure I missed a few on way.
The free web based email accounts do not have that disadvantage (unless, of course, web based service folds or changes in some way), but their are good reasons not to use them for normal correspondence.
First of all, my own personal opinion that using Hotmail or one of other big, well-known email services is just plain, well, tacky. It strikes me like eating imitation crab meat or something - it just feels low-class. I know other people feel this way as well - how seriously do you take something received from a Hotmail address verses a more unique domain name? And I don't mean to pick on Hotmail - all of big, free, web-based email suffers from same perceptions.
This makes a well known, web-based email account very unsuitable for any kind of real business. People are so used to getting spam from these places that they will often delete message unread unless they absolutely know who source of message is. Excluding things like FFA submissions, these email accounts should never be used for legitimate business purposes.
Another major disadvantage is that you are at mercy of big company hosting email. They want to make money, naturally, and they must do something in exchange for giving you free email. Most of services simply post advertisements, although some also require you to view popup ads or receive occasional spam emails. (I refer to these as spam emails because they are undesired by virtually everyone and usually people treat them like spam - they just have to be received to get free service).
Personally, there are no conditions that I would use Hotmail in future due to their requirement that you sign up for a passport account. There are many security concerns with using Microsoft Passport (not least of which is that Microsoft's track record is abysmal as regards security and privacy) and additionally a real trepidation at giving a large corporation such control over my information.
So what would I recommend? There are many email services available at a very reasonable price which give you everything you could possibly want. Probably best and most reasonably priced service I have found is from everyone.net. You get 10 email accounts (whose names are completely under your control) for about $40 a year (100mb of storage) - and this even includes your own domain name! The service provides both POP and web-based email, and has an array of features which make it very useful. Additionally, since you are directly paying for service (and what better relationship is there in business than "customer directly pays vendor who provides service" business model), you don't have to view banners, you don't get popup ads and you don't need to receive spam emails.
And believe me, that's best reason of all to use a service such as everyone.net's paid email accounts - no stupid advertisements which I don't want, don't need and will never have a use for.
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at http://www.internet-tips.net - Visit our website any time to read over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge.