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Hotmail was the first e-mail account that I ever used for my personal mails. I still continue to use it now, as it has a lot of advantages over other mail services. However, the occasional problem does occur with the server which very soon gets beyond annoying. It wouldn't be so bad if it didn't occur so frequently, but currently, every once a month or so, there are at least 24, maybe 48 hours where I cannot check my mails at all, not online, through Outlook Express, or access MSN Messenger, and as Hotmail contains my main mail accounts, and I get quite a few mails each day, it is a real pain, especially when the mails are urgent or important.
Saying that, though, I still think that MSN has a good service going. It is fairly easy-to-use and normally reliable, it's free, and has a lot of extra features with your mailing. These include online and offline mailing, and the opportunity to check your mails from anywhere in the world - as the mails are stored online. This is a major advantage against some of the leading opponents.
Another one of my favourite things about http://www.hotmail.com's service is the ability to chat through MSN Messenger, which is downloaded from the site. Provided that the person you want to chat to has a Hotmail account and is online, then it is possible to talk to them through the internet, which avoids the cost of phonecalls (if you have unlimited 'free' surfing). It works well because most people have a Hotmail account even if it is for just chatting to other people with. It also allows you to talk to more than one person at once. The advantage of this over chatrooms is you can block people that you don't want to talk to and say that you are busy or away if you are checking your mails, are away, or simply don't want to talk. You can also appear offline when you are online if you want to.
The greatest thing about this though, in relation to the e-mail, is that it tells you the very second you get a new mail in your inbox that you have a new mail. This is particularly useful when using ciao's system of receiving alerts on opinions or urgent mails as you can check them out right away from your inbox.
Many people criticise MSN and Windows in general for poor standards in security, and high standards in cost, but in my opinion, since this service is free and extremely useful, I think that they are definitely giving back something to the public in Hotmail and MSN Messenger. The security can still be a problem though. You often find yourself getting mails from companies that you don't want (often worse if you have a shorter user name, longer ones tend not to receive so much, if any), although this is avoidable by using the blocking service that the mail service offers (blocking makes it so you cannot receive any more mail from the sender) or alternatively, you can use the new Junk Mail protector, which is a bit premature to be much use at the moment, in my opinion, although it can be useful to block off companies that send their mails through a different address every time.
The site also newly offers a Calendar service which keeps all of you important dates and events intact on your computer, and you can set a reminder for events so you never forget anything important that might be coming up!
The speed of the site itself can be tediously slow, especially at peak time when there are Americans and Canadians using the system as well as most of the UK, although sometimes the system is faster than others. I think it is better to use Outlook Express to check mails through, as it doesn't mean downloading the whole mailbox every time you want to check your mails. Alternatively, Hotmail offer the chance to reduce the number of mails you see at once, which speeds up the whole process. The minimum number is 10 at once, maximum 100 at once.
The maximum size of your inbox is 2MB, which is not a bad size at all. If you do keep all your mails online, then the amount of mails before you need to delete any is normally within the 300-500 mails range, so you can keep lots of your favourite mails.
The site itself is relatively easy to use. At the home page, you either choose to sign up or login, and all you need to do is type in your username and password to check your mails. This is convenient and useful, especially when you are not at home or work and need to check your mails quickly and safely.
On MSN Messenger again, you can actually have a voice conversation with anyone PC to PC around the world, providing you have a microphone. They are also looking to develop ways of phoning anyone to their phone anywhere in the world, and sending SMSs (Text Messages) around the world too. Most of this will be free; the PC to PC is certainly free. Using Messenger, you can also send files from PC to PC for free, so if you have something your friend wants to see then you can send it to him or her.
One thing that does annoy me though is the inability to send attachments with your mail with ease. Although this can be accomplished, of course, there is a maximum limit of 1MB (that's sending and receiving) of one mail at any one time, and you have to attach it separately before sending it. It is definitely easier to do this part offline, it takes less time and is less frustrating.
I would strongly recommend that everyone have a hotmail account, as they are extremely practical and useful, both at home, work and elsewhere. Not only do they have loads of extra features and great tools to work with, but it is all free, so you can have as much mailing fun as you want! If you can put up with the unreliable server, it can be a great asset to your online life!