In today's techno/computerized society, not having an email account provider is akin to living in a cave without heat or electricity. Email has become an essential--and often preferred--method of keeping in touch with our friends, loved ones and business associates. Selecting a good, reliable email provider requires a bit of homework, and your decision should include the following criteria:1. How accessible is the email service? Can I retrieve email from anywhere? This is essential when looking for business email providers and corporate email providers.2. How compatible is the email service with other email account providers? Do I have to do any special formatting so the person on the receiving end can read it?3. Is it free, or is there a fee?4. How reliable is the service? Will it take a long time for email to reach me? What about downtime? Sign up with a Web-based email provider Web-based email services are usually free, although they may charge you for extra services such as email filtering for spam, extra space or multiple email addresses. These are a good email solution for people who need to access their email from various locations. Check with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) Your ISP may offer web-based email service that you can access from any computer, and they may have already set you up with an email address. Check for dial-up services As with anything in life, the connection to your ISP may go down, leaving you without access to your email. Many web-based email services offer dial-up service enabling you to access your email using a telephone line and a modem. Download your messages to your PC There are many good email tools available that can access your email account, filter out spam, and organize and delete messages from your inbox. If you have your own web page, your host may provide you with an email address and a mailbox connected to your website. Unfortunately, you probably have to pay extra for spam filtering. Check your spam folders on a daily basis for important email that may have been misdirected or erroneously tagged as spam. Check to see if your email service provider offers a dummy email address you can use when you order items online or fill out forms on the Internet but don't want to be bothered by advertising and other materials they generate. Many web-based email service providers have space limits on their mailboxes. Clean your mailbox often by either going into the website and deleting messages or by downloading messages to your desktop using an email reader.