It is a common sight to find websites using a freely available email address as their contact address. Most small businesses don’t seem to realize how important a matching email address for your domain is to project a professional image of your business.
Purchasing a domain name for your company like www.mycompany.com will only be half as useful if your contact email address remains firstname.lastname@example.org! Using a freely available email address undermines the effort you put into your website, and can even make your business look phony.
On the other hand, a matching email address like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org compliments your website and lends completeness to your online image. And the good news is that you need not spend even a single paisa to get a matching email address for your domain!
Portals like Google, Microsoft and Zoho have been offering free email hosting for custom domains for quite some time now. Called Google Apps, Microsoft Office Live and Zoho CRM, these tools provide matching email addresses for your domain and also allow you to host your domain email on their servers for absolutely free!
In this article, I will explain how to get free email hosting for your domain using Google Apps. Here are some advantages of hosting your email with Google Apps:
- You get the same features and benefits of a regular Gmail account. This means the same amount of storage space, and access to all Google Labs features.
- Your domain email is decoupled from your website host. So, if you decide to shift your website to another host, you will not lose your emails in the process as they are stored on Google’s email servers and not your website host’s server.
- Your email storage space is not deducted from your web hosting space. By hosting your email with a third-party email service provider, you get dedicated space for your email at no extra cost, and retain all of your web storage space exclusively for your website.
- Reliability. If your website is down, you can still access your emails as they are hosted on a separate server.
The following steps explain how to setup free email hosting for your website using Google Apps or Microsoft Office Live. I will skip Zoho for the purpose of this article. I am assuming that:
- You already have a domain name registered and functional,
- You are reasonably familiar with technical administration of websites, and
- You currently do not have an email address for your domain. (If you do, you need to back up the existing emails before transferring your email hosting to these portals, as the old emails may not be accessible after the transfer)
Google Apps Standard Edition
1. Setting up the account
Go to the Google Apps Standard Edition signup page (
http://www.google.com/intx/en/work/apps/business/index.html) and click on “Get Started”. On the next page, select “I want to use an existing domain name” and select “Administrator” as your role. Type your domain name below and click on “Get Started” (see image).
You will now be asked to provide your personal and organizational details. Finally, you will be asked to select a username for the administrator email account (typically “webmaster”).
Once the administrator account is set up, you can then proceed to create more email addresses for your domain (such as email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and so on).
2. Verifying ownership of your domain
To activate your account, you need to “prove” that you are indeed the owner of your domain name. Google Apps offers a number of ways to do this, and you may choose the best method for you. Here, we will choose the DNS TXT record option.
From the Dashboard, click on “Activate Google Apps” and select “Add a DNS record” on the next page. Select your domain registrar below (or simply click on “Other”) and you will be given a DNS TXT record string (in the form of “google-xxx-…”). You need to go to your website’s cPanel, navigate to the “DNS editor” page and use this to create a new TXT record there (see image below).
Once this is done, click on “Verify” on the Google Apps verification page to initiate the verification process.
3. Redirecting email to Google servers
Once your domain ownership has been verified, you need to configure your website host to forward all incoming emails on your domain to Google’s email servers. To do this, you need to change your website’s Mail Exchanger (MX) records.
First, go to the Google Apps Dashboard, click on “Service settings” tab at the top and select “Email” from the list. On the next page, click on “Instructions on how to activate Email” and refer the instructions to change the MX records. You would need to delete all existing MX records and add the below entries:
MX Server address Priority ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM. 10 ALT1.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM. 20 ALT2.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM. 20 ASPMX2.GOOGLEMAIL.COM. 30 ASPMX3.GOOGLEMAIL.COM. 30 ASPMX4.GOOGLEMAIL.COM. 30 ASPMX5.GOOGLEMAIL.COM. 30
Now go to your website’s cPanel, navigate to the MX entry configuration page and enter the MX server entries exactly as specified in the Google Apps instructions (see below).
Once this is done, all email sent to your domain (i.e. email@example.com) will be automatically forwarded to your email account(s) on Google’s servers.
4. Creating additional email accounts
You may now proceed to create the rest of the email IDs for your domain. Each email ID will have its own separate inbox.
You can also configure a “catch-all” email ID, which is where any emails received on a non-existent email ID will be sent instead of being discarded.
Microsoft Office Live Small Business
1. Setting up the account
Note that Microsoft Office Live Small Business does not support redirecting email only. You can choose to redirect your website or both the website and email, but not email only.
To get started, go to the Microsoft Office Live Small Business signup page (
http://smallbusiness.officelive.com) and click on “Get Started Free”. On the next page, provide your email address and choose a password for your account. Next, fill in your personal details and accept the terms and conditions to complete the signup.
A verification email will be sent to the given email address. You will need to click on the “Verify email” button in the email to complete the verification and activate your account.
2. Adding a custom domain
On the Office Live account home page, click on “Get a Web Address” (see below) to go to the Domain Manager page. There, click on “Redirect a domain you already own.”
A pop-up window will open, where you need to enter your domain name (NOTE: not all domain extensions are supported).
Select whether you wish to redirect both your website and email, or website only. Redirecting both is recommended. Then click on “Next” and complete the rest of the instructions.
You will be provided two Name Servers (NS) (typically ns1.officelive.com and ns2.officelive.com), which you must use to modify your domain NS details in your domain registrar account. Once done, your website (and email, if chosen) will be redirected to Microsoft’s servers within 24-48 hours.
3. Creating additional email addresses
Once redirection is set up, you may proceed to create additional email IDs for your domain.
To do this, go to your Office Live account home page and click on “Set up your Microsoft Office Live Mail”. On the next page, click on “Create new E-mail account” to create new email IDs for your domain.
Hope this was helpful! Let me know if any more information is required.