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Apr 14 2009

Setting up Google apps email services for your own domain: Free customized mailboxes for your own domain

Published by at 12:38 pm under IT

So, like the rest of the planet you are just another Yahoo, Gmail, Live, or whatever free web mail service. That’s good, but what can be better? How about buying or renting a domain name and setup unique email addresses?

Do you currently own a domain and you’re not willing to go through the hassle of setting up a mail server? How about a small business, where spending on setting up IT infrastructure isn’t the wisest thing for the moment but still want your employees / partners to communicate under a standard company email addresses. Would you allow Laurence, the sales guy to send messages to customers from Laurence@gmail.com and even print that on the business cards? Nah!

A few years ago a simple trick would do the job. That was: going to your DNS service provider and activate email forwarding. Meaning that all messages that were sent to “someone@yourdomain.com” would be forwarded to you free web mail service of choice. My choice at the time (and present also) was Google. Google, likewise other free web mail services would allow you to setup a “send as” address upon validation that you own the address “someone@yourdomain.com”, which was fairly easy, since “someone@yourdomain.com” was already forwarded to your web mail service with the validation code inside.

While the solution above is fairly easy and practical, has a single drawback. Messages are forwarded OK, however, upon replying or composing a new message designated to be send via “send as” feature would appear as “your_gmail_account@googlemail.com on Behalf of someone@yourdomain.com”. Not good…

First thing that differentiate Google from other web mail providers is innovation, and so there is… Google came up with a brilliant idea: Google Apps. Google Apps is a collection of messaging and collaboration services that can enable your group, organization or business to work smarter. The only requirement is internet access. Now Laurence, the sales guy can send messages from “Laurence@kickasscompany.com”. The same stands for Anna, the PR lady who can keep her Yahoo.com account for personal use and benefit from a business mailbox provided by KickAss Company with the help of Google.

Here is how.

  • Step 1: log into your DNS provider control panel (or ask one of the admins do do it)
  • Step 2: add the following MX (mail exchange) records for your domain root (“kickasscompany.com”) in this order:
    • Priority 1:  “ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.”
    • Priority 5:  “ALT1.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.”
    • Priority 5:  “ALT2.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.”
    • Priority 10:  “ASPMX2.GOOGLEMAIL.COM.”
    • Priority 10:  “ASPMX3.GOOGLEMAIL.COM.”

Priority is a setting that not all DNS service providers offer; therefore if you’re not able to set it, Google recommends to set the TTL to 3600 for all DNS entries.

More information about Step 2 can be found here: Set Up Email Delivery for Google Apps. As you see, Google has specific guides for the majority of DNS services providers, so if DynDNS.com is your weapon of choice, click on the respective link.

What you’ve done at this point is to forward any mail messages send to you domain (“@kickasscompany.com” in our example) to Google’ mail exchange (MX) server. Next you need to create an account in Google apps and setup your users & mailboxes.

  • Step 3: Go to Google Apps, click on the Get Started button and follow the on screen instruction. After the setup is completed, you must bring a proof to Google that the domain you have selected (kickasscompany.com) is actually yours. This is a necessary security procedure that restricts people to create email addresses for domain they do not own, therefore if you like to create a mailbox under @microsoft.com domain, get a job at Microsoft (they were hiring last time I check:)
  • Step 4: Validate domain ownership. There are 2 ways to do this: create a CNAME record in your site’ DNS root as requested in the validation page. Basically, if you had access to add MX records in your DNS (as described in Step 2), follow the same path to your DNS service provider and create the CNAME record. The second option (quickest from my point of view) requires you to upload an HTML file containing a unique string to within your domain’ root folder. Ofter one of the 2 options described here have been completed, you can validate domain membership and move to next step.
  • Step 5: Activate email service by clicking on the Email. You’ll see that is currently innactive. If you’ve already completed Step 2, you can move on by saying “I’ve already completed those actions” and move on to setup your users. Step 2 can be completed in advance because on some occasions, DNS replication after you’ve added the new MX servers can take a while.
  • Step 6: Create user account for all employees / partners you desire. After an account has been created you have the option to send a notification to that person with the login instructions. Google Apps will be ready for service in max 1 hour after completion of Step 5. Users will be able to access KickAss Company mailboxes by accessing http://mail.google.com/a/kickasscompany.com

It is needless to say that you should replace kickasscompany.com with your own domain name.

Restriction of Google Apps free services consists of a maximum 50 users limit and a 7 Gig / mailbox limit. If this limit is a problem, you have the option of using Google Apps for business which offer no user limit, an amazing 25 Gig / mailbox limit, 24/7 premium user support for no more than 50$ / user / year. Here you’ll have to do the math how much a messaging infrastructure will cost you vs. Google Apps Business service, but by just looking at the prices I can say it’s extremely competitive, not to mention that it doesn’t require specialized IT headcounts to be managed.

Another cool thing that you can set-up are distribution lists and user groups. For example, you can create a mailbox named “office@kickasscompany.com” and set it up in a way that will distribute all messages arrived in it to all users, or users that you’ve selected. Another idea is to create a mailbox named “internal@kickasscompany.com” that will be your company internal distribution list (not reachable from outside). Play along and you’ll discover more.

There you have it: up to 50, 7 Gigs each mailboxes for your own domain name for free brought to you by Google Apps.

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30 responses so far

30 Responses to “Setting up Google apps email services for your own domain: Free customized mailboxes for your own domain”

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    thanks for making an article about google apps, this article is very useful to me. I am a web designer from Indonesia, and a lot of my customers who want to make email based on google apps. and after I read this article, I so understand how to setup google apps on a domain they want, thank you.

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