Using a custom domain name with Gmail

October 10, 2013 General, General

gmailWe’re often asked about email hosting here at Anchor. We used to offer it with our shared web hosting plans but it doesn’t really make sense for us to provide email hosting anymore, given the immense capabilities of hosted services such as Gmail and our focus on building and managing cloud hosting solutions.

“But wait! I don’t want a Gmail address!”

You don’t have to. If you want to use a custom domain name with Gmail, it’s relatively simple to configure Gmail to use a domain name that you already own — no-one ever need know that Google is providing the service. Instead of using “[email protected]” you can use “[email protected]” yet continue to use the awesomely powerful Google Apps infrastructure!

Why would I want to use Gmail instead of having <your current email host> provide my email?

Gmail is a modern, sync-capable, reliable, low cost and easy to use service with huge amounts of storage. Gmail is a far superior solution to the traditional POP3 or IMAP “store and forward” email systems provided by most web hosting providers – Anchor included.

Gmail also comes with access to a huge array of third party apps like ZeroMail to help you take control of your inbox and Rapportive that shows LinkedIn profiles for your contacts inside your inbox.

Is my email system “Cloud Sync” or “Store & Forward”?

Those old POP3 or IMAP mail accounts just don’t cut it anymore. Times have changed – email isn’t restricted to a single desktop computer; these days we typically use multiple devices for email so a modern, cloud-based, “sync” capable account is the way to go. You can use your own domain name and keep your email, calendar and contact information synchronised across all of your devices; desktop, laptop, phone and tablet. Read or reply to an email on one device and it shows up correctly on another. Gmail is simple to set up and designed to be available to you quickly and easily from anywhere.

I’m going to walk you through the process of setting up a “business grade” Google Apps account that uses your own, custom domain name with Gmail, is advert free, uses incredibly reliable hosting infrastructure that spans the globe and works with almost any mobile device, web browser or email client. The best bit? It should only take you 15 minutes or so to set up.

Step 1. Create a Google Apps account.

You get a free 30 day trial, it then costs around $4-$5 per user, per month for a 30GB mailbox. Go to the following page, click on the “Get Started” button at the top right and enter your contact details to get cracking:

Step 2. Verify that you own your domain name.

Once you’ve gone through Google’s little wizard; you’ll be presented with the Google Apps dashboard. Click on “Start Setup”; the first thing you’ll need to do is to verify that you own your domain name – which is fair enough really.

To do this you’ll first need to work out which domain registrar you used to register your domain name (try a whois search to reveal who is hosting your name servers for a clue if you’re unsure), open a new browser window (or browser tab) and login to your provider’s domain management dashboard.

Once you’re there, and are able to edit the DNS records for your domain, you just need to add a “txt record” incorporating the unique “Google Site Verification” code displayed in your other browser tab showing your Google Apps dashboard.

Enter the “txt record” details as directed by Google and hit save. Once that is done, flick back to the tab with your Google Apps dashboard in it and click the “Verify” button. Typically this change only takes a few minutes before taking effect, despite warnings that it could take up to 24 hours.

Step 3. Get mail flowing – configure your domain’s MX records.

You’re nearly there! You’ll now need to change your domain’s MX records to direct any email to flow through to the “Google Apps” servers. Don’t worry, this won’t affect your website or other services linked to your domain name.

In the Google Apps dashboard, specify that you’d like to use Google’s servers and note the provided MX Record entries. Switch back to your domain management dashboard again and configure the MX records as instructed.

Returning once more to the Google Apps dashboard, click next and it will do a lookup to confirm that you entered things correctly. Again, the changes should take effect within minutes so you won’t have to wait for hours (or days) only to learn that you entered something incorrectly.

Congrats, you’re done! Google will now provide you with the settings you need to set up your email client on your phone, tablet, and computer. Send a few test emails to make sure it’s all working. Using a custom domain with gmail is a great solution for your email management – let me know how it works out for you!

All too much hassle? Anchor can handle the set up for you at no charge. Contact us now:

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