Update: Google has discontinued the free edition of Google Apps since December 7, 2012. Therefore, the content of this post is still valid only if you go with the Google Apps for Business which charges US$50/user/year. If you are still looking for a free options, check out my guide to get your email service running off Microsoft Live’s Hotmail.com aka Outlook.com service here.
Some of you may have wondered how I got my own domain name for my email address. I thought it was kinda cool to have an email address with a domain names based on my condominium where I live. In fact, there’s been a couple of times where I mistakenly thought to be working for my condominium as I wrote down my email address, which is happens to have my condominium’s name.
And there are multiple ways to do this too. One of the easiest way is to get your hosting provider to supply the email services to you. However, unless you are willing to pay a premium fee, you’d likely get sub-standard email service, especially if you compare them with the likes of Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail for that matter. And those email services are free too! So, the next best option is to use your domain name with one of Gmail, in the form of Google Apps Standard Edition which is free too! So all you need to do is purchase the domain name of your choice and configure it to work with Google Apps.
Here’s how you go about doing just that.
1. Purchase your domain name
You can purchase your domain name from any resellers that you like. You could actually even get it registered via Google. However, if you are to ask me for a recommendation, I’d recommend getting your domain name from www.GoDaddy.com.
The reason why I’d recommend getting it from www.GoDaddy.com is that they’ve been around for quite some time and has one of the better domain name management console that’s fairly easy to use. More importantly, www.GoDaddy.com generally provides various discounts and it’s also very easy to search for promo codes to get discounts when you need to renew your domain name. Just do a search on “GoDaddy promo code” and you’ll see what I mean.
And since I’ve bought my domain from www.GoDaddy.com, I’d be sharing how you’d do it if you bought your domain from GoDaddy too. But I’d imagine the steps would be very similar as well if you bought your domain elsewhere.
To purchase your preferred domain name, just head over to www.GoDaddy.com and search for the domain name that you intend to own. Once you’ve found an available domain name to purchase, just proceed to checkout your order. You don’t really need to add-on any additional features that would be recommended to you by GoDaddy during the checkout process. Just select how long you intend to register your domain and go on to the payment screen and complete the deal.
2. Register for a Google Apps account
Next, let’s get started with Google Apps. Head over to this page and enter your domain name.
Now, make sure you enter the right domain name, which is the one you’ve just bought and is not registered to you. Google would check the domain name entered. If it’s an unregistered domain name, it would ask you if you would like to register it with Google.
You should get to the Sign Up for Google Apps
Standard Edition for Business page which is the 2nd of 3 steps to go. In this page, just fill it up with all your particulars as you’d usually do.
Next step is to set up the administrator’s account. You can create it with any name you want. But generally, I’d use firstname.lastname@example.org as the administrator account but it’s entirely up to your preference.
Once done, just click on the I accept. Continue with setup button to proceed.
You should now be redirected to the sign in page to manage your Google Apps account. Sign in with your administrator account. You should also have received an email confirming the creation of the Google Apps account.
Once you’ve signed in, go ahead and agree to all the terms and conditions that’s required.
Next, you should see yourself landing on the dashboard panel of Google Apps. First thing you’d need to do here is to activate your account. It’s basically a verification process to make sure you own the domain name that you claim you do when you sign up for the Google Apps account.
To do that, just click on the Activate Google Apps button.
3. Activate your Google Apps account
In the next screen, you’d be presented with a list of options to verify your ownership of the domain that you are using for Google Apps. Select the first option: Add a DNS record to your domain’s configuration.
Here’s a great thing about getting your domain from www.GoDaddy.com. The detailed instructions is available from the verification page for GoDaddy as your domain registrar. Just follow those steps and once you’re done, click on the Verify button.
Basically, what you’d be doing is to add a specific value that’s generated by Google as a TXT value for your domain. This information, once updated and propagated to the DNS servers, would be retrieved by Google’s server and checked for verification. Thus, if you don’t own the domain and cannot update this specific value, then you obviously would not be able to activate your Google Apps account.
Once done, your GoDaddy domain TXT record should look something like the screenshot below.
Now don’t worry if you are not able to verify immediately after saving the domain’s zone file. It does take a while for the record to get propagated through all the DNS servers out there until it reaches the updates the DNS servers at Google.
4. Activate The Google Apps email service
To do that, just click on the Activate email link on your Google Apps dashboard.
Likewise with the domain verification process, you’d now need to update your domain’s MX records (Mail Exchanger record) to point to the Google’s servers. To do this, you may follow the instructions which is also available in the Activate email page. In fact, that page is pretty much to get you to update your domain’s MX records before Google Apps email service is activated once you click on the I’ve completed these steps button.
Once completed, you should have something similar in your domain’s MX records.
Once you’ve done with the MX records, you’re one step closer to getting your own email service up and running!
5. Setting up the email service accounts
The final step is really to just start setting up your email accounts and you’d be able to start getting your contacts to email you to this new email address. And I’m sure you’d not want to use the [email protected] address. Not cool indeed.
This would bring you to the Email settings page. There’re basically two main tabs to configure your email service. The General tab is the, well, general settings for the email service (duh). Unless you don’t like the default settings, you can just leave them as it is.
However, there is one thing to take note of in the general settings. That’s the web address of the email service. By default, it’s in the form of http://mail.google.com/a/yourdomainname. You may optionally change this to something like http://mail.yourdomainname.com/ if you like. The instructions as the following:-
- Click on Change URL
- Select the custom URL option and choose the name of the subdomain as you like. (mail is recommended as it’s much easier to remember). Click on the Save Changes button.
- Instructions on updating your domain’s CNAME record should appear. Since you’re already pretty much familiar with updating the domain’s zone file in GoDaddy’s dashboard, this should not be too difficult. You should see the record as shown below once you’re done.
Now the fun part, in the Organization tab, go ahead and add as many as 50 email accounts as required. It’s a fairly straight forward process too. Just click on the Create a new user button and fill in all the required information.
Notice that the temporary password is also auto-generated. You can immediately reset the password by clicking on the Set Password link if the account you’re creating is for your own. Otherwise, leave it as it is and proceed further by clicking on the Create new user button. Once that’s done you’d see that the user is now created and you have the option to email the instructions to get started or to print it out. And that’s it! Repeat the user creation steps to create as many users as you need.
But remember, there’s a limit of 50 (Update: Google has reduced the limit since I wrote this article to…) 10 accounts for the standard edition of Google Apps that’s free. If you need more accounts, then you may have to upgrade to the premium edition as a specified cost. Google Apps for Business allows an unlimited number of accounts but remember, each one costs $50 per user per year.
That’s it! 5 easy steps to follow and you should be able to get your email service up and running within no time. Also do note that since you’re creating your email service using Google Apps, you would also be able to use the same email account to get access to all the various Google services with the same id. Now that’s pretty neat indeed.
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