King Computer Solutions
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02.4.2009

Using GMail with a custom domain.

Many people are familiar with GMail, the free webmail client provided by Google. What you might not know is that you can attach your own domain to it, thus not be stuck with an @gmail address.

The process is quite simple but is best left to email administrators. If you don’t know exactly what an MX record is, find someone who does (like King Computer Solutions)!

Prep work:
Register your domain, have control of the DNS. Have the www hostname pointed to a working internet-accessible webserver. You will need to upload a file in a few minutes.

  1. Visit Google Apps. The standard edition sign up is at http://www.google.com/a/cpanel/domain/new. The premier (paid) edition is http://www.google.com/a/cpanel/premier/new
  2. You’ll see there are two versions. One is free and has a few restrictions, the other costs USD$50/year/user and comes with better features including technical support from Google. For this tutorial we’ll just look at the free version. Click the Get Started button under Standard Edition
  3. Click the Administrator box and enter your domain name (eg yourdomain.com) then click Next.
  4. Fill out all the contact info in the top half. The bottom half is optional.
  5. On the next page, specify an account which will be the admin account. Give it a nice strong password, click the boxes if you like, then click the I Accept button at the bottom.
  6. After a few moments you’ll be looking at the Google Apps Dashboard. The first thing to do is Verify Domain Ownership. Click that link up near the top under the support button.
  7. Now you’re prompted to Verify your domain ownership. The easiest way is to upload an HTML file. Create a file in the root of your www folder as per the instructions on screen. Push the verify button and you’ll be returned to the Dashboard. In my experience this bit only takes a few minutes (even though it says 48 hrs).
  8. If the verification fails, check you have the www hostname pointing to your webserver and that your webserver is accessible from the internet and that the url yourdomain.com/googlehostedservice.html is valid.

OK, that’s the domain registered with Google Apps.

During the setup process you will need to add various MX records to your domain. To shortcut this you can copy and paste the required records from this article into your hosts file.

http://technicians-blog.kingcomputer.com.au/index.php/gmail-mx-records-for-dns-domain-host-file/

Before you create any users, please read this article on Privacy Concerns with Google Contacts

OK, let’s set up your email.

  1. From the Google Apps Dashboard, Click Activate Email
  2. You’ll be shown a list of MX records. Go set them up.
  3. While you’re at it, create a CNAME for gmail.yourdomain.com and point it to ghs.google.com
  4. All done? Switch back to the Google page and click I have completed these steps.
  5. Back at the Dashboard and again, you’re told up to 48 hours but in my experience it only takes a few minutes.

At this point, you’re done. You can now create your users and start sending email around the place. There are many nifty features in GMail including:

  • The ability to have multiple domains linked to the account (so your users can choose which identity they wish to send from)
  • A fantastic anti-spam filter
  • The ability to use POP3, IMAP and SMTP
  • A really good webmail interface
  • The ability to have GMail automatically collect mail from other accounts and pour it into your inbox.
  • A 7GB mailbox limit
  • Integration with Google Docs etc
  • A comprehensive set of Help files for Admins
  • A comprehensive set of Help files for Users
  • It’s all FREE

For anything larger than a handful of users you want to seriously consider using Microsoft Exchange but for very small business, personal use or organisations on a very tight budget, GMail with a custom domain is a great service.