Putting Your Email on a Google Domain

July 18, 2008

In my view, the best way to set up your email is with your own domain name sitting on top of a Google domain. There are several good reasons to do it:

  • IMAP is the only protocol that works well across multiple devices and mail clients. With Google IMAP, you get 6 GB+ per account which is plenty (at least for me). This also means you don’t have to consume your web host’s server space with email.
  • You can read your email in a web client just as you do with Gmail, but instead of it being an @gmail.com address, it’s @yourdomain.com.
  • Having IMAP set up with all the benefits of Gmail makes connecting to your mail with multiple clients on multiple devices a beautiful thing (especially with that iPhone you have).
  • You can give away email accounts and let those folks fill up Google’s servers with their mail, not your web host’s.

Okay, now that I’ve convinced you (or just confused you) let’s go through the setup. It may seem a little techy, but stick with me and you’ll be really glad you did.

Step 1: Get a Google Apps Account

Sign up here for free. Part of the setup includes verifying that the domain you’re adding is yours. You’ll need to upload a file to your server to verify. Keep in mind that this Google Apps account doesn’t migrate your web host or move your files. Your web host remains intact and operates as it normally would. This just adds services on Google’s servers under your domain’s identity.

Step 2: Create Your Email Account(s)

Google gives lots of instruction on this along the way, but it’s a good idea to create the email account you want to use first before making the real switch. What’s the “real switch”? Read on.

Step 3: Change your MX (Mail Exchange) Records

This is done in the DNS settings of your web hosting account. Google provides instructions on how to do this for various hosts. Just pick your host in the drop-down list they provide and see how it’s done. It’s simply a matter of putting Google’s mail exchange values (e.g. ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM) into your host’s mail exchange settings.

Once that’s complete, your email will start arriving at your new Google domain:

http://mail.google.com/a/yourdomain.com

It looks and feels just like Gmail. You can even change the logo if you’re so inclined.

Step 4: Setup Email in Your Mail Clients

IMAP Settings for an iPhoneThis part should be common knowledge already, but there is one small gotcha. Your username for your Google Apps email is your full email address not just the username you use to log in to your Google Apps account. The beauty of this new account you have is that it can also be used as a Google Talk account or any other Google account. So no more cryptic Gmail address—you can be you@yourdomain.com in Google Talk.

There you have it. All the benefits of Gmail, all the benefits of your own domain name (to say nothing of Gmails awesome spam protection and the business benefits of putting your domain on Google Apps and using all the other services there). This really is the only way to go. The downside? Migrating all of that Gmail mail over if you had your @yourdomain.com account imported into a Gmail account. That could be another blog post on its own, but suffice it to say, I used POP to pull everything over with lots of filters to sort out the specific account I wanted. It’s not a bad idea to just start fresh and not import anything. You can still get to your mail archives in your Gmail account, and if you think of how many years of email you have ahead of you, a fresh slate isn’t a bad idea now and again.

I hope you realize the benefits of this configuration. Enjoy!