Tuesday, January 8, 2008

How to get 100 email accounts at your domain for free

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When you buy a domain at any registrar like Yahoo Small Business or Godaddy, you usually get only one email account. Some provide 2 or 3 depending upon the price. If you want to get more than that you will have to buy them. Now, one email account is too less. You might want to have addresses like support@yourdomain.com, or sales@yourdomain.com or anything@yourdomain.com simultaneously. But that can't happen when your mail is stuck with your domain provider. Now I will show you how to break free and create up to 100 email accounts at your own domain for absolutely free. All you need is a domain name and the ability to modify DNS records.

Update: Google Apps Free edition is now limited to only 10 users or 10 email account.

We will use Google Apps for doing this.

Go to Google Apps and click on "Get Started". You will be presented with 3 different editions of Google Apps - Standard (Free), Premier (Paid) and Education (Free). The standard edition is the basic one but has all the necessary tools you would require and is generally sufficient for personal websites and small organization. The education edition has more features and an API to integrate with your existing infrastructure. The standard and education editions comes with a 6 GB+ inbox while the paid version comes with a 25 GB inbox.

Sign up for the Standard edition and provide your domain name to proceed. You will be asked to create an account for administrating the domain. After the account is created you will be automatically logged into your account and into the dashboard.

On the dashboard you can see the options "Create new user" from where you can add new user accounts to your domain. Before you can do that you have to set up your email. Under the "email" section, you will find "Activate". Click on it. Now you will be asked to configure your domain MX records.

Log into your domain registrar's account and head to DNS record management. Basically, what you have to do is this:

Create a CNAME record:

mail.yourdomain.com (you can use anything instead of mail) and enter hostname as ghs.google.com. Instructions on how to do this for various registrars are give here.

Create these MX records: 



Note: different registrars have different settings for MX record. The above setings are for Yahoo. Instructions on how to change MX records for different domain registrars are given here.

Once the MX records are set Google will verify the records. According to Google it can take up to 48 hours to verify. But in my case it happened within 10 minutes.

Come back to Google Apps dashboard and click on Domain Settings. Click on the tab Appearance. Here you can customize how your login page will appear. You can even upload a small logo for your website. Play around with the colors to match your website. After you are done click Save. Have a look at my login page.

Now return back to the dashboard and click on the section Email. Under the General tab you will find a section called Web Addresses. Click change URL and change the default URL to the one you entered in your CNAME record. This will be your login page URL.
 
Now you are ready. Once you login to your inbox, you will find that it has the same look and functionality like all gmail inboxes. Infact, it's the same gmail inbox, except that it's under your own domain name. Isn't that brilliant?

What will you do with the 100 email accounts? Well, distribute them to your friends and readers. The only drawback is that user can't sign up accounts on their own. You have to do it for them. But that isn't much of a trouble. Your users will be asked to set their own password when they login for the first time.

Enjoy your personal email accounts.

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