Once you’ve purchased and set up your domain, you’ll want to get an email address associated with that domain name. For instance, I run this site at https://friday-next.com, and I have set up the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Setting up an email address for your domain name not only looks more professional than yahoo, hotmail, etc – it also makes it easier for you to organize your email. When I get an email to email@example.com, I know that it will involve my Web Development Business, and when I get an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, I know it will involve something more personal.
So how do you set up email for your newly acquired domain?
First Option – Run Your Own Mail Server
When I first set up email for my domain, I ran my own mail server. I built it from scratch, and it almost got the job done, after months of tweaking it. For shits and giggles, click this link and just scroll through it a LITTLE.
Seriously. Just click it. What’s that? You don’t think that looks too bad? Well the unfortunate news is, all that guide does is get your mail server functional. You still don’t have measures set up to ensure that the emails you send won’t end up in the recipients spam folder.
TL;DR – Do not run your own mail server. It involves WAY too much work, and it’ll probably break at some point, and you won’t know how to fix it.
Second Option – Use Your Hosting Account
If you purchase hosting from a company like HostGator, BlueHost, or DreamHost, you’ll likely get access to an admin area called “Cpanel” with your purchase.
Inside your cpanel admin area, you can set up email accounts MUCH more easily than you can with a Linux CLI (command line interface) server, but you’re still not out of the forest yet.
Yes, email is free if you use your hosting provider (included in the hosting price), but simply setting it up in your cpanel doesn’t finish all the work for you. If you want to log into your mail in a web browser, you’ll need to use SquirrelMail, Roundcube, or a similar webmail client. Have you ever heard of those? The answer is probably no, and if you’re used to a great webmail layout like Gmail, you probably don’t want to see what these look like.
You’ll also still need to set up SPF and DKIM in your cpanel account to make sure that the emails you send don’t end up in people’s spam folder. Want to mess with that in cpanel? I didn’t think so.
Best Option – Use Google Apps
As a full disclaimer, I have used both of the above options for email setup before, so I’m not just simply saying “GOOGLE IS BEST BECAUSE GOOGLE!” I have experience with all three of these options, and I know unequivocally that Google Apps provides the best email experience when you have to set it up yourself.
The great thing about Google Apps is that they make it incredibly easy to set up your email. You simply prove that you own the domain (they’ll have you log into your Domain Registrar’s admin area), and then they tell you exactly what to add to your Domain settings to have all mail routed to Google Apps.
How To Set Up Google Apps
The first thing you’ll need to do is go to the Google Apps for Business website, and sign up for an account. When you fill in the account, be sure to enter the email address you want to use with your domain, not your current non-domain email address.
Once you’ve set up your account, Google will walk you through the setup of your account. The main thing you’ll need to do is point your domain’s MX Records at Google’s Servers. That sounds complex, but the Google Apps setup page will walk you through this (and it’s really only about two steps, so it’s SUPER easy).
Once you’ve pointed the “email tunnel” of your domain at Google’s servers, you’ll be getting mail!
The Benefit of Google Apps
Since Google is so popular, if you open up your mail program (i.e. Outlook, Thunderbird, Postbox, Mail.app, etc) and type in your Google Apps username and password, your mail program will download all of the server settings for you.
SSL is built into Google Apps, so there’s nothing for you to set up in order to get secure access to your mail.
If you were to set up email on a Linux server or cpanel, you would have to find the mail server settings, set them, and then type them all in manually to your mail client. Imagine if you got a new cell phone or tablet, and you had to look for your email settings before setting it up?
If you use Google Apps, you’ll simply need to remember your email address and password, and your phone will find the rest of the settings for you. It’s that easy.
Another benefit of Google Apps is that backup / spam prevention / spam filtering is already built in. With your own mail server, you’d have to set up a program called “SpamAssassin”, and from experience, you can almost never get the settings right for it. Google is INCREDIBLE at filtering spam, so you won’t have to deal with tweaking spam filter settings.
The Only Tough Parts: SPF and DKIM
Yes, I say “tough,” but really, this will only take you 10 minutes max. These two measure are to prevent your email from looking like spam to whomever you send it.
Follow this link, and it will show you how to set up SPF for your new email account with Google Apps. Basically, you simply need to add a TXT record with this value to your DNS settings:
v=spf1 include:_spf.google.com ~all
I add this line in the DNS settings of my hosting account (with Linode). Screenshot to follow.
Follow this link, and it will show you how to generate a DKIM key for your Google Apps account. You will simply need to add another TXT record to your DNS settings for this.
Here are two screenshots showing both of these values added to my DNS settings for my Linode server (hosting):
Notice the MX records for Google (above), and the “Preference” value set for each. Add these to your DNS Manager as well.
Once you have these two settings filled in, in your DNS settings, you’re ready to start sending and receiving mail! If that looks complex to you, just go back up to the top and look again at the guide for setting up a mail server from scratch. This is definitely worth it.
If you have further questions about setting up email for your newly purchased domain, please ask them in the comments section below!