Forget Gmail – Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email Domain

emailmatrix   Forget Gmail   Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email DomainHaving your own website has a number of pretty cool perks. For one thing, if you have a decent web host plan, the odds are good that you can try installing and testing all sorts of neat web-based applications that you can host on your own web account.

Another cool thing about signing up for a web hosting account is that you receive your own email manager, where you could set up as many email accounts as you want with your own domain name. This is fantastic, because then there’s really no need to sign up for other email accounts – you are basically running your own email service that you can access through whatever webmail client your host supports.

The one drawback of doing things this way, is that you have to host all of those messages on your own web server or web account. In the world of web hosting, storage space is pretty valuable – and the last thing that you want to do, especially if you have multiple accounts set up, is to have each of those accounts start chewing up your precious web space.

So what’s the best solution? Believe it or not, you actually can have the best of both worlds. You can have email accounts that use your own domain name, and that can be accessed through a URL like mail.yourdomain.com, and you can create accounts using your domain name for other people – all hosted using a webmail service.

This means that the actual storage of the emails takes place on the free webmail service, but your actual email address and access point are from your domain, just like it would be if you were hosting the mail on your own web server. Pretty cool right?

Gmail vs. Microsoft

Now, using a webmail service to host your domain email isn’t anything new. Matt covered how you can set up email on your domain using Google Apps. But is Google really the only act in town? Isn’t there any other service out there that provides high-quality free online email service with the added bonus of letting you host mail there for your own domain?

Well, yes in fact there is. Windows offers this service through its Windows Live Mail offering, aka Hotmail email, aka Outlook.com. There are more people every year that are migrating over to Microsoft Live Mail, simply because of the features that the email client offers, the aesthetic quality of the Inbox over what Google currently offers with Gmail, and the Windows Live desktop client is pretty slick too.

But how do you set it up as email domain hosting? Well, it’s actually fairly easy. I’ll walk you through it step by step. The first step is to go to domains.live.com and click on “Get Started”.

msmail1   Forget Gmail   Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email Domain

Type in the name of your hosted domain. This will be a domain that you have full control over and can edit the DNS records for (we’ll get to that in a second). Select “Set up Outlook.com for my domain”, then click on Continue.

Now comes probably the hardest part of the whole process. If you get through this next step, you’ve pretty much home free.

You will see a listing of setups that you need to do. For the most part, you could ignore everything else on the page and just focus on the section under “Mail setup (required)”, because this is what directs your domain mail exchange to the Outlook.com servers.

msmail2   Forget Gmail   Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email Domain

That section describes creating an MX record. This is accomplished by logging into your hosting account. If it comes with CPanel (which most do), you can find this under Mail, under the icon “MX Entry”.

msmail3   Forget Gmail   Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email Domain

In this section, you need to select the domain that you want to add the record for. Leaving the Email Routing at Automatically Detect Configuration is probably your best bet. Then set the priority to whatever the highest priority is, and add the Destination provided by the Outlook.com instructions page.

msmail4   Forget Gmail   Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email Domain

Once this is done, it’s going to take a few hours for the change to filter through the Internet and become activated everywhere. Meanwhile, you can add the optional DNS entries listed on the Outlook.com instructions page by going back to your CPanel main screen and scrolling down until you see the “Advanced DNS Zone Editor” icon. In here is where you’ll add the TXT and CNAME entries that are suggested.

msmail5   Forget Gmail   Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email Domain

The CNAME entry is especially important, because it enables whatever email url you want for your domain to go to the Outlook.com URL. In the example below, I’m making mail.topsecretwriter.com become the URL I’ll use to access my email account.

msmail6   Forget Gmail   Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email Domain

Finally, you’re pretty much finished. All you have to do is go to bed, get up in the morning and likely the changes will be activated. You can check by going to the domains.live.com page, logging in, and clicking on that “Refresh” button. If everything is set up right and activated, you’ll see that yellow part of the page disappear, and you can access your dashboard to start setting up your new email accounts.

Setting up Your New Domain Email

From this point forward, all of your email management will take place in this Windows Live Admin center.

msmail7   Forget Gmail   Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email Domain

Setting up new accounts is really a one step process.  Just fill in the form to add an account and click Okay. If you have a staff of people working for you, you can quickly set up their email accounts in no time.

msmail8   Forget Gmail   Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email Domain

Microsoft lets you create a whopping 500 email accounts under your domain. Most hosting accounts typically only offer 10 to 25 email accounts under a hosting plan, so already it’s an improvement and you haven’t had to spend a dime.

msmail10   Forget Gmail   Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email Domain

You’ve also just freed up your web server space for what it was intended for – storing and serving web pages.

The feel of accessing mail through your new mail.mydomain.com URL is a lot like it would be if you kept it on your own site. Typically you’d have some log-in page. Well, in this case your log-in page is simply the Hotmail log-in.  You or your email users simply log in using the full email address that you’ve set up for them, and their password.

msmail11   Forget Gmail   Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email Domain

It’s obvious once you’re logged in that you are doing all of your email sending and receiving at Windows Live, but whenever you compose a new email, it will always use the email with your own domain, not the default Hotmail domain.

msmail12   Forget Gmail   Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email Domain

This means, when people receive an email from any of the accounts you created, it won’t even look like it came from Microsoft servers at all. It’ll look just like it would if you had sent that email from your own hosting account.

msmail13   Forget Gmail   Outlook.com Also Handles Your Own Email Domain

This is a whole lot like how you’d set it up with Google as well, but in my opinion it’s just a little bit simpler and faster. Not to mention that if you’ve used Gmail for a long time, using Windows Live is like a breath of fresh air. It’s hard to explain why it feels so much better to use. I can’t say it’s a better service than Gmail, but I do know it is a little easier to navigate and use.

So, what do you think about using such a web mail service for your email domain hosting? Are the benefits worth the trouble? Are you considering hosting your email with Google or Microsoft? Share your thoughts and your own experiences with the service in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Email Icons via Shutterstock

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46 Comments -

0 votes

Obed Cutaran

500 Accounts? Is this free?

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Yes – it most certainly is. It’s a win-win situation. You bring new email users to Hotmail, and Hotmail manages the accounts for your domain.

0 votes

Devon James

Not 500 but unlimited. If you reach 500, write them and you get another 500.. and so on. If you used aliases before… you will sure need more than 500 ;)

And yes, all free. Cause for this ___ MS cannot charge money.

0 votes

Paul-G

“storage space is pretty valuable”. Not if you have a decent hosting plan. Bandwidth, disk space, domains – UNLIMITED. Not an unusual feature these days.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

If you have a web host that provides you with unlimited storage space, can you let me know? I’m actually in the market for a dedicated server, and so far have seen no such thing as unlimited space. If there is one out there, I’m going to be a customer. :-)

0 votes

Tina Sieber

I have unlimited disk space and bandwidth with IXWebHosting. Not using it much, though, so wouldn’t recommend it or anything. Just saying that it exists.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Great – thanks for the heads up Tina. Might actually check them out, assuming service and uptime is good.

0 votes

Kevin Marshall

I think everyone is missing the big advantage here. It is not about hosting space and or bandwidth but about spam. So many folks are using cPanel for hosting. It has a terrible anti spam protection. Both Gmail and Outlook.com have great anti spam systems,.. your email will be delivered and you will get your email..

Another thing, for all of you that have “unlimited” hosting plans. There really is no such thing. Run up your storage or push a ton of bandwidth. Your hosting company will ask you to Upgrade or leave. They can do this because inside of every terms and conditions is language supporting the hosting company.

0 votes

Me

Bandwidth shouldn’t be a problem. 99% of the companies have unmetered bandwidth. Years ago it was questionable how they make money… now it’s available even for inviduals. 100 MBit/s unmetered managed hosting 50 bucks and less a month.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Maybe – but I’m more concerned with uptime and support when more crowds come along. So many of these hosting plans are great when you have a few hundred to a thousand a day, but once you get into the thousands, they start to buckle and the host complains that you’re hogging all of the server resources…

0 votes

Me

“This means, when people receive an email from any of the accounts you created, it won’t even look like it came from Microsoft servers at all”

Try sending a bunch of mails to some external mail account and check them with some email client ;) You will be very surprised about the “… on behalf of” header. Many people complained in the official forums since the start of Outlook.com. Microsoft finally is working on it :(

It’s great cause when one is using a custom domain and does not have an @outlook.com mail account it looks like this:

“John Doe (on behalf of john@example.com)”

Professional, isn’t it? :)

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Well isn’t that interesting…thank you for the insight!

0 votes

Sam Jones

Hey sorry to join this late in the day, but have been looking into moving out of the Google Apps environment and I am a fan of what Microsoft has been doing of late.

Anyway the reason you are getting the message is because you haven’t registered ownership of your domain with them, once you do you loose the on behalf of….

0 votes

my name

That will only happen when you add another account from other domain.

Eg: your main account is abc@outlook.com then you add another account abc@gmail.com

When you send email as abc@gmail.com from your abc@outlook.com it will see send on behalf.

BUT for this case given by the writer, it will not show any “on behalf” issue

Receiver still can find the source by viewing the mail source code though

1 votes

Jimmy Newtron

I agree with Paul-G — Hosting these days usually includes unlimited bandwidth so this isn’t a concern.

However, what could be a concern is letting Microsoft (or Google) read all your emails. One of the best reasons to have your own domain / email service is so that those folks aren’t data mining your life (or at least not all of it:-))…

0 votes

Ryan Dube

True – but this is always a concern with any online webmail service that you use, not only those run by Microsoft, right?

0 votes

Aryan Vaid

I think its great to shift to outlook as google apps for business are not free.

0 votes

Henree Arriola de Garcia

Thanks!

0 votes

Devon James

Outlook is the biggest crap in history. Sorry.

See http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windowslive/forum/admin-wlsettings/solved-custom-domain-name-questions/50ad0b81-2f0a-4f88-a13a-4c5791ed959d

Simple things like aliases are not supported.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

I haven’t used it quite long enough to make a fair comparison – but I have to say that just as far as aesthetics go, the Outlook.com interface looks nicer. Why hasn’t Google upgraded their online email interface in so long? Seems a big clunky to navigate and use to me, especially with how much can be accomplished with online apps these days.

0 votes

Thomas

Outlook rocks, Gmail sucks!

0 votes

Me

If one wears sunglasses or is blind.. then yes.

0 votes

Timothy Liem

indeed..

0 votes

Paschalis Mpeis

Omg.
It looks like Microsoft employees replies in webpages comments
!!

0 votes

Anonymous

I am convinced! I will sell my two android phones, wave off all the Android apps I bought, and forget about google maps. I will set MS Windows as my first boot choice, pay some money to upgrade to Win8, cos I really LOVE it when my PC freezes. Gmail sync is awful, cos it never duplicates my contacts, and ActiveSync is excellent at doing that, and it is kind of cool to know more people.
Not!

0 votes

Timothy Liem

hahaha.. good point htere!

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Your sarcasm is not lost here. :-)

I am by no means a Microsoft fan-boy, but if there’s an app out there that does what it says it does very well, then we’ve got to cover it honestly – even if it is made by Microsoft!

0 votes

Scott

I wouldn’t mind going this route, but MS’s generally abysmal support at the ‘free’ level (I’ve experienced it and read others’ experience of it in the forums and in blog comments, so I think ‘abysmal’ is fairly accurate, for a lot of people at least) and some security limitations (16-character password limit (!!!) and lack of two-step authentication) are definite deal-breakers. I’d rather host a domain at a service that has better security and more reputable support (Polarismail.net, FastMail.fm, EuMX.net, Runbox, etc.) even if it means coughing up a few dollars each year.

Yes, I realize that Hotmail has its own premium level ($20/yr.), but I don’t know how much better the support/security is even at that price. Besides, of the services I listed above, PolarisMail, FM and EuMX offer email hosting at service levels of $16/yr or less – and with excellent support !

0 votes

Me

Not much difference between paying and non-paying service. Unfortunately.

Even the Office365 support is as amazing as the free Outlook.com support.

First months it was fantastic (personal mail support) but then people have been pointed to the “Indians rrrr heer 2 help gud Microsoft customa” forums :(

So no difference between Microsoft and Google anymore :(

0 votes

Ryan Dube

I don’t know – I typically don’t ever need support for webmail systems like this. They typically just work and I’ve never had a need to call any support center for help. That’s not to say there may be circumstances where that may be needed, but I can’t report on who is better at it.

0 votes

Me

Best Webmail service is the free Horde Groupware Webmail Edition.

Check out the screenshots at http://www.horde.org/apps/webmail/screenshots

It supports S/MIME (yeehaw) and even PGP. All web-based. Existing keys can be supported. No crap JAVA or other plugins required.

Problem: No Horde-Groupware-Webmail-Edition hosting available anywhere :’( Of course one could install it on its webserver but the requirements are well.. more than cheap hosting supports.

:(

0 votes

ryan Dube

I’m not sure why but I’ve tried using Horde several times over the last decade and every time I attempt to use it, it feels so cluttered and not user-friendly. The aesthetics are so different than most applications I’m used to using, maybe that’s why. I’m sure it’s just a personal preference, but I’ve never liked using Horde.

0 votes

Timothy Liem

I’ve fell for Google since the first time I have access to internet (it’s about 7 years ago). I’ve experienced great times with Google and won’t dare to switch to others, especially Microsoft and the bitten fruit devil ( a bit too much, eh?). GMail served me so much better than hotmail. not confusing, straightforward, and faster to load (yeah, I got snail connection here). and don’t forget the undo button. it saved me a lot when I misclicked some buttons. I currently live with 3 GMail accounts. one for those newsletter thingy, one for makeuseof and Android, and the last one is provided by Google Apps my University uses.

0 votes

Paul

What happens to your email in that step where you “go to bed” and then wake up to see if your DNS entries changed? i.e. does this changeover prevent you from losing mail? GREAT article though, best one so far on this topic, thanks!

0 votes

Carlos Rivera

I followed the instructions described above. I change the MX settings on my host provider however now when I go to the Windows live admin center and try to do a refresh on my domain it says that the services have been suspended. Is her anyway I can get this corrected. The weird thing is is that email to and from Outlook.com using this domain name works fine I just can’t create new mail accounts because of the suspension.

0 votes
0 votes

Vivie

Hi, is it possible if i want to set 2 administrator for an email domain? It means that i need to prove ownership of the domain for 2 people.. Is it possible?

0 votes

Ryan Dube

I’m not 100% certain what you’re asking, but in the case described above, the “administrator” of the email domain is the owner or admin account access to the web hosting service. So, if you need a 2nd person to administer the account, you’d need to give them access to the web server.

0 votes

Saad Ahmed Sharif

When migrating from Gmail to Outlook, what will happen to the current & previous emails [stored on gmail server] will they be migrated ass well? What is the solution for this?

0 votes

Ryan Dube

I don’t believe they will automatically be migrated over. This would probably require a mass-export and then an import. However, I can’t pretend to know how that would work, because I haven’t researched or tried it.

0 votes

mehdi

Actually When i change my CNAME record then custom email stops working..

0 votes

Ryan Dube

In the example above, the assumption is that you’re adding the CNAME from a point where custom email was not in place yet – what was the record before you made the change?

0 votes

Barry

How do I do this with GoDaddy? It seems they have a “credit” system for adding new emails and I do not have any additional credit. Couldn’t get into setting up a new MX record and did not see anything similar in Workspace login. Would love to add a couple emails to my domain. Thank you for your reply

0 votes

Ryan Dube

The MX record example shown in this article is a web host server setting (such as in cpanel), not a domain account setting that you’d set in GoDaddy. If you want to take the GoDaddy domain route, you’d need to pay for that.

0 votes

Joydeep

where do i find mx entry? plz help me

0 votes

Jim B

Thank you so much for this article! I too like so many of you have been a fanboy of Google for years but when they went to no longer offering Google Apps for free that made it necessary for me to seek out a different alternative to solve my Blogger redirect to custom domain but not being able to use custom domain email service issue. Of course Google is charging for a lot of stuff they used to give for free because they had to find more ways to pay for this Google Fiber Network they’re building in Kansas City somehow.