Hosted email – Microsoft Exchange

Do you own your own domain and have a personal or small business website hosted along with email? If so you know the importance of email in day to day business and personal communications. Web hosts… not so much. I’ve actually had a couple tell me I should use Gmail if I want reliability.  I understand why – email is a massive headache. Spam, giant spools, attachments, demanding customers, complicated setup and tools, end client configuration and user issues. Email, oh oh the email…. (strong bad)

The biggest issue I’ve experienced is on shared hosting environments where the actions of one can affect many. One spammer on your server can get the whole server blacklisted. Direct emails will be rejected, automated website emails disappear into the cloud never to be seen. I like a lot about Webhost email – total control over unlimited accounts, unlimited aliases, often unlimited size, catch-all email (receives mis-typed and errant address emails) and a single location to manage your website, database and email. But I also like people to get my emails! Recently I’d experienced repeat waves of rejections caused by someone on my server. My host would work to get us un-blacklisted and two weeks later another major ISP or email host would blacklist us again. Time to test the waters of hosted email!

What I found right away was rather amazing. Microsoft will host your domain email for free. Yes you read that correctly, free. More on that below. I ultimately ended up hosting a client with Office 365 because they were already familiar with Outlook.com and liked some of the options for future growth.

Hosted Email Review – Excellent roundup of email hosts
Appstorm – The Best Places to Host Your Email With Your Own Domain

Email – POP3 vs IMAP vs Exchange.
What’s the difference and which is better?

Microsoft hosted email options – hosted from Microsoft global redundant servers, spam and malware filtering with Exchange email. Accessible from browsers, mobile devices and most popular email clients – Outlook, Macmail, Microsoft mail, Thunderbird, Postbox, EM Client.

Outlook custom domain hosted email – Free
(no other major provider has a free option I’m aware of)

  1. Free custom email domain hosting! Microsoft launched this service in 2005 and it’s still available
  2. Includes OneDrive, Calendar, Photos etc. All the standard Outlook.com services
  3. Requirements: a Microsoft account, your own domain, ability to manage your own DNS
  4. Get started here: Microsoft Live – Domain Signup
  5. Excellent tutorial – How to setup Outlook with a custom domain for free email hosting
  6. And another! Why I use Outlook.com for my custom email accounts

Microsoft Exchange Hosting – $4 or $8 a month

  1. Microsoft’s official custom email hosting – email, calendar, contacts, unlimited space, DLP
  2. Setup steps and guide video Exchange Online

Office 365 Small Business – $6 or $15 a month (30 day free trials available)

  1. Email and more – distribution lists, shared mailboxes, calendar, contacts, OneDrive, Office Online, Mobile apps, option for full MS Office
  2. Office 365 – Review plan offerings, compare features and costs
  3. Setup steps and help for setting up Office 365 Small Business

What you need to get started

  1. Your own domain
  2. Control over DNS. Microsoft Small Business can also control DNS for you.
  3. Takes about 30 minutes to setup DNS and Email accounts
  4. 30 minutes to 24hrs for DNS propagation

Basic steps to setup hosted email

  1. Prepare to create your hosted email account
  2. Log into your Domain name registrar (Namecheap, Name.com,GoDaddy etc)
  3. Log into and or setup an account with your email host
  4. Disable or reroute Email MX records with your webhost
  5. Obtain the required MX, TXT, A and CNAME values from your email host
    1. What are these?
    2. Confirm domain ownership with test TXT or MX records from your email host
    3. Update your DNS with the values from step 4
  6. You’re done – happy emailing!

Example of DNS settings for custom hosted email using Namecheap.

Exchange Hosted Email DNS Settings
Exchange Hosted Email DNS Settings
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