Thoughts

Setting your business up with Google Mail and other Apps

By Patrick Carne18th May 2011
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We have been asked a number of times recently to help setup company email accounts through Google Apps. Having used Google Apps ourselves for about 2 years now, we highly recommend it to anyone thinking of switching over.

What are the benefits of using Google Apps to handle your mail accounts over your existing provider?

  • Reliable, fast and FREE hosting of your email accounts
  • Pretty close to unlimited email storage space. This often means removing the mail storage off your web server to free up space for what it should be used for - serving your website.
  • Access to your emails anytime, anywhere, with a great web mail client. Whilst you can still hook it up to your desktop client (Outlook, Mail etc), Google Mail provides you with a much better web interface than most other providers will, which is great when you are away from your normal computer.
  • No moving around. We often change over the servers that our client's websites sit on (often due to new hosting requirements), and the biggest issue with this is often mail. By separating your mail hosting from the rest of your website, this never becomes a problem - and Google isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
  • Access to other great Google apps like Calendar, Documents, Groups etc.

Below is a quick guide to setting your business up with Google Apps and switching your email accounts over. Remember to back up your email accounts first, and if you have problems at any stage during this process, seek help. The information in this guide should help you getting setup, but use at your own risk - I take no responsibility for the safety of your existing emails.

  1. The first thing you will need to do is register your business for Google Apps. To do this visit http://www.google.com/apps/, and select the first option for individuals, groups and entrepreneurs. If you are a larger business, you may need to consider the business package, but that will come at a cost (still very reasonable). Once you've clicked through to the Google Apps introduction, click 'Get started' on the right.
  2. Enter your domain name. Don't worry, this won't change anything with your current mail or website setup.
  3. Fill out your basic business details. Remember that the email you enter has to be active and valid. You may need this to get back in later.
  4. Enter your desired administrator email account. This can be the same as an email account that you already use, we will switch this over later.
  5. Once this registration is complete, you should be logged in to the Google Apps administration dashboard. You will be taken to a setup wizard as it is the first time you have logged in; we will follow the wizard for now. Click next to begin.
  6. The next step will ask you whether you are signing up with the domain you plan to use, in 90% of situations this will be the case. Press Next to continue.
  7. The next step is a little more complicated, and requires some understanding of your hosting environment. If you are not comfortable playing around in your hosting control panel, I recommend handing over to your web admin at this point.

    You need to verify that the domain address you are attempting to setup the emails for is owned by you. There are a few ways in which you can do this:

    • By uploading a file to your server
    • Adding some meta data to your websites home page
    • Linking to your Google analytics account
    • Adding a DNS record to your domain's configuration.
    I recommend going with either option a or d. Option a: you will be provided with a HTML file to download, simply upload this to your websites root directory using an FTP client. Option b: You need to know how to modify your domains DNS records. Google provides instructions to do this for a number of popular providers. Essentially you will need to create a new TXT record with the value provided by google, this should look something like: google-site-verification=DtvZ_oZWA27H-khiUa6B0Za1N7QSduQMTOaI5_Xuqes. Once you have completed this step, press 'Verify'.
  8. This is where I will abandon the setup wizard. The next thing you will want to do is setup all of the users that are in your business. Click on 'Organisation & users' from the top menu. You should see your administrator account in the list. For each email that you wish to switch over, create a new user. You will need to enter a first name, last name and primary email address. You will be provided with a temporary password during this process, remember to copy this down.
  9. You should now be able to access your email accounts at:
    http://mail.google.com/a/yourdomain.com

    These email accounts are active and working, however they will not be receiving mail as your domain accounts will still be pointing to your existing mail provider.
  10. Once you have all of the users setup, you need to start switching things over. To do this you will need to know how to modify the DNS records for your domain. On the Google Apps dashboard, you should see a list of core Google Apps. Under Email, there should be a link to 'Activate email', click this now. The next page will take you through the steps of modifying your domains DNS records, if you are already familiar with this process, simply copy down the MX records from the bottom of the page and use these to update your DNS.
  11. Once you have updated your MX records, you are now in business! New emails should start coming to your Google mail inbox. To make it slightly easier to access your email accounts from a browser, I recommend updating the mail url to http://mail.yourdomain.com. This requires two quick steps:

    1. Whist in the Google apps dashboard, click on the 'Email' link under the core Google apps suite. At the top of the page you should see the web address for your email accounts. Click 'Change URL'. You should now be precented with two options, the default url and a custom one. Change this to the custom url and enter 'mail' in the supplied textbox. Now click continue.
    2. The next step is to create a new DNS record to point mail.yourdomain.com to Google's servers. To do this, log back into your control panel of your hosting provider, and add a new CNAME record with the value 'mail' and destination address 'ghs.google.com'. Please note, it may take up to a day for these settings to propegate and allow you to access your email from this domain.
  12. The final step is to migrate your email accounts from your existing mail hosting provider to Google. There will be different ways to accomplish this depending on your existing mail provider and mail client. If you are an Outlook you can use the Google Migration Tool, Google email uploader if you are using a Mac mail application. Whilst I can't provide examples for all scenarios in the blog post, you should be able to fine a solution that fits your needs by searching google.
  13. And that's it! If you could follow all of these steps, you should be up and running with Google Mail. If you couldn't, or found any of these steps confusing, leave a not on this post or send me an DM @patrickcarne