What to do when your web host doesn’t provide email hosting services?

As y’all know, WHSR switched to WP Engine last week (do check out my latest WPEngine Review here). There are plenty of good things to talk about WP Engine but in this post, I’m gonna talk about the problem I had during the migration – email hosting.

I was actually caught in surprise that WP Engine does not come with email hosting features.

And because of this, I spent hours reading and searching online for the right solution; and I signed up a few trial accounts for my own review.

Dig deeper: Don’t repeat my mistake, learn how to choose the right web host for yourself.

Email hosting: What are your choices?

Generally, if you need your email account ending with your domain (ie. email@yourdomain.com) to be hosted separately from your hosting, your choices are, 1,  Other hosting providers that provide email hosting; 2, Free email hosting services like Google Gmail Apps; And 3, Paid email hosting services like RackSpace, Gmail, Microsoft 365, etc.

The configuration is simple – all you need to do is to update your MX record* to route email messages through your new email servers.

* About MX Record

MX record stands for Mail Exchange Records. Mail Exchange is simply another name for server whose primary function is to send and receive emails. A domain’s MX record can be seen using various free lookup tools available online (for example, MX Tool Box http://www.mxtoolbox.com/); and can be only changed at the domain registrar (where you register your domain name, ie. GoDaddy, Network Solution, etc).

This might sounds complicated especially if you are doing this for the first time but believe me, it is not that difficult. I have never done this before until last week and I switched between email hosting services three times for the past 10 days with no error.

Read on.

My experience with different email hosting solutions

Feeling a little geeky I took this chance to play around with my WHSR email account and here’s what I did.

First, I tried hosting my own email accounts at Hostgator (while my domain is now on WP Engine); three days later I switched over to Google Apps (which is recommended by WP Engine); as I don’t like my emails to be hold at Google, I switched to RackSpace 15 days trial plan 24 hours later; and, at this time of writing, I am using Microsoft 365. I did read a lot on other services including RunBox, Mail2Web, as well as FastMail, but never signup an account with them.

1. Hosting My Own Email Account At Hostgator

GoDaddy DNS Controls

It was both convenient and cheap to run my email accounts on Hostgator as I already have a hosting account with the gators. To get this done, simple:

1. Contact Gator supports, ask for the MX records of your mail server (assuming that you already have a Hostgator account). You should get something like this:

mail.yourdomain.com. IN A 184.172.183.xxx
yourdomain.com. IN MX 0 mail.yourdomain.com.

2. Copy the details, and head to your domain registrar (I’m using GoDaddy so this will be in our example).

3. At GoDaddy, find your way into Total DNS Control (refer to image above).

4. Click ‘Quick Add’ under A (Host), type ‘Mail’ under Host, your ‘IP (184.172.183.xxx)’ under Points To.

5. Click ‘Quick Add’ under MX, type ‘0’ under priority, ‘@’ under Host, and ‘mail.yourdomain.com’ under Goes To.

6. And… you are done.

You will need to go thru the same process every time you switch an email host. Once you have done it once, it’s basically a small piece of cake. I have done this a few times (from Hostgator to Google to RackSpace and to Microsoft) without any trouble – I believe you can do the same!

Moving on, let’s talk about a few other services I have tried.

2. Google Apps

Google Email Apps

You can setup up to 10 email account (ended with your domain) at Google using Google Email Apps; and for anything more than that you will need to pay $5/user account under Google Apps For Business.

Updates October 2015: Google Apps (known as Google Apps for Work now) is no longer free today. Entry plan costs $5 per user per month (or $50/user per year, excluding tax) and includes a number of addon features, including Google Video and Voice Calls, 30 GB of online storage, and integrated online calendars.

 

If you are comfortable with Google holding your emails on top of all the data in your Google Search, Web Analytics, Adwords account, Adsense, YouTube, FeedBurner, G Talk, Google Plus (which I am not); then Google is your thing. It’s free, it’s on Cloud servers, it’s supported by the most powerful tech company in the world, it is Google.

You can learn more about Google Apps for Work in this page.

3. RackSpace Email

Rackspace Email

RackSpace was voted as the Best Hosted Exchange for 2011.

The company provides 15 days trial period and I took a ride on it. The ordering process took a little longer than expected – RackSpace staff will call you to verify your information; but their staffs are generally very professional (I dealt with a girl named Stephanie a few times and she is extremely helpful and friendly).

RackSpace is cheap ($2/month/account with 10 GB storage) and it gives everything you need in a webmail system. The only problem I have with them is that the minimum order with RackSpace is $10/mo thus I was forced to buy 5 email accounts with them (I only need two).

For more details, here’s the webpage to visit: http://www.rackspace.com/apps/email_hosting/

4. Microsoft 365

MS 365 Email

I am now running my email accounts with Microsoft 365 and I believe I will stay with them for quite some time.

As much as I like them now, I do had some tough time getting started with Microsoft 365. I find documentations at Microsoft 365 a little confusing. I got bumped around between the company sisters sites and was reading at this, this, this, and this site. But… that could be just me because I am not very familiar with Microsoft services.

Anyway, that’s that and I have to admit that I fell in love with Microsoft 365 as soon as I got familiar with the environment. I like how the system sync between webmail, mobile, and my Outlook 2007; and the entire configuration process (via Microsoft Lync) is very, very smooth. Furthermore, at Microsoft 365 I can order as many, or as little, user accounts as I want at $6/user account. So that’s a huge plus for me when compare to RackSpace as I do not need to pay for the unused extra accounts.

What’s Microsoft 365?

Never heard of the name Microsoft 365? Well, here’s how the official says:

It’s familiar Microsoft Office collaboration and productivity tools delivered through the cloud. Everyone can work together easily with anywhere access to email, web conferencing, documents, and calendars. It includes business-class security and is backed by Microsoft. Whether you are a small business or multinational enterprise, Office 365 offers plans designed to fit your organization’s unique needs. Learn more today.

For more details, here’s the introduction frontpage and here’s the Get Started Guide.

Wrapping Up

I hope you learn something from this post. I had some busy (and great) time searching and reading and learning for the past two weeks due to the move to WP Engine; and I hope this experience can be a good reference for some of you guys.

In case you have question or spotted any mistakes, do voice up in the comment box below.