Thursday, May 31, 2012

Save Money: Professional Email on the Cheap, pt1

Part of the µ-Dev philosophy is to do everything as cheaply and as hassle-free as possible, but while still projecting a completely professional appearance to the outside world.

With the tools available today your corporate email should be free or nearly free. In this post I'll show you how to make that happen.
(I'm assuming that if you're reading this blog, you're interested in µ-Dev and not in building a corporation with hundreds of employees. A µ-Dev company should have very modest email needs)

Let's quickly run through some options:
You're kidding, right? If you think this is a good idea, you might be beyond help.

Buy a domain name + email package
All the registrars offer these sorts of services. Don't waste your time or money.

Google Apps: free level
Now we're talking! You can get pretty far with nothing more than a free Gmail account. We'll talk more about this in a sec.

Google Apps for Business
Extends the basic Gmail account and adds more organizational features. I set up EssayTagger with the $50/yr level for the small handful of company accounts we need.

Criteria: Professional email must-haves
When we're done here your email address will be from your domain name (e.g. So forget the @hotmail, @yahoo, etc. options. Not acceptable.

People need to be able to send email to your account(s) and you need to be able to respond from your account(s).

Modest inbox storage; anything over 2GB is more than enough (Gmail hands out 7+GB).

We'll also make sure you're set up to have an email signature automatically added to all of your outgoing messages.

That's really all you need. And it's easy to do it all for free.

Step one: Free Gmail
Create a free Gmail account for yourself. If you already have a personal Gmail account, I still recommend that you set up a new one for business use. Gmail is going to act as our mail server so we don't have to pay for one ourselves. Thank you, Google!

When you create your account you'll get to choose your email address. It doesn't really matter what you enter though because no one is going to see your address. However, you will still need to remember it and differentiate it from your personal account.

One other note: you'll be able to use this Gmail account for multiple businesses so something like might make more sense than

Step two: Business email addresses and routing
This step happens at your registrar (whomever you registered your business' domain name through).

I recently switched to as my registrar and they explicitly state that their domains support email forwarding:

(I believe most registrars support email forwarding, so don't feel like you must use namecheap)

In namecheap's management interface I just go to "E-mail Forwarding Setup" and enter the emails that I want to map from my company's domain to an external email account.

Here I'm mapping keith to my email account. You will enter your new account on the right. All incoming email to your new corporate email account at your domain will now show up in your new Gmail account. No mail server, no paid mail service, nada. Simple!

You can also point more than one business email address to your account. For example, you might do: --> -->

Not done yet
Great, now people can email me at my business email addresses and it'll route straight to Gmail. But if you hit "Reply", your message will show up as coming from So we're only halfway there.

We need to configure Gmail to act as if we are for outgoing emails.

Learn how in Part Two.