Microsoft’s Office 365 Exchange Online service is great, but some organisations cannot afford to pay the monthly costs that Microsoft asks. Thankfully there is an alternative in the form of Hotmail using a custom domain. This will allow you to host up to 500 email accounts on Microsoft’s servers for free, utilising the power of their hotmail system.
Admittedly Hotmail has nowhere near the power of their hosted Exchange server platform, but if your organisation needs straight forward email with simple shared calendaring, then this could be a real alternative. Google also offer the use of their Gmail servers for your own domain name, but this has been recently restricted to only 10 users – forcing you to pay a monthly fee if you need more accounts. Google’s service also offers additional admin control allowing you to easily set up aliases and distribution lists.
If you’re running Vista or Windows 7 on your PCs, you can download Windows Live Mail which will connect to your account and provide integrated calendaring. There is also a connector for Outlook which allows you to utilise existing copies of Office. Additionally you can use the web-based hotmail interface which has been greatly improved since I first encountered it 13 odd years ago. Connecting to your emails via a mobile device is easy as Microsoft use their ActiveSync technology which allows you to receive push emails on your IOS or Android based devices (Gmail also offers this too).
Setting up Hotmail to use your own domain name
Setting up email on Hotmail’s servers is straight forward. Go to https://domains.live.com and click on the ‘Get started’ link. Enter your domain name and click ‘Continue’. Sign into to Windows Live with an existing Live ID or opt to create a new Windows Live ID in your domain.
You will now have to prove ownership of the domain by entering an MX record into your domain’s DNS. This can usually be done through your domain provider’s control panel. If you already have email hosted with an existing provider you will need to remove existing MX records, but all instructions for configuring your DNS are provided when you sign up.
As with Google’s offering, your new login will give you access to Microsoft’s additional services such as Messenger, SkyDrive and Microsoft’s Office Web Apps.
Guest Post by Richard Goatly
Authentic IT – Web Design and IT Consultancy