How to Set Up Google Apps on Your Web Server

Using Google Apps for your small business or nonprofit organization makes a lot of sense. In this post, I’ll explain step by step how to set up Google Apps, which includes Gmail for Business, on your web server.

Step One: Register for Google Apps

The first step involves registering your business or nonprofit’s domain name with Google. Click here to begin the process.

  • Enter your domain on the first page, then your information on the second.
  • Create an administrator account on the third page, and accept the Terms and Conditions.
  • Choose express setup.

Step Two: Verify Domain Ownership

Google needs to be sure that you actually own the domain that you’re registering. The easiest way to do this is to download the html file they will present to you after a couple of next clicks, and upload it to your web server.  Once the file is uploaded, verifying the domain will only take a moment.

Step Three: Set Up Your Users

Setting up users is a simple process. I recommend leaving the Gmail wizard at this point and adding users directly.

  • Click Organizations and Users in the top menu.
  • Click the Create a New User button.
  • Enter the user’s first name, last name and email address.
  • Click Set Password to enter and verify their password.
  • Click Create new user.
  • Repeat this process for each user you want to create.

Step Four: Set Up Forwarding Addresses

Gmail allows you to set up forwarding email addresses, but in a way that is not immediately apparent.

Forwarding to Multiple Recipients:

  • Click Groups in the top menu, and Create a New Group.
  • Give the group a name and email address.
  • Be sure “Allow anyone on the Internet to post messages” is checked and click Create new Group.
  • In the Add New Members box, type the email addresses to which this address will forward, separating each one by a comma.
  • You can forward to any email address, not just those from your domain.

Forwarding to a Single Recipient:

  • If you will ever want this email address to forward to more than one person, follow the instructions above.
  • If the address will only forward to one person, click Organizations and Users, and click the underlined Name of the user you want to forward to.
  • Beside Nicknames, click Add a Nickname.
  • Enter the address you want to forward to this user and press Enter.

Step Five: Changing the URL for GMail

Now we’ll change the web address for accessing your Gmail from the long default address to something shorter and more memorable.

  • Click Settings in the top menu.
  • Select email from the left menu.
  • Beside Web Address, click Change URL.
  • Click button for the second option, and click Save Changes. This will set your mail to be accessed at
  • Repeat this for Calendar, Docs, and other Google Apps services if you want your clients to be able to access these easily as well. Make sure you have activated them in the Dashboard first.

Step Seven: Making MX Record Changes in CPanel

Now that your settings are complete on the Gmail side, it’s time to tell your web server to stop handling email itself and forward it instead to Gmail. The instructions below pertain to CPanel, a popular server management interface. If your server uses another interface, you’ll still be able to take the settings below, although the process of entering them will be different.

MX Records are lists of mail servers listed by priority where you will access your email.

Note: Entering the information precisely in this step and the next is critical. Incorrect information has the potential to break your web site and email.

  • Open the MX Entry in the Mail area of CPanel
  • Select the appropriate domain from the list
  • Delete any MX Records that are listed
  • Add the following Destinations and Priorities in the Add New Record section:

Priority: 1 Destination: ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM
Priority: 5 Destination: ALT1.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM
Priority: 5 Destination: ALT2.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM
Priority: 10 Destination: ASPMX2.GOOGLEMAIL.COM
Priority: 10 Destination: ASPMX3.GOOGLEMAIL.COM

Note, the above settings should work for most ISPs. Click here for Google’s MX Record settings for specific web hosts.

Step Eight: Making CNAME Changes in CPanel 

Now we’ll begin the process of making changes to the CNAMES for your domain. A CNAME is basically a forwarding address for subdomains of your web site.

  • Open the Advanced DNS Zone Editor in the Domains area of CPanel
  • Select the appropriate domain from the list
  • Under Zone File Records, find the entry for and click Edit.
  • Change the CNAME for this entry to

If you added Calendar, Docs, etc in the previous step, add CNAMES for them here as well in the Add a Record Section.

  • Enter the Name, such as
  • TTL should be 14400.
  • Type is CNAME.
  • Address is
    (update 8/3/2012 – Google now wants the address here to be – Note: you do NOT have to update this on CNAMES you created for earlier sites.)
  • Repeat for each required service (calendar, etc).

Conclusion – Wait a Bit

At this point you have made the necessary changes for Gmail and other Google Apps to work. However, due to the nature of the Internet, it might take anywhere from several minutes to overnight for the changes to begin to work.

If you’ve run into a problem, or need some assistance setting up Gmail for Business for your small business or nonprofit organization, I’m available to help at a reasonable hourly consulting rate.

7 thoughts on “How to Set Up Google Apps on Your Web Server”

  1. I like your step by step method of switching the email accounts. What happens to all of the email that is currently on the server of an imap account? Can it be transferred over?

    • Tammie, thanks for the comment. Depending on what email program you’re using, you should be able to select an option that will store mail locally as well as online. When you do this, you will download all the mail from your current IMAP account to your computer. Then, make the change to Gmail. Once it’s up and working you can drag and drop mail folders in your email program from your old IMAP account to the new Gmail account. I’d recommend putting it all in its own folder just to keep things straight. This should work in most cases.

      • Hey Nathan – so all was working well, then suddenly my gmail messages stopped showing up in my apple mail inbox folders. Now, they show up under different folders, and most show up under ‘important’. Is this something gmail has done? It’s messed me right up!

      • Wow. That’s frustrating. I know Apple Mail has not handled Gmail accounts perfectly in the past. But I’ve never seen that particular thing happen before. Two things you might try. First, remove the Gmail account completely from Mail and set it up again so that it re-syncs everything. If that doesn’t work, try a different mail app like Thunderbird for Mac (Free) and see if it happens there. If it does, it’s a Gmail issue which you can post in their support forums. if not, it’s a Mail issue which you can post in an Apple forum.

        FWIW, I absolutely *love* Sparrow for email ( It’s built to work with Gmail and even uses Gmail shortcut keys.

  2. Any suggestions now that Google is charging $50 a year to use Google Apps? I don’t know that my clients will be willing to pay $50 a year on top of their regular yearly hosting fees. I think will all of the free email out there it will be hard to convince people it is worth paying for at least not for just handling email.


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