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 mail.yourdomain.com.
- 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 mail.yourdomain.com and click Edit.
- Change the CNAME for this entry to ghs.google.com.
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 docs.yourdomain.com.
- TTL should be 14400.
- Type is CNAME.
- Address is ghs.google.com.
(update 8/3/2012 – Google now wants the address here to be ghs.googlehosted.com – 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.