Google Domains used to be a great free service for setting up custom domain emails. You initially received 25 emails, along with other free services like a catch-all feature and aliases. They later downsized the amount of emails to 10. Eventually, they decided to cash in on this service and force people to use Google Apps for Work. Anyone who was already using the free service still retained their free email accounts (although even that has since changed), and now everyone else must pay.
Outlook.com had its own custom domain email setup that was similar to Google Domains. It too was free and started with 50 free email accounts. When I last used this service (2013) I believe it was limited to 10 free email accounts. They have since forced people to migrate to their own Office 365 subscription service in order to continue using Microsoft as their custom domain name email provider.
Since then I have turned to Zoho Mail as my free custom domain name email provider. The setup is as simple if not simpler than either Google or Microsoft. The differences are that you can only have up to 5 free accounts, and each comes with a maximum of 5GB of storage.
The Zoho Mail interface is quite clean and simple. There seems to be a few additional features that I did not recall seeing from Google or Microsoft. You can restrict POP3/IMAP access for any account, limit how much inbound and outbound traffic an email account has daily, and privileges that can be given to users to create groups.
In Google and Microsoft the admins were left deciding when to create groups and who had access. What I thought was very interesting was that groups in Zoho Mail have different group levels. Each group is essentially a mail forwarding service sent to the designated users ranging from all email accounts to only those chosen. On top of that, Zoho Mail made it much simpler to do all of this if need be.
Zoho's big "selling" point is that the service is ad-free. I never saw any ads when I used either Google or Microsoft, but I can imagine how annoying they would've been if so.
Setup is simple and can be quick if you have access to your domain name's DNS records:
- Select the free option from Zoho's site.
- You will be asked if you have an existing domain name or wish to purchase a new one. Assuming you already have one, type in your domain name and proceed.
- You will then need to enter a CNAME, followed by a MX record for verification. Along the way you will be asked to create user accounts and groups, which can be done at a later point.
It's a fairly simple setup to get through. I spent a total of maybe 10 minutes to verify everything and add user email accounts.
If you have a device with Android or iOS, retrieving your email will be a cinch. Just look in the Google Play Store or iTunes Store and search for the Zoho Mail app. Once downloaded, login with your credentials and you will then have access to your email.
If you happen to be on a Windows or Blackberry device, you will need to go the POP3/IMAP route. You can follow the instructions here for setting those devices up. A word of warning, if you do use IMAP to sync, retrieve and send email, you will first need to enable the IMAP setting for the account(s) in Zoho Mail.
I was a big fan of Google Apps and was disheartened to see it go. Likewise, I enjoyed Outlook.com's service until they decided to make it only subscription-based.
Zoho seems like a good service, I have not found anything to suggest otherwise. They claim it will also have this free service forever, and I hope they do. I guess it will really depend on if they stay in business and if they never go back on their word. Only time will tell.
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