My Gmail is Better Than Your Gmail

A cou­ple of weeks ago now, issues with Dreamhost not with­stand­ing, I con­vert­ed over to using Gmail for my own domain after sign­ing up for Google Appli­ca­tions for your (my) Domain. While this makes essen­tial­ly no dif­fer­ence at all to any­one else, oth­er than avoid­ing con­fu­sion on which e‑mail account to respond to, it will hope­ful­ly sim­pli­fy my e‑mail woes and spam volume.

There are cer­tain­ly work-arounds to using Gmail with your oth­er e‑mail address­es and those are fine, but I want­ed one that was less trou­ble­some than just for­ward­ing address­es. I want­ed to be able to send, receive, and store e‑mail with what I con­sid­er to be my per­ma­nent address. Last­ly, I want­ed this to inte­grate with my desk­top mail pro­gram, in effect give me off-site access and stor­age of my entire e‑mail. Port­ing e‑mail archives is painful and this will go a long way to eas­ing that in the future.

First is easy: just sign up for Google Apps at your domain (it’s actu­al­ly Gmail, cal­en­dar, docs & spread­sheets, etc. all togeth­er). Next, in order to use the e‑mail address, you’ll have to have DNS reg­istry access to your domain. If you per­son­al­ly reg­is­tered your domain and host your files, or at least know the per­son who does this, chances are you do. Once you’ve acti­vat­ed your Google Apps account, you’ll have to log into your host­ing man­age­ment site and alter your DNS, or MX records, for mail. Google has some instruc­tions for most major host­ing ser­vices as well as gener­ic ones. Dreamhost, where this very file is sit­ting right now, has some spe­cif­ic direc­tions on what to change to in their Wiki. Two points:

  1. The pri­or­i­ty val­ue goes first, exam­ple: 10 ASPMX2.GOOGLEMAIL.COM.
  2. That last peri­od is very impor­tant, so don’t think it’s just mis­placed punc­tu­a­tion in the instructions.

Now, you’ve got your DNS records changed, the next step is to wait. It took well over 24 hours for the DNS records to prop­a­gate after I changed mine, which is much longer than what it seemed to take for plain old http DNS changes. This may have just been a fluke, but there’s a very good chance some e‑mail to you will get bounced back to the sender as “unde­liv­er­able” over the next day or so. You can keep track of the progress by sim­ply enter­ing your domain name here.

The hard­est step for me was set­ting up That’s just because the instruc­tions at Google are real­ly writ­ten for a typ­i­cal Gmail account, where as some of the set­tings are obvi­ous­ly slight­ly dif­fer­ent for your site. Basi­cal­ly, you’ll use all the same set­ting just with your own domain e‑mail in both the e‑mail address (well, duh!) and user­name fields. Also, don’t for­get to check the “Use SSL” box in the Advanced set­tings tab. Okay, I’m not even sure why that took me more than two min­utes to fig­ure out. There are instruc­tions for most com­mon desk­top e‑mail appli­ca­tions, as well.

So far, using G‑mail is great. I had to set up some rules in Mail to stick e‑mails I sent from my Gmail pan­el into the cor­rect “Sent” in mail. As of yet, I don’t know if there’s any way to get Mail and Gmail to sync such that a e‑mail delet­ed in one is removed in the oth­er. Chances are, that’s just ask­ing for too much. How­ev­er, hav­ing some very robust spam fil­ter­ing alone has been worth it (my spam has near­ly elim­i­nat­ed at this point). Fur­ther, I like the idea of not hav­ing to strug­gle to import or copy over e‑mail when switch­ing machines when that comes up again. It’ll always be sit­ting there on my Gmail accoun­t’s server.

I high­ly rec­om­mend using this solu­tion over two sep­a­rate e‑mail accounts or the desk­top-only or g‑mail-only approach. It real­ly is the best of both worlds. The only real hur­dle is hav­ing access to an e‑mail address for which you can change the DNS set­tings for and that’s most every­one I know now, to tell the truth. If not, then con­sid­er buy­ing a domain name on the cheap, will ya?

Update Oct. 24th, 2007 — Google is cur­rent­ly in the process of rolling out IMAP for Gmail. Unlike POP accounts, IMAP does sync var­i­ous changes across plat­forms. This means that read­ing or delet­ing an e‑mail in one place changes it in the oth­er. I can’t see why this solu­tion is now any­thing less than perfect.

Categorized as Geek

By Jason Coleman

Structural engineer and technical content manager Bentley Systems by day. Geeky father and husband all the rest of time.


  1. MX record changes (mail) can take quite some time, so yours was­n’t real­ly a fluke. I’ve seen DNS changes go almost instan­ta­neous­ly, though those were host­ed with Net­work Solu­tions. Godad­dy’s pret­ty fast, too. any­way, dur­ing MX record updates, it’s good to keep your old ones set, though with dif­fer­ing pri­or­i­ties, just some­thing high­er. 20 usu­al­ly does it, and you keep both mail sys­tems run­ning tem­porar­i­ly. typ­i­cal­ly, busi­ness changes like this are made over a week­end or hol­i­day. in 48–72 hours, you should be able to remove the old MX records as the new sys­tem should be receiv­ing all the new mail. keep­ing both mail serv­er sys­tems up until the MX record updates prop­a­gate helps pre­vent bounce mes­sages, again, more impor­tant in busi­ness envi­ron­ments than for per­son­al stuff.

    just a lit­tle extra info for you there

  2. I did­n’t want to say since I can’t remem­ber for sure, but I vague­ly remem­ber a col­league telling me about pri­or­i­ty 70 & 90 for old servers? appar­ent­ly more space between makes a larg­er dif­fer­ence. not sure how much truth there is to that…

  3. Thanks for the tip on using a dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ty set­ting for old e‑mail servers dur­ing the trans­fer. That seems like a real­ly good way to go about doing this. I was for­tu­nate in that I did­n’t seem to lose any impor­tant e‑mails (that or they got so angry they don’t speak to me any­more). How­ev­er, in a busi­ness set­ting, I can see that being a huge problem.

    I did­n’t see a lot of rhyme or rea­son to the pri­or­i­ty set­ting val­ues or how they relat­ed to one anoth­er. Then again, I did­n’t real­ly look into it much.

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