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How to Set Up Gmail

Gmail Setup for Google Business Apps

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This article presumes that you have already completed the basic setup for Google Business Apps and are ready to start setting up the various applications.

If not, see my articles:

How to Set Up Gmail for Google Business Apps

1) Step one of how to set up Gmail for Google Business Apps is to direct your domain's mail flow to Gmail. To do this, you need to switch your domain's MX records.

Google tries to be helpful here by providing a dropdown menu of domain hosts to choose from. If your domain host is listed in this dropdown menu, selecting it and clicking on the next button at the bottom of the screen will take you to a screen that provides detailed instructions on how to switch MX records at that provider, as in the example the Google Apps setup wizard provides for domain host 1&1.

Guess what? My domain host isn't on the dropdown list and chances are good yours isn't either. (To be fair, though, there must be thousands of them now; how could anyone list them all in one dropdown menu?)

So go to your domain host, whoever that might be, log in to your account, and go to the Control Panel or Administration section. Select 'Domain'. From there, look for 'DNS' and then 'Modify MX Record'. Once you've found the right location to do it, it's a simple matter to change the MX record so it points to ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.

Note Google's clever offer of help ("Want someone to do this for you? Get professional help from a Google Apps solutions provider.") at the bottom of the screen. The link will take you to Google's Marketplace where you'll find a list of companies offering to set up Google apps for you – for a fee.

However, you shouldn’t need to. I found this easy to do and it took only minutes. The Switch MX records instructions that Google provides are helpful examples even if your domain host, like mine, isn't listed.

2) What next? Seeing if it worked, of course. First, you are directed to go to your Google apps Dashboard, click on Activate mail, and click off the steps of Gmail setup you've completed to update your Dashboard. Once you've done this and refreshed the page, you should see that your Email status has changed to 'Updating'.

Once Google has verified your MX records, your Gmail status on your Dashboard page will change to 'Active' and you’ll be ready to send and receive email.

Be warned; it's not an instant process. The Google Apps setup wizard says that it can take up to 24 hours for the MX records at your domain host to start directing your email to Google’s servers.

You can check on progress, though, on the same page of the Google Apps setup wizard that directed you to update your Dashboard. Click on 'Setup' on the blue menu ribbon at the top of the page to return to the Google Apps setup wizard. Go to 'Check MX record status now' and enter your domain name in the lookup box. Being an impatient person, this is another feature of the Google Apps setup wizard that I really like.

3) Activate Postini Message Security.

If you chose to use Postini Message Security for Google Business Apps when you were choosing applications in the opening screens of Google Apps setup, you will need to activate it now.

I use Postini on another site and find it's a really good spam and virus filter so I definitely wanted to do this. However, trying to do this as I set up Gmail was a nightmare.

Note the warning on this page of the Google Apps setup wizard;

"Don't activate Postini here if you plan to use Google Apps with multiple domains (an option later in this wizard) or upgrade to Postini's Message Discovery (archiving) service. Instead, contact a Google Apps partner or sales manager about using Postini standalone services. See these guidelines before continuing with this step."

But if you, like me, are setting up your Google Apps for a single domain, do as directed by the Google Apps setup wizard. Go to your Dashboard, find 'Service Settings' and click on 'Add more services'. This will take you to a page where you will see Postini Services listed (among other Google services you may be interested in adding later). Click on 'Add it now' under Postini. You will see a yellow highlighted sentence appear at the top of the page that says, "Your settings have been saved".

Return to your Dashboard, and you’ll see that Postini Services are now listed under your Core Google Apps suite list but not active at this point. Click on 'Activate Postini Services'.

When you do this, you will be taken to a service agreement for Postini Services that you need to read and accept to use these email filtering services. Once again, this is not an instant process, but "may take up to one hour to complete" according to Google Apps.

At this point, I thought I was finished with setting up Postini. But no. This is only the first step. Working through the Google Apps setup wizard, you will discover that you now have to change your MX records yet again, this time to point to four different hosts in order of priority.

This would be easy except that apparently no one bothered to proofread the Setup Guide. Google provides totally wrong information about the servers, confusing the numbers 6 and 9 (for instance, telling you to input 's9a1.psmtp.com' at one point instead of the correct 's6a1. psmtp.com'). All four servers should have the number 6 in their names, not 9.

For the record, I discovered through trial and error that the correct server designations are (by priority number):

1 ---- YOURDOMAIN.COM.S6A1.PSMTP.COM
2 ---- YOURDOMAIN.COM.S6A2.PSMTP.COM
3 ---- YOURDOMAIN.COM.S6B1.PSMTP.COM
4 ---- YOURDOMAIN.COM.S6B2.PSMTP.COM

They also neglect to tell you in the documentation that the host name may need to be changed to @ rather than * - mine did. Lacking this information hung me up for the better part of a week, as the MX record changes can take up to 48 hours to take effect.

I thought I would never get Postini up and running; I couldn’t seem to get past the 'Postini is updating' message on my Google Business Apps dashboard. The only reason I persevered is that I am extremely stubborn and was determined to find out why it wasn't working.

4) Set up web browser Gmail access.

The ability to access email from any web browser is one of the attractions of Gmail for me. This page of Gmail setup shows you your Gmail address – one of those clunky your-domain-appended-to-someone-else's-domain email addresses, but fortunately, you can customize it to both make it easier to remember and look more professional.

For instance, instead of being stuck with the Gmail address http://mail.google.com/a/yourdomain.com, you can customize it to http://mail.yourdomain.com.

5) Customize your Gmail address.

To customize your email address, click on the 'Extend and customize' heading in the vertical menu on the left side of the screen in the Google Apps setup wizard.

This will take you to a screen that presents a variety of setup options:

  • Add Marketplace apps
  • Use the Chrome browser
  • Create custom web addresses
  • Add domains

Check 'create custom web addresses' and hit 'Next' to be taken to an instructions screen for Gmail setup.

First click on 'Settings' in the blue menu strip at the top of the screen.

From the list of Services on the menu on the left side of the page, choose 'Email'. Click the 'General' tab under the Email settings heading if necessary to bring it to the forefront.

Then click on 'Change URL' (the blue hyperlink in the Web Address box at the top of the page).

You will be taken to a page where you can simplify your email address. When you do this, you need to change the CNAME record with your domain host. Clicking the radio button to accept the customized mail address will take you to a page with instructions for changing the CNAME record.

Basically, what you need to do is go to your domain host's DNS management page, find the CNAME settings and enter the CNAME information as listed on the instructions page in the Google Apps setup wizard. In my case, this was really easy because the CNAME record information was in the same place as the MX record that needed to be modified in an earlier step of Gmail setup. Hopefully yours is easy to find too.

When you've done this, click on "I’ve completed these steps" at the bottom of the Google Apps setup wizard page and voila! The Service Settings page that comes up should show your new customized email address under 'Email' and you're ready to start sending and receiving.

My grade for Google Apps for Business Email Setup – C. Google's instructions on mail setup were clear and logical, until the part about activating Postini but once again, I got dumped into a dead end when I tried to access the Settings menu so I could customize my email address and nothing happened. The next day when I came back to the link, it worked. But wonkiness is never desirable when you have a business to run.

I would have given the Gmail setup itself a B but the Postini problem ruined the process for me.

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