How to use Gmail with your custom domain for free/cheap


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Gmail with your custom domain name

Google Gsuite is great, but it currently charges 6$ per month per users. This doesn’t sound like much, but if you consider non-profit use cases in think the long term, it really adds up. Many people have purchased family domains, but when you start adding your children, parents, or siblings you may suddenly find your self spending hundreds of dollars per year on email. For a non-business use this really doesn’t make sense, but on the other hand nobody want’s email services that are inferior to Gmail.

Luckily there are cheaper and even free solutions to using your own domain name with Gmail.

Pobox.com (recommended)

Pobox has been offering email forwarding services for decades, ever since the 90’s. It is a single purpose service specialized in this single task, they have a long track record and they been able to do this with business profits. They are an email partner worth your trust.

Their Pobox Plus plan costs 35$ per year and it gives you up to 40 total email addresses. In my personal setup I currently have 3 users so the cost per user is 11.6$ / year, while Gsuite would be 18$ per month.

Pobox.com has a comprehensive documentation database that explain all the necessary changes you need to make to your domain in order to start receiving and forwarding mail to your Gmail account. Pobox also offers SMTP services for sending mail, which you need to configure in your mail. They also have adjustable spam filters and other useful features. Overall it takes about 30 minutes to configure so you are using your own domain in no time. Their forwarding is very quick and emails are delivered almost instantly. Email deliverability has been excellent as well.

I have been using Pobox for a few months now with decent email volumes, and this is currently my top pick for setting up your custom domain with Gmail.

forwardemail.net (It’s free!)

Forward Email is a free and open source project that deserves your attention. Their source code is available at GitHub and the service is offered free of cost. Of course when the price is free it comes without any warrant and is offered as best effort. The service developers and administrators use it for their own purposes, thus they want it to work well, but that’s it. Therefore this would not be my choice for business, but it should be perfectly suitable for many personal or hobby use cases.

This project is currently a best-effort service, however note that the creators of this service also use it themselves – so you can expect reliability and security. However this is not a binding nor enforceable SLA and again, this is a best-effort service.

Forward Email has also done a good job on documenting the setup process, for Gmail and other purposes.

Use any POP3 mailbox service

Gmail can be configured to fetch and send email from other mailboxes that support POP3 receiving and SMTP for sending. There are a million email services providers out there and many domain services offer a mailbox to go with your domain or as a cheap extra service. MXRoute.com is one excellent low cost email service to check out.

The downside of POP3 based solution vs. email forwarding is that Gmail has a lengthy delay in fetching mails. The frequency of mail fetching depends on the number of emails you receive, but in typical cases Gmail picks up new mail from an external box only once or twice per hour. This is really slow and quite annoying as email is often used as a notification method and for registering to services.

Wrap up

Some may argue that a POP3 based solution would be more reliable that email forwarding, but at least with PoBox my experience has been the opposite. Emails have been sent and received reliably. What ever you do with your email, it is recommended that you test your email sending by using mail-tester.com or a similar service. You should be scoring at least 9 out of 10.