How to Setup Zoho Free Email Hosting (Google Apps & Outlook Custom Domain alternative)

After shuttering Microsoft Outlook for Custom Domain there only a few options remaining for free email hosting. One of the most reliable option is Zoho Mail. This service is provided by Zoho and already been featured on various top blogs and news sites. However, Zoho do not provide as much as features as Outlook and Google Apps provided but it has some unique features also which can’t be expected in a free email hosting solution for personal and small business. One of the key feature is Ad free interface. The storage for free accounts are just 5GB/user but they do provide POP3/IMAP support. So if the space is not enough for you then you may send and receive emails from other services like GMail, Outlook or Yahoo mail. Initially, free signups comes with 5 free accounts (if you have a domain). Which can be further increased to 20 by inviting 3 business signups. With each successful invites 5 accounts will be added for lifetime.

Previously, Microsoft Outlook for custom domain was top in providing free email hosting since November 2005. But Microsoft shutter the service to promote Office365, which is a paid service. I had wrote about setting up Outlook Custom Domain but since the free option is no longer available people started asking me about hidden tricks to get it for free. Frankly, this is not possible to signup for free email hosting at Outlook for new domains. Not only this but if you already have active service then soon you will not be able to add more users to those domains.

Since the two biggest players, including Google Apps for free and Microsoft custom domain, ended the free email hosting for domains. So, what are the options? I have discussed this in my previous post. The only most reliable service, as available now, is Zoho Mail. And in this post I will share how to setup Zoho mail for free email hosting.

Setup Zoho Mail for free email hosting

It’s really easy to setup up for free Zoho mail for your domain. You can do this by yourself. For any clarification or help ping me in forums or on social media.

1. Choose Plan:
Visit ZohoMail Pricing page and choose “Free” option. You may also choose your preferred currency. [At Zoho Free plan is also called “Lite Plan”.] Hit the “Signup” button to get started.

Zoho Mail Pricing Chart
Zoho Mail Pricing Table

2. Add Your Domain
Now, You have to provide your domain name. Unlike Google Apps you must have a domain name. Fill your domain name and hit “Add domain”. If you opt any paid plan you may buy a domain from Zoho also, right below the following form:

 

Note: You would not be able to add more domains to your free account.

3. Signup an Account
On the next page you will have to create your first account and verify your existing contact email address. This contact email is required to activate your account and reset your admin password, in case you forget in future. Check the image below.

Create admin account
Now, add information about the admin or webmaster of the businnes

This will be another simple form asking for name, email, username for your custom domain, and password for that. Once you satisfy click on signup.

On the next page you will be asked verify your domain. Also an email will reach to your email address. Verify the email id by clicking the unique link. Meantime, do not close the signup previous “congratulation” page.

4. Verify your E-Mail Id
Go to your email account and verify your email account.

verify email
Zoho email id verification mail

5. Verify your domain

zoho-mail-verify-domain
Now click the “Proceed to verify domain ownership” link. If you can’t to see this page, go to mail.zoho.com and hit “Access Mail” a red button on the top-right of the page. on the next page there will be a link.

Choose CNAME method to verify your domain ownership.

On this page, you will also have DNS provider specific guide. You may select the option using dropdown. At the time of writing this tutorial Godaddy, 1 and 1, Enom, Euro DNS, WordPress, cPanel, Bluehost, Open SRS – Squarespace, Network Solutions, Name.com and Register.com were in the list.

 

Domain Verification Options
Here comes the tough part (not really :P). If you have done this before then you will easily configure it. Else, proceed with caution. There are three ways to verify your domain.

  1. Add CNAME record
  2. Add a TXT record
  3. Upload an html file.

The first two options will take time. It may takes a few hours ( but sometimes take up to 48hrs or sometimes more). The third option will be instant. But you will probably need a web hosting and know how to upload the file to the root directory of the domain.

Depending on your condition choose an option. Don’t forget there is a small dropdown for help. If your DNS provider is listed there then you may check the help article, in case you need.

If you stuck at any point or unable to configure Zoho mail. Join our forum and start a fresh topic. I will help you to configure. If you are out of time or these things complex then you may hire me to do all these things.

However, I will choose the first method to show you how to do that.

7. Verify domain using CNAME (under cPanel)

Domain Setup

The domain I added is hosted on HostGator and the DNS (hostgator provides) is also managed from the cPanel.

I have simply signed in to HostGator cPanel and hit the “Advanced DNS Zone Editor”. You will find this option under “Domains” section. Select the domain from drop-down menu and fill the details as zoho asked you to do so. [Check the image below and above one. See how I added]

cPanel add cname
Create CNAME under cPanel DNS manager

Now add the CNAME. Now we will have to wait for a few hours.

After sometime, go to the same page (zoho domain verification) and hit “Verify” button. Once, the account is verified you will see a message saying “You have successfully verified ownership of gplthemes.org. Enter a username below to create your administrator email account:” Your first account will be prefilled. Simply check for any typo and proceed to setup MX records.

Set MX record to send and receive Emails from custom domain

Now hit “Next” > “Next” a page saying “Change MX record”. Read the page carefully. You will be asked to setup MX record. If I am not wrong then the MX record should be same (or at least similar) as below:

MX Records
Zoho mail MX records. You will need to add these records to your domain.

Again if you are using cPanel then find and click “MX Entry” under “Mail” section as shown below.

HostGator.com Control Panel
Mail setup options under cPanel

1. Now add the 2 MX records one by one.
2. Change the “Email Routing” to “Remote Mail Exchanger”
3. Make sure to delete any default entry if there is any.

cPanel X4
MX Records setup under cPanel

Now you have completed the setup for Email Hosting.

Remember, like CNAME we added earlier, it will take up to 48 hrs. (or sometimes more) to work.

If you want to receive emails in your Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo or Mobile devices then the following details you will need. For any Configuration related problem visit forums.

POP and SMTP settings for Zoho mail
Incoming Server Settings:

Incoming Server Name: pop.zoho.com
Port: 995
Require SSL: Yes

Outgoing Server Settings:

Outgoing Server Name: smtp.zoho.com
Port: 465
Require SSL: Yes
Require Authentication: Yes