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Reference: Email-Hosted at Google

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March 2014


For just over 29 years, RidgeStar has been operating it's own in-house Mail Server providing generalized Email support for it's clients (as generally described in this Area of the RidgeStar website). Along with this, we've also been heavily involved in the ongoing battle with SPAM, with our most recent efforts focused on use of the Cloudmark Authority.

Generally, the approach has worked, but the ongoing support efforts and increasingly problematic SPAM has caused us to re-evaluate the benefits of operating a stand-alone Mail Server. For this reason, we have begun exploring how we can continue to provide domain based Email for our clients, but where the actual Mail Server is hosted elsewhere (and, in theory, doing a better job of keeping current with the SPAM battle than we can).

Popular Mail Servers

The Internet and services available therein is, by it's very nature, a dynamic and changing environment. That said, there are a few, reasonably stable Mail Server operators that have gradually gained sufficient traction that we can state with some certainty that they will remain active for the forseeable future.

We have great respect for many of them including, but not limited to, Microsoft's Outlook.comGoing (the old HotMail), Yahoo MailGoing, and Google's GMailGoing. As of the date of this document, they all offer what is essentially free (as in no-charge) Mail Accounts for individuals. But, to provide support for "hosted Email Domains", the policies for pricing are in a transition (meaning, some are free, some charge a monthly or annual fee).

While RidgeStar does not currently recommend any of these over the others, we have (for our own purposes) elected to utilize Google's GMail for our experiment in shifting to an alternate Mail Server. The remainder of this page discusses the process a RidgeStar Client can follow to coordinate the shifting of a RidgeStar "hosted Email Domain" to utilizing GMail as it's Mail Server (mail.google.com) instead of the RidgeStar in-house Mail Server (mail.ridgestar.com).

Step 1. Review your current Email Domain Definitions

Most RidgeStar clients can click to Administrator: RidgeStar-Email on their site (or equivalent) and review the mail server definitions currently in effect at mail.ridgestar.com for their Domain. You'll want to make sure that these are the definitions that you DO want replicated in GMail.

There IS a Google monthly or annual charge for each USER in GMail (an Email account) that you define. Thus, make sure you actually need and want each of these, as it will impact your Google based billing.

GMail Aliases and Groups (Forwarders) do not have a charge associated with them (although there is a limit on the number that can be defined).

Step 2. Sign up for Google Apps for Business

It is possible to utilize the "free GMail" with a non-hosted domain name (e.g. example@gmail.com), but this document assumes you would like GMail to service your "hosted Email Domain" directly (e.g. example@ridgestar.com) and have it appear to all other Email users as if the Google Mail Server IS your Domain Mail Server.

To configure GMail to support your own Domain, you'll need to sign up for Google Apps for BusinessGoing. This will establish your business or organization as a "business" within the Google environment (with access to several Google services, including GMail). It is our understanding that you will have to have at least one Google User defined to Google Apps (to act as the Administrator and repository for other Alias and Group definitions). If you have no POP3 type accounts in your domain, we recommend you define this as webmaster@{domain-name}.

There are a variety of technical elements that must be completed including Verification of Domain ownership, changing of DNS entries, defining GMail equivalents for Email elements (Forwarders, Aliases, etc.). RidgeStar will (if you choose) establish your Google Apps for Business account (on your behalf) and initialize GMail to start the 30 day free trial (coordinating changes needed in DNS with the Google Apps Setup). Thereafter, YOU will be responsible for the administration of the Google Apps for Business account.

Google expects (prior to the end of the 30 day trial) that you will provide Billing information directly to Google using the Administrative account set up to manage the Google Apps service.

Step 3. Verify your Google provided Email service

Once the technical implementation is complete, you should spend the time to verify that the various Aliases and Groups (Forwarders) operate as you intend. And, of course, you'll want to change any Email clients you may be using from the Server definitions for mail.ridgestar.com to the corresponding elements at mail.google.com

It's important to note that we (RidgeStar) WILL help you understand GMail concepts and assist you to make sure your website continues to utilize Email appropriately. BUT, Google will look to YOU to make sure that your usage of GMail complies with all their applicable policies (with respect to SPAM initiation, etc.). So...while we'll happily help, if a Google Email related policy does not meet with your desires, there's not much we can do about it.

Simply stated, it's our recommendation that you comply with all applicable policies.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I initiate the shift from mail.ridgestar.com to another service?
Contact your RidgeStar Account Representative.

It is NOT currently required that you shift away from mail.ridgestar.com (we do plan to continue to operate the Mail Server for the forseeable future), but we recognize the value associated with shifting a Hosted Email Domain to one of the dominant Email vendors.

How long does the change from mail.ridgestar.com to mail.google.com take?
If your DNS is directly managed by RidgeStar, it can normally be technically accomplished in a couple of hours.

Plan on about a 24 hour interval to permit DNS propagation to occur throughout the Internet, which is required for arriving Email to end up in the appropriate Inbox. For this interval, you'll want to continue checking both mail.ridgestar.com as well as starting to monitor GMail. At the end of the interval, RidgeStar will literally remove your Email Domain and corresponding definitions from mail.ridgestar.com (assuming all is operating at GMail, as expected).

What are the typical Server settings for my Email Client to work with GMail?
GMail offers several ways to contact it using an Email client, but the following work effectively for our usage:
  • For receiving Email: ServerType=IMAP, ServerName=imap.googlemail.com, Port=993, Security=SSL/TLS.
  • For sending Email: ServerType=SMTP, ServerName=smtp.googlemail.com, Port=465, Security=SSL/TLS.
What happens to my RidgeStar annual bill after I change to GMail?
The RSU totals will decline by the appropriate amount for each POP3, Forwarder, Alias, and Group that is removed from mail.ridgestar.com. Additionally, bandwidth RSUs associated with Email traffic will also be reduced. However, whether or not that will cause your RidgeStar Tier to go down (as well as the corresponding fee) is completely dependent upon the specific RSU reduction and the average RSU position with the Tier.

There will never be an "increase" in the RidgeStar billing amount, as the RSU totals will always be less.

Can I still Bulk Email from my website?
Yes, via an alternate service.

Your site based Email transmissions will need to travel via a RidgeStar controlled domain (such as @ridgestar.com). This is because GMail requires "third party apps" (which is how it describes your website) to utilize a verification scheme that is unsupported by Feature=BulkMail. Contact your RidgeStar Account Representative for help with how to configure your Bulk Mail operation.

Why did RidgeStar pick GMail instead of the other available options?
We admit it. We're fans of an awful lot of the coding and design the Google folks do. There were other providers that cost less, but we didn't think Google's fees were out of line (especially when we considered how much time, energy, money, and frustration we were spending on an annual basis wrestling with SPAM).

Our initial testing with our own domains was very encouraging and we have nothing except compliments and admiration for GMail's effectiveness in the SPAM wars. That doesn't mean that the others work less effectively...only that our experience has been quite positive with GMail.

Anything I should be careful about shifting to GMail?
We have had some heavy usage of GMail exceed allowable limits that are in place within GMail. When/if this happens, you'll need to contact Google to determine what you can and cannot do (we have no control over the limitations that Google may or may not place on GMail accounts).

That said, if you're exceeding what Google thinks are permissable usage patterns, we'd encourage you to really evaluate whether whatever you're doing is the best way to accomplish what you're trying to achieve.

What if I have more questions about website integration that aren't answered here?
Simple. Contact your RidgeStar Account Representative (open a Ticket or initiate Email, as you find most appropriate).
Updated: 14 February 2020