Over the last two years, Baby-Green and the other domains that I host have been using the email service provided by the hosting provider. This worked fine because it allowed for inbox access via POP3 using Outlook or any other client, allowed us to connect via mobile devices using POP3 and allowed us web access using a rudimentary web access client which I don’t really think any of us used.
About six months ago, I discovered a service from Microsoft called Windows Live Domains.
This service allows you to use Hotmail and associated Windows Live services under your own domain branding, so in my case, allowing me to use the functionality of Hotmail but with a Baby-Green email address.
The setup of this is fairly simple. First off, you need to register at http://domains.live.com. Once you are registered, you can associate your domain names and begin configuring the DNS records.
The configuration is simple Ã¢â‚¬â€œ You need to as a minimum add a CNAME record and an MX record, however you can optionally create a TXT record and some additional CNAME records for other services. In my implementation, I produced a total of seven records per domain, however the whole process took no more to complete than five minutes.
As a recommendation to anyone doing this, I would plan ahead. I adjusted the TTL on my DNS Zone’s records from 24 hours down to 2 hours about a week before the switchover. This ensured that I wasn’t going to run into issues with old cached MX records etc and emails getting lost in transit.
Additionally, you can provision your accounts ahead of time so that once you enter the new MX records you don’t loose any email in the switchover.
My biggest concern was for existing Windows Live accounts. I’ve been using my Richard Baby-Green email address for about four years now and over that time, I’ve come to use Zune, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live SkyDrive, Windows Live Sync, Microsoft MyPhone, TechNet, MSDN, Microsoft Connect and lots more Microsoft services. I was worried that entering my address into the Live Domains console would wipe out my old Live account and create a new one, however Microsoft have this covered.
If a Live ID already exists for the address you specify, you are given the choice of delete the existing account and then create a new one, or you can import the existing Live ID. This is perfect because it allows me to retain all my existing services and subscriptions but with the addition of the mail features through Hotmail.
My timing for this change couldn’t have been more crucial either. Microsoft recently removed the auto-signature that Hotmail used to add to emails promoting people to get a Hotmail account, which means it’s now a fully fledged ad-free experience for us (except the web banners but that’s ok). Microsoft have been touting of late the Exchange ActiveSync for Hotmail and Friday last week it got officially announced and enabled globally for all users. See my post on it here – Hotmail Adds Exchange ActiveSync
Having used the service Thursday for one domain and Friday and over the weekend for all my domains, I can safely say it works and I’m really happy with the change.
UPDATE: When migrating, if you encounter problems with emails going to junk items then you may want to follow the steps here: http://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/1695095/hotmail-delivery-tips-sender-id-spf. I was finding all emails from me going to other peoples junk items, and the reason is because my email was originating from a different server than before, it appears as a spoof or spam email to the remote party.