For New Users|How to Set Up Email Hosting on Alibaba Cloud and Sign up Alibaba Cloud Free Trial

How to Set Up Email Hosting on Alibaba Cloud



This tutorial explains how to set up email hosting on an Alibaba Cloud server. We walk through all of the steps involved in setting up email hosting, so that you can send and receive email via addresses linked to a domain name that you have already purchased.

Prerequisites
To follow this tutorial, you'll need an Alibaba Cloud account. If you don't already have one, head to www.alibabacloud.com and sign up. To help you try out the facilities you'll find a range of free trials there.

Background
Getting a new business or any other venture online is widely understood to mean creating a website for it. There are a number of key steps involved, which can be summarized as follows:

Register a domain name such as my-new-venture.com
Set up a server to host the website, using a cloud-based provider such as Alibaba Cloud.
On the control panel provided by the company that you registered the domain name through, set the DNS entry (Domain Name System) for your website. This creates the link between the domain name you registered and the IP address of your web server. It ensures that, when someone types www.my-new-venture.com into their browser, the web server will receive the request and can send web pages to it.
Build the website on the server. You would typically do this by installing a web server program such as Apache, and then installing a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress that allows you to log in and create the pages of your site.
However, creating an online presence for a new venture by building just a website is omitting one key item: what about email? When someone types www.my-new-venture.com into their browser they'll see your website. But if someone sends an email to sales@my-new-venture.com where will the message end up? By default, the answer is generally "nowhere at all". Incoming emails will bounce, which means that the sender will receive an error message saying that their message couldn't be delivered. Similarly, you won't be able to send email from your new domain either.

Until you set up your email, your business is not really fully online. Clearly this is a problem that you need to rectify.

You could, of course, just sign up with a free web-based email service. But it looks unprofessional if your marketing material lists your website as www.my-new-venture.com but your email address is john.smith.6472@some-free-email-provider.com. It would be much better if your email address could be john.smith@my-new-venture.com.

Once your website hosting is up and running, you really need to set up your email hosting too. This will let you send and receive email via your domain name. You can set up as many email accounts (also known as mailboxes) as you want. And you can set separate usernames and passwords for each one, so that different team members or employees can use their company email account without it being visible to anyone else.

One option is to sign up with a commercial email hosting provider. However, this can prove expensive because you typically have to pay a monthly fee for each user's mailbox, and larger mailboxes (capable of holding more messages) are more expensive. But by setting up your own email server you can have as many mailboxes or email accounts as you want, and each can be as large as you wish, so long as your server has sufficient disk space.

How Email Hosting Works
As discussed above, web hosting comprises three main components: a domain name, a web server to host the content, and a DNS entry that links the two together. The process starts when someone (anyone, anywhere in the world) types your website's address into their browser. The browser first makes a connection to the worldwide DNS database to look up the IP address of the web server associated with that domain name. Next, the browser makes a connection to that IP address and sends a command to the web server, asking for a specific page. The web server then sends the requested page to the browser and it's displayed on the screen.

Email hosting, in order to be able to receive incoming messages, works in a similar way. When someone sends an email message to john.smith@my-new-venture.com, their email program consults the DNS database to find out the IP address of the email server for my-new-venture.com (which may or not be the same as the web server for the same domain name). The email program then connects to the email server and sends the message, along with details of which of the server's users it is for (John Smith in this case). The email server stores the message. Later, when John wants to read his email, he uses his email program to log in to the email server using his allocated username and password. The server will then display all the incoming messages that have been received for him.

As you can see, the DNS system isn't just for linking domain names with web servers. It also creates the links for email servers, so that they can receive incoming mail for the domain. It works because there are multiple record types. The so-called "A" record (which stands for Address) is how you specify the address of a web server that corresponds to a domain name. Similarly, an "MX" record (which stands for Mail Exchange) specifies the address of the domain's mail server.

If you want your email hosting and web hosting on the same server, you simply set your domain's A record (specifically the A record for www.my-new-venture.com in this case) and MX record to the same IP address. If you want to host your email somewhere else, just change the MX record.

In addition to being able to receive incoming email for your domain, you also need to be able to send mail too. We do this via SMTP, or the Simple Mail Transport Protocol. When you send an email, your email program connects to the SMTP service that your email server is configured to use. You can run your own SMTP service on your mail server, in addition to using the server for receiving incoming mail. Or you can configure the mail server to connect to a third-party SMTP service, and send outgoing messages via that third-party system.

It's generally not a good idea to run your own SMTP service. It takes a long time for the world's anti-spam systems to build up sufficient levels of trust in order to accept messages from a new one. Pointing your email server at a commercial SMTP relay service shortcuts this process and makes it much more likely that mail you send from your domain will be immediately delivered to recipients rather than being flagged as possible spam.

Get Started
Now that we have covered the basics of how to send and receive email, let's go ahead and set it all up. We'll register a domain name for our new venture and configure the ability for it to send and receive email. We won't create a website for our new venture, but if you want to do this too, you can refer to this tutorial.

We will use the free email server software called hMailServer, which runs under Windows. We first need to create a Windows server instance on Alibaba Cloud to host it. The hMailServer program will handle incoming mail directly (once we've set our domain name's MX record to point to it). Rather than installing SMTP on our Windows server, in order to send messages, we'll point hMailServer at a third-party SMTP service.

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Alibaba Cloud Free Trial: How to Sign up and Get Started



About the Free Trial
Before we start this trial, you must also comply with the following Terms and Conditions to access your Free Trial:

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Users that pass the Company Real Name Registration verification process are eligible for the Enterprise Free Trial. Those who have already joined our Individual Free Trial are not eligible for the Enterprise Free Trial.
Once you have created an Alibaba Cloud account, your free trial can be used to access products from the free trial campaign page.

The free trial for Elastic Compute Service (ECS) is valid for up to 12 months, and the credits for trialing other Pay-As-You-Go products are valid for 60 days.

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You can also put your credit towards getting started on Alibaba Cloud's always free products:

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First, let's look at how to sign up for a free account, add a payment method, and start using Alibaba Cloud's extensive range of products and services.



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