Configuring Google Apps for Your Domain

In my previous post here, I went into the steps needed to bring up a Microsoft Live Exchange Labs environment.

Previously we had discussed the different options available when it came to hosted E-mail here.

Setting up a Google environment can be done it one of two ways. You can choose to maintain your existing domain to which e-mail is currently being delivered to or you can setup a completely new one like

Allowing to pilot their offering using your existing domain sets you up for an easier migration path, if you choose to go with Google and this is the path which will be described below.

Once again after receiving a requested invitation from Google, we proceed to re-route e-mail.

Pilot Google Apps with email routing instructions are here.

Once you have verified your domain proceed to create an additional MX record in your DNS pointing to your existing mail server. This will be needed because as you route all your mail to Google, they will need to send e-mail back your way to accounts that do not exist in Google Apps.

  • DNS Record Type: MX
  • Host:
  • MX server: (your E-mail server “A” record)
  • TTL: 3600 or 1 hour
  • Priority: 0 (or High priority)

Setup Google to route e-mail back to your server.

  • Navigate to the Email settings page in the control panel. In the Email routing section, the default destination is Google Apps Email.
  • Click Add another destination to set up mail routing for your other system.
  • Enter the MX record you created previously.
  • Deliver mail for: Select Unknown accounts only to route mail to email addresses that don’t exist in your Google Apps account.
  • Change SMTP envelope: Uncheck the box since your other mail system is already configured to receive mail addressed to this domain.
  • Save changes

Then you will need to change your MX records to route e-mail sent to your domain to Google mail servers.

Your configuration would go from something like this:

  • DNS Record Type: MX
  • Host:
  • MX server: (your E-mail server “A” record)
  • TTL: 3600 or 1 hour
  • Priority: 0 (or High priority)

to this

Priority Mail Server

You are all set. As you create accounts in Google Apps, e-mail will be routed to their servers and e-mail will be delivered to those accounts. Any accounts non-existent will be routed back to the original e-mail server.

The diagram below makes it easier to understand.

Again there are lots of customizations including adding CNAME entries to your DNS allowing you to change the URL users will use to access e-mail and all the other options.


Configuring Microsoft Windows Live Exchange Labs

When it comes to decision making having data to make the right choice is paramount.

Creating a pilot program provides invaluable feedback from users as to the functionalities that a specific product provides and making them part of the selection process improves the success of a project greatly.

Today we will be looking at Microsoft’s e-mail hosted solution, more specifically Exchange Labs which is described in detail in a previous post here.

Once you get an invitation from Microsoft which you have to request, you will go to their administrative console After the domain is created, the game beings and we start playing with DNS records. We will address BIND specific configurations, but these same settings will apply to other DNS servers.

The easiest way to begin is to setup a new zone named

An MX record will need to be created pointing to the domain and the specific entry will be provided by the administrator console.

  • DNS Record Type: MX
  • Host:
  • MX server:
  • TTL: 3600 or 1 hour
  • Priority: 0 (or High priority)

Create a CNAME entry to allow Outlook 2007 client to connect to Exchange Labs.

  • DNS Record Type: CNAME
  • Host: autodiscover
  • Value:

Configure Sender ID to allowing destination mail servers to trust mail originating from your domain using the Sender Policy Framework (SPF).

  • DNS Record Type: TXT
  • Host:
  • Value: v=spf1 ~all
  • TTL: 3600 or 1 hour (if requested)

Finally if you want to have federated Windows Live Messenger access, you will need to create a SRV record.

  • DNS Record Type: SRV
  • Host:
  • Value: 10 2 5061

Now to test the configuration you can use DNSWatch to test your records to see how the world sees your servers. Keep in mind that it could take hours for your records to propagate throughout the Internet.

Finally there are several options for you to customize the look and feel of your hosted e-mail.

You will be able to reach the site by going to or you can enter an additional CNAME entry in your DNS which is more significant to you and point it to

Apparently creating multiple administrator accounts cannot be done easily on the administrative website, but rather using a tool called PowerShell and promoting existing user accounts. Further limitations include that PowerShell will only run on Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008.

Instructions on doing this are here and here.


Outsourcing E-mail

Higher Education and K-12 institutions have always either lead in the IT field with innovative solutions or been way behind in technology to the point of not having any.

Open source has always been an option, although generally for the technically inclined but several years ago the big guys (Google and Microsoft), brought hosted E-mail offerings to the table that would out perform any locally installed solution and without a price tag associated with it.

A new player recently entered the market with their very attractive offering. ZCS from Zimbra.

Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS) is a groupware product created by Zimbra Inc., located in San Mateo, California, USA. The company was purchased by Yahoo! in September 2007.[1]. The software consists of both client and server components. Two versions of Zimbra are available: an open-source version, and a commercially supported version (“Zimbra Network”) with closed-source components. These software versions are available from Zimbra for download and independent use, from Zimbra-authorized partners, and included with service from a Zimbra-authorized hosting provider.

So what are the options?

  1. Outsource
    1. Google Apps for Education
    2. Microsoft’s Live@edu Service
    3. Zimbra’s Hosted Collaboration Suite
  2. Maintain/deploy in-house

Even thought there are legitimate issues with outsourcing, like privacy of e-mails, loosing control over the capability to access logs in case of an incident and ads displayed to the constituents amongst others; the option to provide this same level of service in-house is not economically feasible.

Lets take a look what these services offer:

Features Google Apps Microsoft Live@edu Zimbra
Mailbox size 7.1Gb 10Gb 7Gb
Attachment size 20Mb 20Mb 25Mb
Calendar (Private) Yes Yes Yes
Calendar (Public) Yes Yes No
CalDav compliant calendaring Yes No Yes
Docs Yes Yes Yes
Spreadsheet Yes Yes No
Presentation Yes No No
Forms Yes No No
Messaging/Chat Yes No Yes
Offline Feature Yes No No
Workplace No Yes No
Shared Drive No 5Gb No
SMS Scheduling Yes No No
SMS Notification Yes Yes No
POP3 Yes Yes Yes
IMAP Yes Yes Yes
Access other accounts Yes N/A Yes
Folders No Yes Yes
Labels Yes No No
Threaded conversations Yes No Yes
Rules and filters Yes Yes Yes
Built-In protection (Legal) N/A Yes N/A
Apple Support Yes No No
Spam Rating 10 7 7
Integration Rating 10 7 8
Site Management 9 8 8
Widgets/Web 2.0 Mash-up framework Yes No Planned
Mobile Apps (BB, iPhone, etc.) Yes No No
Data Portability (move you data to another solution) Yes Limited Yes
Backups No Optional Optional
Web Site/Portal Yes Yes No
University Domain Yes Yes Yes

Microsoft and Google are free provided that they can display ads for alumni and Zimbra costs $2 per year per student.


Microsoft Live@edu:

Microsoft Live@edu video
Live@edu with Exchange Labs
Web Collaboration

Google Apps for Education:

Google Apps video


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