I’ve been around the e-mail block a few times. I’ve used Google apps with Gmail, Office 365, and Outlook.com. Outlook.com seems to have a pretty interesting offering I’ve been happy with so after a lot of going around trying to figure out some of how it works, I decided to share some of my discoveries.
There are some blogs that say use domains.live.com to register a new account with Outlook.com. Stop. Don’t do it. Why? Because you’ll only get to register that one e-mail address, verifying others will be impossible. Plus I’ve discovered, it’s not really the “right” way to do things. Domains.live.com is likely only around for legacy reasons.
So what’s the right way?
If you want to host your own domain there are a few options. These days Office 365 and Google Apps are your best “business class” options. Both are great. However, your Google Apps account will be a Google account like any other home google account, with access to the same services as any normal Google user. Microsoft decided not to do that, so in the Microsoft world, you have two choices for e-mail:
* Microsoft accounts: These are evolutions from previous microsoft account types. Such as live.com, hotmail.com, msn.com. Microsoft has made many attempts at a single sign in (much like Google has) and this is the current term for them. You can also have a domain based account through domains.live.com much like you could with Google. This service isn’t available any longer to non-paying customers with Google. However, Google doesn’t have the dual accounts paradigm that Microsoft does.
* Office 365 accounts: These are domain based accounts which you’ll use do sign into office 365. It it useful only within the Office365 realm that you create when you have the service. Also, multiple sign on doesn’t work so well so if you have two Office 365 accounts to sign in at once, you’ll need to create a separate browser session.
What does Office 365 have?
With even a basic Office 365 account (NOT counting Home Premium, that is a weird service not really related to Office 365 at all). You get
* Domain based e-mails
* Webmail with mail, calendar, contacts, etc
* Your own web hosting service
* Lync messaging within your business or domain
* Onedrive for Business (which is basically just a Sharepoint filesystem NOT linked to consumer Onedrive at all)
* Internal Sharepoint site
* Powershell integration so you can script creation and reporting commands
* 5 downloads of MS Office per user (with Small Business Premium)
* Office Online (Microsoft’s answer to Google Apps…which was Google’s answer to Office)
* Mobile integration is just exchange. Though they have a neat iPad/iPhone app: OWA.
* 2 factor authentication only for Midsize plans or higher.
* Supports Exchange, IMAP, and POP
* Real support
* 99.9% uptime guarantee
For e-mails it’s pretty much just Hosted Exchange:
* Shared mailboxes
* Distribution lists (external, or forced internal only)
* All the aliases you want for users
So if you’re wanting to host your domain there, that’s what you get for your money. Unfortunately it’s overkill for me in some areas and lacking in others.
What does Outlook.com have?
* Outlook.com mail app for Android
* 2 factor authentication
* Webmail with mail, calendar, contacts, etc
* Supports Activesync, IMAP, and POP
* Chat integration with Skype, Google Chat, and Facebook
It’s a lot less, but the important things for me were:
* The android app
* Skype integration
* The webmail for Outlook.com just seems better.
In other words, Outlook seems tailored for the home user, using Office 365 can be an awkward fit.
So how DO you use outlook.com with your own domain?
Really the best way is to go to your domain registrar and use a forwarding service. If not use one from someone like dyn.com or dnsmadeeasy.com. Neither require you host the domain there, and they have ok rates. Otherwise you could set up your own, but I’m guessing you’re trying to get out of the hosting your own e-mail business if you’re reading this. I use name.com which suits my needs.
So create a normal outlook.com account (Which is really a Microsoft Account) with a name of your choice. The beauty is you can your account name very easily, and if you verify your e-mail, you can actually switch your account to use that e-mail to log in. This is why using domains.live.com isn’t really with it.
Once you log into your outlook.com account.Click on the top right to “Account Settings”.
From here you should see an overview page, with the option to create aliases. As long as you can receive e-mail to that address, you can verify it as an alias, and you can start forwarding that e-mail to your outlook.com address later.
You may have some assumptions about what an alias is…
Fun facts about Outlook.com aliases:
* They allow the user to use that address to log into Microsoft services
* They allow the user to send e-mail from that address
* Your primary alias is use as your default “From:” address.
* You can have 1 primary alias and a limit of 10 other aliases.
If you create an alias on one account and need to transfer it.
* One you let the alias go, it ends up in limbo for 30 days.
* Old Microsoft accounts themselves will lay dormant for 270 days (9 months).
You do NOT need to create an alias to receive forwarded e-mails to that account.
You may find that forwarding your e-mail to outlook.com from certain forwarders results in bounces from what I’m guessing are SPF restrictions. In my testing so far, name.com doesn’t seem to have this issue, but I’ve had this issue forwarding from Office365 to Outlook.com. Some of these include Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Living Social, and others. I recommend extensive testing before cutting things over. One workaround of course is just use your Microsoft Account for these periodic spam notifications. It’s not like your friends are going to see it.