Among my other emails from common hosts like GMail and Hotmail/Outlook (and even a Yahoo account I use for junk mail sign ups), I also had my own personal email domain that was hosted by the web hosting company I use for my websites. As security and spam concerns continue to rise over the years, personal email servers are more and more frowned upon by the mainstream email hosts and I have found more and more emails to & from my personal domain being rejected by other hosts. As a result, I made the decision to move my personal email domain from a web-host to a mainstream email host.
There are a number of major email hosts that offer custom domain hosting and I was almost ready to pull the trigger on the Google/GMail version when Microsoft opened up their Outlook Premium hosting with support for custom domains for the killer intro price of $20/year for up to 5 accounts (the deal has expired and it’s now the regular price of $50/yr, still not bad). And that yearly price will supposedly be good for as long as I keep the service (*Or until they decide to raise my price – via the fine print). So that’s the route I took.
That said, the Outlook Premium service isn’t for everyone’s needs. It’s important to remember a few caveats and conditions that you’ll want to consider seriously before you make the switch.
Backup Your Data First
Remember that once you change your DNS settings, you won’t have access to the previous email server (at least without some use of web host control panel or IP address pointing) so make sure you download and backup all your existing emails first.
No Catch-All Account
There is no way to set an account as a catch-all. This is common in self hosted domains where you set an account to receive all email to the domain which is not directed to an actually existing account on that domain. This wasn’t an issue for me because I’m of the opinion that if you can’t take the time to get my email address right, I don’t want to get your emails.
If you are transferring an existing domain, you will need to have access to set up some DNS related settings for your account. You will need to be able to create an MX record, a CNAME record and a TXT record. You will also need control to be able to remove existing records. If you don’t have control or access over these DNS records, you can’t move your domain.
If you have access, adding the records is fairly quick and easy and Outlook Premium provides you with a step by step wizard telling you exactly which records to add and what to put in each record. No guesswork at all. Just remember to remove existing conflicting records when you do.
One of the biggest catches of moving your domain to Outlook Premium is that your custom domain email addresses will all be aliases of another (perhaps existing) Outlook.com/Microsoft account. So if you have a personal email address of email@example.com, it will become an alias of a new/existing Outlook.com/Hotmail address, like firstname.lastname@example.org. After the migration, when people send an email to EITHER email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, they will go into the same email inbox, because they are one and the same.
This was the biggest hurdle for me when I moved my personal domain. Not because it was an alias, but because two of the accounts I was moving were already aliases of existing Microsoft accounts.
If you have EVER used the accounts you want to move as alias to a Microsoft account previously, you will first have to go into each of these accounts and remove that alias from the existing account FIRST (or delete it entirely if you aren’t using it anymore). And then and only then can you add that account as one of the 5 in your Outlook Premium group.
If you want to keep using that Microsoft account with that alias, you have to use a little trickery. First, remove the existing alias (i.e. email@example.com). Then send the invite to the Microsoft account that you removed the alias from (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org). When they accept the invite, add that original back on as the “new” alias.
On a related note, if the new alias is being used as the recovery email for another Microsoft account anywhere, it cannot be added as an alias UNTIL you remove it entirely from the recovery email list of that account. If you see the following error when you or another user try to add that email as their alias:
You are being prevented from completing the sign up due to the security settings on your Microsoft account. Please got to https://account.live.com/proofs/manage, sign in and provide an alternative email address for your ‘recover’ account
the reason is because that email is listed as the recovery email somewhere. Find it, remove it, then try again. I beat my head on this for a while because in the case I was running this I was just trying to add a second recovery email and left the existing one in place. You can’t do that. You have to remove it entirely.
After you add your primary account, the other 4 emails you add are invite based. Essentially you send an email invite to each person you want to add to your account. They accept your invite, create their alias, and that’s it.
If you’re used to having total control, get used to having virtually no control. You can add users via invite and remove them… and that’s it. There are absolutely no other controls. And it’s fine. Seriously. When did you ever really, seriously, update mailbox quotas and the like? Let it go.
It’s Limited To 5 Accounts
That’s it. No more. You can’t add more (at least not currently).
What Do You Get?
It’s fairly straightforward.
- You get ad-free Outlook.com accounts using your own domain as an alias.
- You get easy shared calendar access. When users are added, the system automatically sets up shared access to your Outlook.com calendar
That’s pretty much it. It’s a no frills service that gives you a simple, ad-free custom email domain on a pretty reliable host that’s far less likely to get mistaken by other hosts as a spam server and blocked. So, if you don’t need much, Outlook Premium has what you need.