Author: Tom McClean
Updated: 16 Jul 2016 23:22
For about 12 months now I have been using Microsoft Azure to host my websites, over this time I have gradually moved most of my websites from hosting providers such as Bluehost and Godaddy, however there has been one sticking problem which has prevented me from cutting off my hosting plans so far.
Email: For years I have used my Bluehost hosting to also manage my emails for 3 of my custom domains, however now that I have moved the website over it is not cost effective to continue renewing my hosting plan on Bluehost purely to keep my email ticking over. I have been searching for a while (3 months) for a decent solution but only recently managed to solve the problem in a neat way.
When you want to host email accounts using your custom domains, there are many services to use online (Microsoft and pretty much every hosting company) out there offers email hosting plans, however they all seem to suffer from the same problem, they charge a fee PER email address. So while I could agree to pay 10 pounds (15 Dollars) a month to get decent service, I would not be willing to pay this fee multiplied by the number of email accounts I host.
Recently I found a better solution so I thought I would share it, here goes.
Get an Azure Virtual Machine. Simple really, spin up a Virtual Machine and then you can install your own Mail Server software directly on there, there are really powerful paid options available like SmarterMail (which I particularly liked in my trial run) but often they suffer from the same problems that the online services suffer from, charging per custom domain.
The answer in my case was to install an open source Mail Server called HMail. Within 3 hours I had requisitioned a cheap Azure Windows Server (Virtual Machine) which comes in at about 6 pounds (10 Dollars) per month. Then I installed HMail and SQL Server Express (both for free) and within a few hours of configuration and updating the A Name records on my various domains I was able to get 4 custom domains worth of email addresses (typically 2 addresses per domain) setup, all significantly cheaper than it would have been to use an Online Service.
To give a rough price comparison, if I was to setup 2 accounts per domain across 4 custom domains, it would cost roughly 9 pounds per address using Microsoft Business Class Email Hosting (which is required for Custom Domains). So 8 times 9 pounds comes to a cost of 72 pounds (about 110 dollars) per MONTH.
Using a low powered Azure Virtual Machine with SQL Server Express (for email storage) and HMail Server (for email services) the cost comes out at about 6-8 pounds per month, I can also add further accounts should I choose without an increase in the price. For better performance I could scale the server size up as the increase in performance becomes required.
Do you have many custom domains? How do you configure your email accounts, perhaps you use one of the Online Services or run a server of your own to do this task in the way I have just transitioned, let me know by adding a comment below!.