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Third-Party Email Hosting

Having your domain as an email address is a crucial part of branding. Having a third-party host the email gives you a full array of features that are better than free email accounts. This includes things like advanced spam filtering, dedicated support, and the ability to create multiple accounts.

A custom domain is required to set up email hosting. You must have purchased a domain name either through BigCommerce or a third-party domain and pointed it to BigCommerce before updating your DNS records. Additionally, the steps outlined in this article assume you are familiar with changing your Email & DNS Records.

If you are using a third-party email solution not listed here, you will need to find any DNS records required by your new email host. See the Other Email Hosts section for more information.

 
 

How Email Works

Email starts with the registrar through which the domain is purchased. When the domain is first created, the registrar has everything – website hosting, email hosting, and the domain name itself. This is because the registrar holds a particularly important DNS record called the nameserver.

  • registrar — the service through which the domain is purchased
  • nameserver — the “mother” of DNS records, which contains the A record and MX records
 

Nameservers

The nameserver contains the A record (website hosting) and the MX records (email hosting). So whatever service has the nameservers will control both of these things, as well as any other DNS record for that domain. However, individual DNS records can be pointed to other locations. Pointing MX records to a third party would put that third party in control of your email; pointing A records would put that third party in control of your website hosting.

  • pointing — directing a DNS record to a different server, usually to make a 3rd party the host
  • A record — the DNS record that controls hosting. It points to a server’s IP address
  • MX record — the DNS record that controls email hosting. It points to a (mail) server

Nameservers themselves can be pointed to a hosting service other than your registrar, such as BigCommerce. When this happens, that third party becomes not only your web host (because of the A record) but also the email host (because of the MX records). However, you can still point individual DNS records to other locations, including back to the original host. A common scenario is to point the nameservers to BigCommerce, then point MX records in BigCommerce back to the registrar or another email hosting service.

Point nameservers diagram.

Point nameservers not email diagram.

 

MX Records

MX (mail exchange) records control email hosting by pointing to the mail server(s) responsible for accepting and sending email messages. The anatomy of an MX record is:

  • Type (MX) — email is what's being controlled in this record
  • Fully Qualified Host (your domain) — the current host of what's being handled
  • Value (third-party mail server) — the new host of what's being handled

MX records

  • mail server — the server responsible for handling email messages sent to and from the recipient's domain

It is common for an email hosting service to have multiple mail servers in case one goes down. This requires pointing multiple MX records. When there are multiple MX records, you have to set a priority to determine the order in which the mail servers are checked. The mail servers are then checked in that order.

  • Priority — a number assigned to an MX record that determines the order in which it is checked for availability. The lowest number has the highest priority.

For example, you might have the following three MX records:

Mail server priority

In this example, if you are sending mail to domain.com, your email service would first check to see if mail server 1 is up and available. If not, it would try mail server 2. If mail server 2 were also down, it would try mail server 3.

 

Mail Servers

When an email is sent, it goes to whichever mail server the MX records point to. This mail server stores the email and will continue to store any emails that were sent to it even if the MX records are pointed somewhere else later. Think of it as a piggy-bank; even if you stop putting anything in there, it still keeps what you added before.

User-added image

 
Incoming Mail Servers

Left to its own devices, the mail server will only store the mail. It won’t send mail or allow anyone to access the mail. To access it, you would use an incoming mail server, which delivers the received mail to an email client or webmail service, which is what you use to read the email. Some compare the incoming mail server to a postal worker because it delivers the mail to your digital doorstep. In fact, the most popular protocol used by incoming mail servers is POP, which stands for Post Office Protocol.

  • incoming mail server — the program that delivers mail from the mail server to an email client
  • email client — a computer program for email, e.g. Outlook, Apple Mail, or Windows Live Mail
  • webmail service — an online website for email, e.g. Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail
  • protocol — the program that delivers mail from the mail server to an email client

POP is the protocol initially used for email. Created in 1986, the current version is referred to as POP3. POP simply downloads copies of the emails to read, and deletes the originals from the server. As a result, the email message is “tied” to the device that accesses the email. However, the email client can be easily reconfigured not to delete the original email from the server, which gives POP a significant advantage: If you have multiple email clients set up and one of them accidentally deletes an important email, the others will still have access to it. When your incoming mail server uses POP, it is also called a POP server.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is the other popular protocol for incoming servers. It syncs email clients with the mail server continuously, so that multiple devices all access the same data. For example, if you access your device from your mobile phone and your computer, both will receive new messages, and deleting a message on one will delete it on the other. The catch is that it will also delete the message from the server, so you have to be careful. When your incoming mail server uses IMAP, it is called an IMAP server.

  • POP server — a program for retrieving mail. Used for syncing to the mail server at intervals
  • IMAP server — a program for retrieving mail. Used for syncing to the mail server continuously
 
Outgoing Mail Servers

The mail server also needs an outgoing mail server to send mail. Outgoing mail servers use a protocol called SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), which as we will see, is used for more than just sending mail. For this reason, outgoing mail servers are also called SMTP servers. When you send an email from your email client, the following process occurs:

  1. Your email client (or webmail) connects to the SMTP server.
  2. The email client provides the following information to the SMTP server:
    • your email address
    • your recipient's address
    • the message itself
  3. The SMTP server looks at the domain of the recipient’s email address and looks up the associated MX records to determine which mail server to deliver to (in order of priority).
  4. The SMTP server routes the message along with a series of unrelated SMTP until it arrives at the recipient’s SMTP server.
  5. The recipient’s SMTP server scans the email to see if it recognizes the domain and username. It also makes sure the server that sent the message has the authority to send it (more details here). If everything checks out, it sends the message to the incoming mail server; otherwise, the sender gets a bounceback email.
  • Outgoing mail server — the program that transfers mail from the email client to the recipient’s mail server. Also called the SMTP server
 
Ports

When connecting your email client, you will be asked to specify ports for the incoming and outgoing mail servers. The ports are locations inside the mail server where different programs run (think of it as units in an apartment building). For example, mail always arrives through Port 25 (SMTP) and is moved into storage. If you are using BigCommerce, the POP server in Port 995, or the IMAP server in 993, fetches the mail. When setting up email, you have to specify which ports the email client should be interacting with to send and receive messages.

  • port — the unit inside the mail server where a specific program runs
 
 

Using G Suite for Email

G Suite (formerly Google Apps) is a package of cloud-based products such as email, chat, and video conferencing developed by Google. G Suite adds enterprise features such as custom email addresses at a domain (@yourcompany.com), unlimited cloud storage (depending on plan and number of members), and additional administrative tools.

 

Requirements

 

Changing Your DNS Records

Once you have met all the requirements, you will need to update your store's MX records. Go to Server SettingsEmail & DNS Records and select I want to use Google G Suite for emails sent to my store's domain.

G Suite setup option

Click Skip this step, I've already verified my domain with Google to automatically update your MX records for G Suite. Then click Save to finalize your changes.

Skip this step, I've already verified my domain with Google link

 

Still need to verify your store with Google? See Verifying Your Site with Google for steps on how to verify your store and generate an HTML/Meta tag.

 

SPF Record

The SPF Record helps reduce spam and allows BigCommerce to send mail on your behalf. The SPF record will need to be updated manually as this is an optional change. To make this change, click on the Web Hosts tab, then replace the TXT record with:

HostValueTTL
yourstore.comv=spf1 +a +mx include:_spf.bigcommerce.com include:_spf.google.com ~all900

Example SPF Record

 

G Suite SMTP Configuration

If you are using G Suite as your third-party email host and would like your store to send mail from Gmail SMTP servers instead of the BigCommerce SMTP servers, you can do so by manually specifying the SMTP server information. Note: Before you start, make sure that Less secure apps is enabled for the desired G Suite account.

Go to Store Setup › Store Settings, then the Miscellaneous tab. Scroll down to Use SMTP Server, and select Let me specify my own SMTP server details. Enter the following:

  • SMTP Hostname: ssl://smtp.gmail.com
  • SMTP Username: Use your G Suite email address
  • SMTP Password: Use your G Suite password
  • SMTP Port: 465
 
 

Using Zoho for Email

The steps outlined below assume you are familiar with changing your Email & DNS Records.

Zoho Mail is a free third-party email service that offers many of the same features that G Suite and Outlook provide.

You'll need to create a Zoho Mail account and verify your site with Zoho using their TXT Method before updating your store's DNS records. The TXT record you will need to create should look something like this:

TypeFully Qualified HostValueTime to live
TXTyourdomain.comzoho-verification=zb12345678.zmverify.zoho.com300

Once you have verified your site with Zoho and created an account, you will need to replace your store's MX records with the following:

TypeFully Qualified HostValueTime to livePriority
MXyourdomain.commx.zoho.com30010
MXyourdomain.commx2.zoho.com30020

You will also need to replace the SPF record under Web Hosts with the following:

TypeFully Qualified HostValueTime to live
TXTyourdomain.comv=spf1 +a +mx include:_spf.bigcommerce.com include:zoho.com ~all300
 

MX records not working? These MX records are up to date at the time of this writing but are subject to change. Contact Zoho support if you are having trouble setting up, sending, or receiving email with these settings.

 
 

Using GoDaddy for Email

The steps outlined below assume you are familiar with changing your Email & DNS Records.

GoDaddy is a third-party platform that uses Microsoft 365 for email service. These steps help cover how to set up BigCommerce to connect to your GoDaddy email. If your email is not working after following these steps, please contact GoDaddy for assistance at 480-505-8877. As your email host, GoDaddy can access your account information and assist you.

 

Unsupported Microsoft 365 features

Although Microsoft 365 offers the Lync Online service, BigCommerce does not support SRV records, which are required for using Lync Online with Microsoft 365. If you use this service, you will need to configure your DNS with GoDaddy.

If you choose to use the configuration below, which does not include SRV records, the following Office 365 features will not be available to you:

  • Skype for Business Online IM and presence integration with Outlook Web App
  • External communication (federation) with Skype for Business Online users in other organizations
  • Public Internet Connectivity (PIC) with Skype for Business Online users signed in with a Microsoft account (formerly known as a Windows Live ID)
 

Changing Your DNS Records

When your name server records are pointed to BigCommerce, BigCommerce becomes the host of both your website and email. These steps will make sure email is connected to GoDaddy.

If your domain ends in anything other than .com you will need to update your MX records to reflect this. For example, if your domain is yourdomain.co.uk, your MX record should read as yourdomain-co-uk.mail.protection.outlook.com.

To get started, go to Server SettingsEmail & DNS Records. Under the Mail Servers tab, select I'm setting up an external email hosting solution and add your MX records.

Fully Qualified HostValueTime to livePriority
yourdomain.comyourdomain-com.mail.protection.outlook.com9000

Example MX Record

The records in the image are for illustrative purposes and may not reflect the records you should be using.

Click on the Web Hosts tab and Edit the existing TXT record and replace the values with:

Fully Qualified HostTypeValueTime to live
yourdomain.comTXT    v=spf1 include:_spf.bigcommerce.com include:spf.protection.outlook.com -all900

Add the following CNAME records by clicking Add another located at the bottom of the list and entering the following values:

RecordFully Qualified HostValueTime to live
CNAMEautodiscover.yourdomain.comautodiscover.outlook.com900
CNAMEsip.yourdomain.comsipdir.online.lync.com900
CNAMElyncdiscover.yourdomain.comwebdir.online.lync.com900
CNAMEemail.yourdomain.comemail.secureserver.net900
CNAMEmsoid.yourdomain.comclientconfig.microsoftonline-p.net900
 
 

Other Email Hosts

BigCommerce can be set up to work with other email hosting solutions as well. Because many providers do not use the same MX records for all users, we are unable to provide specific details on the setup. If you are using one of these third-party email services, you will need to contact their support and ask for the following:

  • MX Records
  • SPF information to include in TXT Record
  • Any other DNS Records (Note: BigCommerce does not support SRV records, which some email hosts require.)

Once you have these records, you can add them yourself under Server Settings › Email & DNS Records or ask our support team to assist you.

 
 

FAQ

Can I use Outlook/Thunderbird with BigCommerce?

Programs like Outlook and Thunderbird are email clients which help organize how emails look; it does not host the email. You will need to set up email with an email hosting service to use these programs.

Are the email hosts listed the only ones that work with BigCommerce?

Many email solutions will work with BigCommerce. We have only listed email hosts commonly used with BigCommerce.

What if I cannot find the TXT record that GoDaddy emailed to me?

If you cannot locate this email, contact GoDaddy's support for assistance at 480-505-8877. The record can also be found in your GoDaddy dashboard by going to My Products › Office 365 Email & Productivity › Manage › Set Mail Destination.

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