Free Email “Hosting” for your domain with GMail

Garikai Dzoma Avatar


Like all of my contemporaries I was brought up on the staple of Yahoo! mail and Gmail webmail services. Without being offensive I have to say that I find the Roundcube and SquirrelMail interfaces quite functional but rather unappealing. Therefore ever since Google stopped freely hosting emails for other domains I had been forced to lead a difficult life. I miss all those awesome tools like sophisticated spam control as well as the aesthetics. Then there is the cost factor: we have about 10 employees in our organisation who use email and paying $50 a month to Google for email goes against my frugal nature and I don’t really have the time to spend messing with Postfix and Exim either; I tend to avoid Sendmail like the plague it is.

I recently stumbled upon a method to use free Gmail accounts and Postfix mail forwarding thus allowing you to use Gmail to freely host your own mail. It allows you to use Google Webmail for email using your own domain like and look professional without putting a hole in your pocket.

What you will need.

  • Free Gmail accounts for each user that you have on your domain.
  • Your own domain such as . You can use to register a domain for $10/a year domain with ZISPA now.
  • A VPS or dedicated server running Linux. I would recommend using Ubuntu ( I will be assuming you are running ubuntu in this guide.) It wouldn’t really matter if the device is metered or not because you are not going to eat a Terabyte/Month using email; and if you do. it means your are using the wrong solution anyway. Even a low end device will do.
  • Learn basic commands, this will include downloading Putty onto your Windows device and using it to log into your server.

How to implement the configuration

  1. After buying your VPS, ensure that the MX record for your domain is pointing towards the VPS. You can confirm this by logging into your server and using the dig command e.g.: dig and reading the output. You should see the IP address mentioned somewhere in the output.
  2. Install Postfix ( Do not use the tasksel command to install a Mail server setup, we just need Postfix here not Dovecot and the what-nots) using the command: sudo apt-get install postfix Choose the appropriate setting. The “Internet site ” configuration will do just fine.
  3. By default Postfix will be listening on port 25, if you are one of those paranoid folks who thinks everyone is out to get them, then follow this Ubuntu guide to setup secure ports
  4. Edit the /etc/postfix/ file using your favourite editor (use nano if you are a beginner) and add the following lines at the end of the file:

virtual_alias_domains = 
virtual_alias_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/virtual

5. Edit/Create the file /etc/postfix/virtual add emails addresses for which you want the mail to be forwarded and their corresponding Gmail accounts.

# Forwards mail from to

The first address is the one for which Postfix gets the mail and the second is the Gmail address to which it forwads the email to. Note there is a space between the two addresses. It is also possible to forward the emails to multiple domains e.g.

Although you should know the folks at Hotmail like to read other people’s mails.

6. You might also need to get all the email for your domain and have it forwarded to a specific email address.

#catch all mail bound for

7. After you are done close the file and run the command:postmap /etc/postfix/virtual

8. Reload the Postfix configuration using the command: sudo service postfix reload

9. Test to see if the set up is working by sending yourself mail to your address using another email address. The email should appear in the appropriate Gmail inbox.

N.B This is a simple setup and does not cover all the available options; it is meant for Joe User and Sons Ltd not Big Company Ltd. I am just a humble accountant so the Admins out there please feel free to add other relevant tips in the comment section.

Of course you have to change the names like and to actual domains and addresses that your domain uses.

Image Credit: Google

Concept Credit: BinaryTide


  1. Welly

    I personally think live mail is the best free and easy to implement..

  2. dadigger

    Using your setup, what is the “from” address seen by the recipient when you reply from within Gmail, is it or

    1. Anthony Somerset

      not if you configure your gmail account to be able to send “from” your custom domain address, you have to get the forwarder working first though in order to complete the setup

  3. jmj

    I will stick to my email service provider ,mykolab . The most secure email ever.Gmail and Yahoo mail is for opening social network accounts.

  4. Anthony Somerset

    why do it that way…. why not just use the email forwarders option that seem to provide with there DNS hosting, forward it to your gmail then configure your gmail to send from the email address on your domain

    you dont need a vps then

  5. arno

    I find perfectly easy and straight forward, one downside being that there is no catchall address. and above all free. Thanks for the article though.

    1. Thulani

      i agree with arno here is easy and straight forward and its totally free

  6. Drogo

    Why go the Virtual Private Servers way, leave it to for affordable hosting

  7. Sameer

    wow great tutorial,and most important is its free. Google apps also providing free email address hosting for business but free only for 1 month then you have to pay according to their plans. BDW this one is nice share.

    1. Anthony Somerset

      thats a free trial not a free service… – google apps used to be free for 10 users but they withdrew the free service a while back

      1. tinm@n

        I still have my 50 user account from the beta days…no pun intended.

        Got invited out of the blue.

        Anyways as stated all one needs is a domain they own and to send an instruction to point its MX records to Google servers.

        That’s all.

        Lots of people made good money setting up Google apps for biz

      2. Sameer


  8. Gweja

    I stopped reading when yu mentioned VPS. If i have a VPS then i can host my own email, so no need for Gmail anymore!!

    1. Garikai Dzoma

      Yes you can but that means you will miss out on the great features that Gmail provides for its users.I used to maintain the mail server for a group of companies-it wasn’t an easy job. Forwading the email to your Gmail account takes away some of the problems like virus scanning, attachment blocking, spam filtering etc.

      1. Anthony Somerset

        actually just forwarding doesn’t because if google detects your server forwarding lots of spam it will just block it, making your problems far worse especially if you don’t properly lock down the box and mail configuration

  9. econet Hater

    Dedicated box ! Are you serious. Waste article. COpy and paste gone bad.

    Its even more expensive !!!!!!!!! Rather use what i have

    1. Garikai Dzoma

      You are thinking of a top of the range dedi-box here my friend. A low end box will do just fine: after all most are on faster datacentres than you can afford this side of the continent. Oneprovider and for example have Dedi boxes which sell for less than $15/month on 1GPS shared networks.

      1. Econet Hater

        hmmmmm…… Interesting. Its very cheap 🙂

        Great read then, but its quie alot of work to do for just getting gmail on my mail.

    2. tinm@n

      No need for a dedicated host.Just own a domain

  10. TBSNetworks

    Hi, Garikai Dzoma,

    Wow! Nice useful information shared by you. Although I just know that only Blogspot provide domain hosting service by Gmail. From Blogger, you can create domain name(sub domain with blogspot) and you can post your blog post or any other content at online. If you want other domain than you must buy domain and hosting from known domain and hosting provider company.

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  15. Ray

    Nice guide. I wrote a tutorial to get free a gmail inbox with your custom domain email that doesn’t require you to have your own server. Maybe some of the readers here who are less technical will find it useful:

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