Beginning Web Developer Course: Configuring Your Domain Email

By David Fiedler

Previously in this series, we started getting familiar with the cPanel interface for your shared hosting account, and learned how to work with multiple domains. Now we'll start exploring all the other aspects of setting up a domain so that it works the way you expect. Even if you've ordered only a single domain that's already been set up properly by your hosting provider, it's good to know all the steps that go into the process for when you buy another domain in the future. And you might just learn some useful tricks along the way.

Your Own Domain Email

Nothing says "this is legitimate" quite like an email address that matches your company name. To some people, even the once hard-to-get @gmail.com address seems tacky and pedestrian. So the first thing many people want to do is set up an email account for their own domain. Here's the section of the cPanel interface that deals with email:

Even though many providers automatically set you up with a default email account, such an account should never be used. Such an account becomes a "catch-all" account, meaning that any email sent to a non-existent address within the domain will go to this account. You guessed it: default accounts are spam magnets. So let's go through setting up a safe email account. The first icon, Email Accounts, is used for this purpose:

Using this screen is quite simple, but has some important results. You create the account name on the first line, while selecting from your available add-on domains and subdomains using the dropdown box. Then you select a password and type it again in the usual way, only this triggers a real-time password evaluation which shows the relative strength of the password on a colored bar graph.

Since most people never change their passwords anyway, you might as well pick a good one in the first place. If you can't come up with one with at least 80% strength, the popup customizable password generator will be happy to oblige and is probably the safest way to go:

The last little thing on the form is the default disk quota, which lets you pick the maximum size of the mailbox. You might initially think this is a great way to prevent all your disk space from being taken up by unwanted email. However, the problem is that if this quota does happen to fill up, all incoming email to this account will be thrown away forever after 48 hours. So your best bet is actually to set no quota, and just monitor the size of the mailboxes every few months. They're shown further down on the same page, and you'll quickly see if any particular account is turning into a problem (generally due to someone not reading/deleting their mail).

Speaking Of Spam

Everyone hates spam, but now you can do something about it. Cpanel gives you access to two powerful spam-fighting tools; the same kind of which are available elsewhere at extra cost. SpamAssassin does content-based filtering, and can be adjusted to any of 10 levels. We recommend you initially set SpamAssassin to level 5, turn off Auto Delete, and turn on Spam Box (so that detected spams are put into a separate "spam box"). After a week or two, you can experiment with the setting, putting it higher if too many emails are being falsely sent to the Spam Box.

BoxTrapper is what you use if you really, really get too many bogus emails, even after making sure SpamAssassin is enabled. It sets up a system whereby anyone who isn't already on your "good list" gets an automatic message from the BoxTrapper system. If they reply to this message, they're automatically added to your "good list" and BoxTrapper will deliver all their mail from then on. If they don't respond, they're assumed to be a spammer or robot and their mail will be silently queued forever. Some people love this system because it cuts down their incoming mail drastically, but I would worry about missing an email from a long-lost loved one or out-of-the-blue job offer.

You Auto Try This

You wouldn't want to miss an important email, but what if your potential customers write to you while you're asleep and they want an immediate response? Having an auto-responder is considered a big deal on marketing forums, but you can set up as many as you want on cPanel easily.

Normally, you'd use an auto-responder to monitor a customer service or similar mailbox, so that mail sent to something like "saleshelp@MyDomain.com" is immediately answered automatically ("We thank you for your email and promise to answer it within 24 hours"), and then it can be answered manually later by whatever human actually handles that mailbox. But you can also set it up for, say, "salesinfo@MyDomain.com" and have an "information pack" email automatically sent out in response, with no human interaction necessary. In either case, the proper setup looks something like this:



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