How to setup mail inbox for free when domain is hosted in Route 53

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Today we’ll continue our journey into the wonderful world of AWS Route 53, the in cloud replacement of a traditional DNS service. Until now, we discussed how to handle outages using Route 53 and how to run an application with multiple code versions.

Let’s imagine the following scenario: you have just launched your startup. Most probably, one of the first things after launch is to create a brand. And that means you need a website. It doesn’t matter how fancy or how simple it is, it certainly has an email address to allow customers to contact you. There are so many email providers, with so many pricing plans. But at the beginning, costs are a very important criteria. We don’t have any marketing background to advise you how important is to spend money on business emails, but we can teach you how to send and receive for free emails, using your domain, when that one is registered in Route 53.

From that email providers list, Zoho seems to have the best offer if you want to use your domain for free. It comes with a limitation (up to 5 users), but assuming we are a startup, this is fine.

So the very first step is to create a Zoho account. They provide a very intuitive wizard, that starts here. There are some registration steps that also require to insert a verification code, but this is not something complicated, so we don’t present it here.

The real fun begins once you have created the Zoho account. There is a step where you are asked to select your DNS provided. Route 53 is not in that list, so please choose Others. After that, you have to verify your domain ownership. For that, use the CNAME option. In the Route 53 console, go to your hosted zone and create a record set similar with this one:

Then, go back to the Zoho console and select “Proceed on CNAME Verification”. If anything is ok, you are moved to the next step, where you can create users. Don’t hurry to do that, you can create users later, according to your needs.

There is only one important step left: to setup email delivery. For that, go to “Email Delivery” and there you’ll find 3 MX records. Go back to Route 53 console and create an MX record set, similar with the following one:

After that, you can skip the SPF/DKIM step and you are done. You can start sending and receive emails using the email address you have created.

If you use a different email provider, share it in a comment. Also, we would be very grateful if you spread this post to anyone that could benefit from it.

Happy cloud computing to all of you!