A while ago I heard that Microsoft was looking to bring custom domains to Outlook, understandable as trying to pick an email address if you have a common name is a bit of a nightmare (I was lucky I beat another Rob Butler to mine but it didn’t stop him trying to open dating accounts etc using my email address, but I digress…)
I received an invitation from Microsoft to sign up for their Outlook premium service. The price will be $3.99 a month (unless you have an Office 365 subscription) which is comparable to professional email hosting services – although the support and service isn’t comparable in the least (more later)
I clicked on the link and setting up seemed to get off to a good start. Microsoft has partnered up with GoDaddy to give you a free domain (no option to transfer in) but this is only provided for the first year then you seem to be on your own. This didn’t bother me as I chose to bring over my own email address currently hosted on Google Apps (free).
The setup talks you through the settings you need to change (although not how to do them – fortunately I know how to change my DNS/MX entries) to get the service up and running. So far so good.
Once you have verified your domain you are asked to pick a single email address that you will use. Don’t transfer over any domains if you use multiple addresses before the @ – you’ll lose them. Also don’t let Microsoft register a domain if you want to use it for more than just email as this doesn’t seem to be possible at the moment either.
I chose my address and was told it was available – a relief as I can’t change what goes before the @ sign as I’ve been using this email address for years now. This is where it started to go wrong. When I try to complete setup I’m told helpfully that something has gone wrong and to try again. There is no indication if this is my problem or Microsoft’s – and no-one to turn to for help (other than an online forum manned by enthusiasts)
This is where I’ve left the service. There is now no option to go back and use a different custom domain with my outlook.com address and nobody to turn to for support so I’m stuck. This doesn’t feel like a pilot programme to me but a very early alpha.
The premise might be good for someone who already has an Office 365 account so is getting a little extra value from their subscription, but it is a long way from competing with professional hosting companies who charge a similar amount for a vastly superior service.
I’ll post an update if I ever get this working, in the meantime I’ve reverted my settings so that my mail goes to the excellent (and well supported) Google Apps.