How to use External Mail Services with Plesk, like Google Workspace or Microsoft 365

plesk with external mail services

This guide covers configuring your domain to work with external mail services like Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, or Zoho Mail. It will work for all other external mail providers as well.

Tips before proceeding:

  1. You can only have one mail service active per domain – it is not possible to use both Websavers hosted email within Plesk and an external service at the same time.
  2. If you’re looking to forward your emails to a free external email account, like a personal Gmail or Hotmail account, this is the wrong guide. Read this guide on how to forward your email with Plesk instead.
  3. If you have existing email accounts that you wish to migrate your messages from, you should converse with your external mail provider to determine the best process to make that happen.

Please do not ask us for support with this setup. It’s up to your external mail provider to help switch you to their services, much like we provide support for those moving their email to our hosting services. However, if you have trouble with this guide and indicate which step or part isn’t working for you, we’re happy to point you in the right direction, update our guide, and/or repair anything with our systems that isn’t working as it should be.

Part A: Ensure you have your external mail provider ready to go, domain verified, and accounts created

You must first have your external mail service set up so you can successfully log in to it, have the domain verified, and all email accounts created that you wish to use.

If your DNS is hosted with us, here’s how to manage or add a new DNS record to help you with the domain verification process. You will need to know how to manage your DNS records for most of the steps of this guide.

Part B: Route Incoming Mail to the New Provider

The following steps will configure your DNS Records to ensure mail is delivered to your external mail service by changing the Mail eXchange (MX) records.

  1. Follow this guide to learn how to manage your DNS records with Plesk
  2. Remove all existing records of type MX before entering in each of the new ones provided by your external mail provider.
  3. After the records have been added, there’s a link at the top of the page to apply the changes.

Note that DNS changes can take a few hours to apply globally, up to 24 hours.

Part C: Mail Validation Records / Outgoing Mail Permissions

When you switch to using an external mail service our default/optimized DNS records for mail validation (SPF, DKIM, and DMARC) no longer apply and so you must replace or edit them to ensure they allow your new mail provider to send messages on behalf of your domain. If you skip this step, then your outgoing mail might never reach the recipient, or be placed in their spam or junk folder.

Read more about mail validations records and how to configure them here.

Important notes about mail validation records:

  1. SPF: Your mail provider will give you an SPF record that allows only sending through their servers. If you use that SPF record rather than a merged record as described in the above linked guide, then you must configure your website or server to send messages through your external mail provider as well.
  2. DKIM: You must disable DKIM in Plesk (details on how below) because the DKIM DNS record that Plesk configures for you will only work when your mail is hosted locally. If your external mail provider gives you a DKIM record to set, disable DKIM in Plesk first, then add the record the mail provider gave you using the DNS record guide linked above.

PART D: Disable Mail & DKIM in Plesk

In the event that a message is sent from either your website or another email account using your domain, we don’t want that email to be internally routed; it should be sent to your external mail account! Internal email delivery will occur, and fail to be sent, unless you disable mail for the domain in Plesk. Read here to learn how to disable the mail service for your domain in Plesk.

That’s it! Your domain is now set up to use your external mail service with optimal deliverability.

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Jordan Schelew

Jordan has been working with computers, security, and network systems since the 90s and is a managing partner at Websavers Inc. As a founder of the company, he's been in the web tech space for over 15 years.

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Websavers provides web services like Canadian WordPress Hosting and VPS Hosting to customers all over the globe, from hometown Halifax, CA to Auckland, NZ.

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