So you want to start a company? (part 1)


You’re setting up a company (or a new division or maybe even a new brand) and you’d like to use email to communicate with your customers. In this series of posts I’m going to touch on some of the things you can do today to make email life easier for you in the future, starting with the naming of companies.

1. Like cats, a company needs three different names

A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified

The first name you need is the brand you’re mostly known by to the outside world –,, Use this for your website, and for any mail you send to your customers. Never assign email addresses from this domain for any use other than as the From: field for communicating with your customers (including bulk email to them, transactional mail such as order confirmations and frontline customer support).
The name that the family use daily
The second name you need is one for your staff to use for their email addresses –,, Use this for all the business mail you send and receive, other than mail to your customers. As well as staff email addresses, use this for role addresses, contact addresses for domain registrations.
There’s still one name left over
The third name you need is one for purely internal email – things like reports from system monitoring software, cron alerts, all the sysadmin-y email that’s sent by machines rather than people. Mail that should never leave your firewall.
The reason for using different domains for email is so that you’ll be able to put different controls on where each email stream is sent from. Domain authentication looks as though it’ll become increasingly important, but it’s likely to remain fairly brittle and inflexible. In order to use things like DMARC effectively for your customer-facing email you’ll need tight controls on where that email is sent from. If you get that tangled up with the business email sent by you and your employees now you’ll need to expend a lot of effort (including changing everyone’s email address) to fix that in the future. Start with the customer facing domain well separated and keep it that way.
Using the separate domains for employee email addresses and internal monitoring addresses addresses isn’t anywhere near as important; you could certainly use a single domain for them both. But keeping them separate will make some things a little simpler in the future – for example, outsourcing corporate email to an external provider.
Should you use an entirely separate domain (like paypal, who use for their business email) or a subdomain of your “real” domain (like AOL do with In most technical respects it doesn’t really matter, but using a proliferation of similar second-level domains can add to user confusion and make things like targeted phishing and social engineering attacks much easier – so it’s a better choice to use a subdomain of your main domain for your business email.

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  • Nice series! A few notes with regard to picking domain names;
    1) The first one is the brand or product domain, like you said. Readable off the back of a bus, easily pronounced in radio commercials, and short and easy to remember. I would also keep this separate from your ‘corporate’ domain name, in case you want to have more than one product, possibly in seperate markets, want to sell one off, have it bomb badly, or lose a trademark dispute. You never know, so plan ahead now rather than regret it later.
    2) Corp.whatever? Eww! You’re starting a company, not a corporation 😉 Pick a company name that works when dictated over the phone, and preferably keep it separate from your brand/product domain(s). Looks better, and works better long term, especially if you develop multiple brands over time. See #1.
    3) The network domain. Make sure it is a valid domain that resolves on the internet. The ‘.net’ version of your company domain works great for this, and I would advocate starting with seperate domain for this right from the beginning, to avoid having internal and external DNS servers that might give you different results. Most network will grow into using some kind of centralized directory system, such as Active Directory, Open Directory, or OpenLDAP. Or start with it right away, if you just bought a Windows Small Business Server for example.

    So, start with three, and do not mix your company domain as your network domain. Have someone configure this for you if necessary, and make sure that your mail server is configured correctly in terms of reverse DNS, FQDN and so on. Going to save you a whole lot of headaches down the road.

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