First time users of PowerApps might struggle at the very first step – how to subscribe to the service. The difficulty is that it's necessary to subscribe with a 'work email address'. PowerApps doesn’t support Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail, GOV, EDU, and a whole range of other email addresses. Worse still, even if you have a work email address, you’re not guaranteed access to PowerApps because your system administrator might not grant you access to the PowerApps.
This post on the ideas thread of the forum succinctly describes why this is a problem.
I work for a huge company that does millions of dollars of business with the DOD. This a massive opportunity for Microsoft, but without being able to create sample applications to demonstrate the capability, my company, nor the DOD are likely to explore this fantastic new technology
So if you’re keen to try PowerApps but don’t have a work email address, this article describes a free method to obtain a custom domain name and email hosting. This will provide an email address that we can use to trial PowerApps. The steps that we’ll follow are:
- 1 – Register a free domain name with Freenom.com
- 2 – Configure DNS hosting with Namecheap.com
- 3 - Setup email hosting with Yandex.com
Registering a free domain name
Our first step is to register a domain name and we can do this for free via Freenom. Freenom provides free registration for domain names that end in .tk, .ml, .ga, .cf, and .gq.
To register a domain, visit the following link http://www.freenom.com/en/index.html and follow the steps to register a domain. In this example, we’ll register the domain name journeyapp.tk.
Fig 1 – Registering a domain via Freenom
Configuring DNS records for our new domain
Once we register the domain through Freenom, the next step is to set up the DNS records for. To do this, we’ll use the FreeDNS service from NameCheap.com. To do this, visit the following link https://www.namecheap.com/store/domains/freedns/ and follow the steps to register for an account.
Fig 2 – Register for the FreeDNS service from Namecheap
At the end of this process, the confirmation page will display the name servers for our domain.
Fig 3 – Make a note of the name servers here – we’ll need this later on
Next, return to the Freenom control panel and to configure the domain to point to the Namecheap name servers. The place to do this if through the Services > MyDomain menu. From here, select the domain and click the ‘Management Tools’ > Nameservers menu. One this page, enter the names of the FreeDNS name servers.
Fig 4 – Enter the name servers into the Freenom control panel
Setting up a free email hosting account
To host the email for our new domain, we’ll create an email account at Yandex.com. If you’ve never heard of Yandex.com, it’s like a Russian equivalent of Google. But unlike the email hosting that Google Apps provides, Yandex offers a free tier. To create an account, visit https://connect.yandex.com and click the ‘sign up’ link.
Fig 5 – Make sure to register at connect.yandex.com, not www.yandex.com
Note - it’s very important to sign up at ‘connect.yandex.com’. If we register for an account at www.yandex.com , we won’t be able to access the feature to host email for a custom domain.
The registration process requires us to enter a mobile phone number in order to prove our identity. Once we verify our identity by entering an SMS code, the site prompts us to enter the domain name that we want to use.
Fig 6 – Enter the domain name that you want to connect to Yandex
Once the registration process is complete, the next step is to verify our domain name. The control panel from Yandex shows the instructions that we need to follow. As shown below, there are several options that we can use to verify our domain. In this walkthrough, we’ll choose the CNAME option.
Fig 7 – Follow the instructions here to confirm the domain
Verifying our domain
To verify our domain, log onto the Namecheap service and create a CNAME record. The field values that we need to use were shown in the Yandex domain screen.
Fig 8 – Use a CNAME record to validate your domain with Yandex
One important point is that the CNAME value must be set to “mail.yandex.com.”, with a trailing dot at the end of the address.
Whilst we’re logged into the Namecheap service, we also can set up MX records for our domain at the same time. The screenshot beneath shows the values to use.
Fig 9 – Use the section in the lower part of the screen to set up your MX record
Completing the verification process
Once we add our CNAME record, we can complete the domain verification process. To do this, open the domain page in Yandex and click the ‘check’ option. Once this completes, click the ‘set as main’ button to configure the domain as the primary domain.
Fig 10 – Completing the domain verification process
At this stage, we can begin to receive email at our new domain. The default mailbox is email@example.com and we can check for messages through the web based inbox. It’s possible to use the settings in Yandex to configure additional email aliases.
We now have a working email address that we can use to subscribe to PowerApps. Before finishing, here are some notes on the choice of services for this article.
You might be interested why this article suggests Yandex, rather than the US based service Zoho (Zoho is a de-facto choice that many users choose for custom domain email hosting). The main reason is because Zoho doesn’t support free domain name that end in .mk, .tk, etc. The free version of Zoho also lacks support for POP3 and IMAP access to inboxes.
The reason why we use Namecheap for DNS, rather than the simpler option of hosting the DNS records through Freenom, is due to the unusual format of the Yandex servers. The value of the MX record is “mx.yandex.net.”, with a trailing dot. The DNS entry screens at Freenom reject addresses that end with a trailing dot and therefore make it impossible to setup the correct DNS records. One other approach I tried was to delegate the journeyapp.tk domain to Yandex. The domain verification process never succeeded and I was unable to use this approach. Therefore, using Namecheap offered the simplest solution.
Warning! If you register a free domain name with Freenom, please do so with the expectation that sooner or later, you’ll lose your domain. With the free service, Freenom retains full ownership of your domain. To prevent users from squatting free domains, it can be aggressive in revoking domains that are not fully utilized. It uses the residual traffic from lapsed domains to generate advertising income, and this is the business model that subsidises the free service. To retain access to the free service, it’s important to host some web pages with your free domain. A quick internet search will return numerous companies that can provide free hosting.
For anything more than a 1 month trial of PowerApps, I strongly recommend buying a domain name from an established domain registrar such as Namecheap, GoDaddy, One&One, etc. You can substitute the instructions in this article with the domain register of your choice.
In this article, we looked at how to overcome a frustrating problem – how to obtain a ‘work or school’ email address that we can use to trial PowerApps. We used free services from Freenom, Namecheap, and Yandex. In the next article, we’ll walk through the steps to create a PowerApps subscription.
Feel free to post your comments beneath, particularly if you have recommendations for other ways to obtain free or low cost email hosting.