Google Hosted Mails is a pretty old service through which Google enables you to use the terrific GMail interface to handle mails for your own domain. I remember signing up for it almost an year back to handle mails for my company’s domain. At that time it was in Beta phase (it still is) – but you’d to undergo a long wait (close to two months) while they reviewed your application and approved it.
Google Apps for Your Domain lets you offer private-labeled email, instant messaging and calendar accounts to all of your users, so they can share ideas and work more effectively. These services are all unified by the start page, a unique, dynamic page where your users can preview their inboxes and calendars, browse content and links that you choose, search the web, and further customize the page to their liking. You can also design and publish web pages for your domain.
Recently I checked up with their service as I wanted to use the same for Chaos Lab and to my surprise – they now have a whole package of tools for your domain called Google Apps for Your Domain. It’s a whole suite of web-applications which can be customised and used with your own domain. The applications include …
- The start page – A central place for your users to preview their inboxes and calendars, access your essential content, and search the web.
- GMail – Offer email to your users with 2 gigabytes of storage per account, search tools to help them find information fast, and instant messaging built right into the browser. However, as of now the maximum email accounts you can create (for your domain) is 25. Anything more than that would require some sort of paid contract with Google.
- Google Talk – Your users can call or send instant messages to their contacts for free — anytime, anywhere in the world.
- Google Calendar – Users can organize their schedules and share events, meetings and entire calendars with others.
- Google Page Creator – Create and publish web pages for your domain quickly and easily with this what-you-see-is-what-you-get page design tool.
Even the signup process has been simplified and is as easy and instantaneous as signing up for a generic web-based service these days. However, you need to have two things handy for this.
- A Google Account – which I’m sure almost every second person out there on the net owns. However, if you don’t have one, it can be created in a matter of minutes.
- A pre-registered domain owned by you. This one is an absolute necessity. Owning a domain before-hand will make life a lot easier here. However, Google gives you the option of registering one through one of their partners for $10 in case you don’t have one already.
Once you’ve met the criteria, the signup process takes just under a couple of minutes to complete. By the end of it you’ve got all these tools up & running for you. You’re given a Control Panel, which allows you to enable / disable any of the above services. The changes are reflected across all the user accounts you create for your domain.
As for myself – I use only GMail, GTalk and Calendar for Chaos Lab.
There’s one catch though. To allow Google to handle the mail for your domain, you need to be able to modify the MX Entry for the domain. MX stands for Mail Exchanger. Normally, if you purchase hosting services along with your domain, the MX Entry automatically points to the email servers provided to your by your web-host. In this case since Google will be handling your mail, you need to point the MX Entry to Google’s mail servers. Further information can be found here. Most web-hosts provide you with an online software called cPanel for performing various domain related tasks. Modifying the MX Entry is an one-step easy process from there.
Also the URL that your users have to use to access their mail accounts is kind of cryptic and long, for example, https://mail.google.com/a/your-domain.com.
This can easily be changed to something like, https://mail.your-domain.com if you can modify the CNAME record for your domain.
The coolest part is that though this is another one of the Beta Tests of Google, a notice on the main Google Apps page says…
Organizations accepted by Google during the Google Apps for Your Domain beta period are eligible for free service for their approved beta users even beyond the end of the beta period, as described in the Terms of Service.
Cool, eh ? 🙂 It’s terrific. It’s FREE. Get Google Apps for Your Domain, today !!!