With the widespread use of the internet, email has become a major part of our everyday lives, not only as a wonderful social tool, but on a business level as well. In our current society, it is the de facto of reputable businesses to not only have a website, but to have vanity email addresses as well. Think about it; when you email someone for business, doesn’t their having a vanity email (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) make them seem more professional?
For a while, businesses (or individuals) who wanted to set up branded email would have to either set up an email server (e.g. Lotus Domino, Microsoft Exchange, etc.), or pay someone else to set up and host one for them. Either way, doing so was a costly process, and did not ensure the same stability and functionality as the more popular email services.
Google Apps, previously known as “Google for Your Domain”, is a service from Google where an individual or an organization can use branded versions of Google’s collaboration products (Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, etc.) that are set up for their domains. Google Apps also gives the domain administrators a superior level of control, allowing them to disable certain features, control user accounts, establish internal mailing lists, etc. While Google has a paid edition that costs $50 per user per year, they also have a free “standard” edition that provides up to fifty user accounts. For most businesses and individuals, this is more than sufficient.
Setting up Google Apps on your domain is a relatively simple task, and shouldn’t take you more than fifteen or twenty minutes (note: Google can also help you to purchase a domain through them as well).
- The first step in setting up Google Apps is obviously having a domain. If you don’t have a domain, you may consider registering one through Google, however you may consider reading Jeff’s article on picking and registering a domain name.
- Once you have your domain name (or if you intend to purchase one through Google), head over to the Google Apps Homepage, and begin the configuration process using the package of your choice. For this tutorial, we will be using the standard free edition.
- From the details page for your package, select “Get Started”.
- On the next page, you will want to check that you are the domain administrator, and enter the name of your domain (not including www.). Note that this is the point where you would choose to purchase a domain name through Google if you were to want to do so.
- The next page will be a simple information form, where you will be asked to provide basic information about yourself and your organization. If you selected a paid package, you will be prompted for billing information here as well.
- The following screen will ask you to set up the administrative account for the domain. This account will be able to create and delete users, change passwords, and modify other components of the account and services. After your Google Apps account is fully configured, you will be able to give administrative privileges to other users within your domain.
- Once you have completed the registration process, Google will prompt you to verify ownership of your domain. They offer two methods; the first being to change a CNAME record within your domain, and the second being to create and upload an HTML file. In this example, we will choose to upload the HTML file. To do so, simply select the option, and upload the file to your site’s root HTML directory.
- Lastly, click the “I’ve completed the steps above” button to have Google verify your ownership.
- The last major step that needs to be completed after domain verification is to activate email on the domain. This is done by changing your MX (email routing) records on your domain to point to Google’s servers. To begin this process, click on the “Activate email” link in the dashboard.
- Changing the MX records on your domain vary from provider. Because of this, Google will automatically try to determine your provider, and give you specific directions for that provider.
- With most providers, the process is as simple as logging into your web-based control panel, and choosing to edit the DNS settings for your domain, entering the values as provided by Google.
Once you have completed the setup and verification processes, your domain should be ready for use. Google gives the administrator control through their web-based control panel, which can be accessed again by visiting http://google.com/a/. From there, you will be able to manage users and control other miscellaneous settings within your domain.
All in all, Google Apps is an excellent platform, as it gives the administrators an easy platform to work with, and allows for dead-simple configuration. I also praise Google for providing the level of documentation that they do, as well as resources to help administrator’s transition end-users to the new system. For end-users, Google Apps provides a simple, familiar interface, which ultimately leads to a greater ease of use.