In my continuing quest to find a replacement for IBM Workplace Collaboration Services, I thought I’d give Google Apps for Your Domain a go.
I happened to have a spare domain name sitting around soasuccessplus.com that I hadn’t put to good use as yet. So I went through the configuration process and updated the DNS server appropriately. I have enabled all capabilities within Google Apps for Your domain – Standard Edition, to see what it can do.
Standard Edition has a few options that aren’t available in the Premier Edition and the Education Edition (wonder if any educational institutions would use this due to security concerns?). On a side note, the term "Standard Edition" gives a better sense of importance I think then the term "Express", used by some other vendors. So after reviewing the differences between the Standard and Premier Editions, I decided for my purposes at the moment that Standard Edition would be adequate.
To enable your email etc under a domain, you can either let google provide you DNS services, host your own DNS or use a hosted DNS services through netregistry etc. I host my own DNS servers so I followed the instructions and activated all the services appropriately in the DNS – you will have to add google specific information to prove that you are the administrator of the domain. If you know how to configure your DNS, this process will take about half an hour.
Having modified the DNS to have certain A names resolve to google servers, I was hoping that all interaction would be using URLs suffixed with soasuccessplus.com. Like the start page, try it out http://start.soasuccessplus.com, you end up at http://partnerpage.google.com/soasuccessplus.com. This is the page that all users of the domain would log in from, so the google guys must still be having some issues with mangling urls, as it quite clearly shows google.com? The same thing happens for mail, calendar etc. One would hope in the future that google addresses these issues.
Now the Google Apps that I am using mail, calendar and page creator appear to work well. I used the page creator to setup a simplepage at http://www.soasuccessplus.com, but more work is required here. I’ve been using the Google Calender over the last couple of weeks. Its quite easy to use – haven’t tried exposing calendar entries public as yet… One little gripe that I have is the integration between Google Desktop and Google Calendar when you have multiple identities on google.com, it is retrieving my calendar entries ok from my soasuccesplus.com identity, but when I create a new event, it does so as my gmail identity. Am sure at some point this will be fixed.
I’m only tinkering around with my mail address firstname.lastname@example.org, as if I used it for my main email address, I think I’d use up 2GB per mail box pretty quickly. On this machine that I’m using, my inbox under Thunderbird has now reached 10400 messages and I’ve managed to send some 5000 emails my self. No wonder some people are happy that I’m using http://del.icio.us/hortovanyi and blogging now.
I should really review the google Ts&Cs a bit better as well. Still not certain if this is the final solution yet in my quest, but its certainly looking good for a small number of users, if you can allow them to manage their own email. One concern that I have is that there is no Audit of the email interactions, so for larger organisations this could be a show stopper!
What has your experiences been with Google Apps? Let me know.. Would you be happy to switch completely over?