UPDATED: September 7, 2006 — Updates are in BOLD lettering. Google Apps for Your Domain is Google’s first step into offering a full-service suite of free, private-domain-specific, web applications:
Now you can offer private-labeled email, IM and calendar tools to all of your users for free*, so they can share ideas and get things done more effectively. You can design and publish your organization’s website, too. It’s all hosted by Google, so there’s no hardware or software for you to install or maintain. (*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.)
Perhaps Google are saving those two applications to really give companies like 37 Signals a real hard run for our money as a go-to for-pay service? I was thrilled yesterday when my application to beta test Google Apps for Boles University was approved:
The first thing you do is set up a main administration account. You can then assign user roles and provide email accounts for up to 25 other people.
I can see how Google Apps are already shaping up into a Basecamp killer where I can pull in my Urban Semiotic Guest Authors and give them email, chat, calendar and other goodies — one day Writely and Spreadsheets, I hope — so we can begin to collaborate online. Instead of emailing each other stories and ideas we will be able to do it all online via Google Apps!
Now it’s time to add, and then set up, the services you wish to use. I decided to go to my web hosting company and change my MX (Mail Exchange) records to Google so I can get and send email from my Boles University hosted Google email account. That process of changing and updating MX records can be complicated for a novice user so don’t worry about using G-Mail for you hosted domain if you’re already satisfied with your current email setup. I am disappointed Google Talk isn’t natively available for the Mac! That means I can’t chat with my people online unless I use a program like Adium.
You can also get rid of the Google logos and brand your hosting with a logo of you own!
Here is my Boles University-branded G-Mail inbox and it is flush with the standard 2 gigs of space and every person on my team gets the same amount of space! I can also “Manage this domain” from this interface. Slick!
I wish I had an easy way to pull in all my current G-mail email and settings into this new account AS WELL AS keeping all the increased G-mail storage space quotas I earned over the years. My standard G-mail account has 700 MB more than my new account. That hurts. Google will also host your website domain.
You have to change or add a CNAME record in the Zone file for your domain to make that happen. If you don’t understand what that means you can just not worry about it for now and have a really ugly domain URL that might look like this: http://www.bolesuniversity.com-a.googlepages.com That might lead you to a page like this:
You use Google Page Creator to build your website pages. I made the unfortunate mistake of not listening to Google when I set up my test for web hosting. I wanted to host a subdomain on Google, say — google.bolesuniversity.com — but instead of putting “google” into the setup window I kept the Google default of “www” and that means I put all my website eggs in the Google basket. I didn’t want to do that.
But I did.
Now I’m stuck with that ugly URL because it cannot be changed and I only want part of my website on Google, not all of it. Google warns you they will not change it on their end. I acted to soon to get everything set up for this review. Boles University proper is still hosted on my servers and not Google.
UPDATE: Google reset my domain hosting! I was able to create a proper subdomain and I set up a CNAME record in my Zone file and now you can see how this all looks by going here: david.bolesuniversity.com That cool BolesUniversity.com subdomain is hosted on the Google servers! THANK YOU GOOGLE!
Let’s move on to something I didn’t goof up during the move: Calendars! Each person on your domain can have a calendar and you can share schedules by default if you wish so everyone can see what the other people on your team are doing. I do so ever love the logo branding:
Here’s the Google Calendar sidebar in action! Did I mention I love the logo branding?
When you want to make changes to your domain by adding or deleting services you do it via this control panel.
As you can see below I turned off my “Domain Hosting” for a couple of hours and then turned it “back on” hoping it would forget the “www” mistake I made. But it didn’t. Google remembered my mistake. I’m living with it. Against my will.
Here’s where I login to the Google control panel to manage my Boles University domain:
Once inside, I can see who logged on when and which people are not reading their email fast enough to take advantage of enrollment in Boles University.
It’s been over 15 hours since the invites were sent, people! That’s half a day in real time and two years in internet time!
One users are setup for my domain, this is the login screen they use for access.
You can customize both the background color and border of the login box to match your design style. Did I mention I love the logo branding?
Google Apps for Your Domain is a big, wet, smack-on-the-lips for those of us who live our lives on the web and who prefer not to store our being on wonky local computers.
Living and working on the web just got easier with the advent of Google Apps for Your Domain and being able to brand your domain makes the online love just a little sweeter. You can apply for the Google Apps beta here if you want to set up a little loving for Your Domain.