I set up an account to test with the annatech.net domain to see if Google Apps for Your Domain could supplant my AppRiver hosted Microsoft Exchange account. The short answer is no, but I should explain how I arrived at that conclusion.
It is no secret that Google has spent the last couple years working on perfecting the web-based application and offering its own version of an "Office" application over the web. If you watched the video in my last blog entry (or are already web-savvy), you'll know that Web 2.0 is the next iteration in the evolution of the internet. Not only is the web a series of pages to be viewed - it is an interactive tool that allows you to share & update information and use applications wherever a (high-speed) internet connection is present. Google lives because the internet exists.
So what's new here?
Calandar, email, chat, etc. are not new for Google Business Apps. They were developed over time, beginning with Google Search, then Google Mail and on from there. What's new about this service is that you can tie it directly to your domain. Let's say you own "yourdomain.com". Utilizing Googles App service, you can create Gmail accounts at "firstname.lastname@example.org". You can also create a portal that can be reached, for example, at "portal.yourdomain.com". In addition, other Google apps can be reached at specific domains like "calendar.yourdomain.com" or "spreadsheets.yourdomain.com". In order to take advantage of this service, you need to have full administrative control over your domain name and web hosting:
- Need create an authentication html file, although domain authentication can be achieved through a simple CNAME change too...
- Need to change MX records to point to Google servers
- Need to change CNAME records for any subdomains, to point to required google domain
How well does the whole system work?
If you have used any Google applications, then you need read no further. Google has streamlined the web-based applications experience to make it the smoothest and fasted anywhere, period. But, goal to maintain simplicity and ease-of-use, has left much functionality by the way-side. Business entrenched in Microsoft Outlook cannot look at this as a viable alternative. There are too many features missing and much too little integration with Office to make this a realistic alternative. But this a moot point, because the focus on Google Apps for Business should not be what it can't do, but what it can do.
For the small, budding business without a cache of cash, this might be the perfect opportunity to try out a free, web-based collaboration suite. (Annatech, of course, would be happy to provide consulting & setup services on this matter). Keep in mind though, that this will become a pay-for-use service once beta-testing is completed. You will get lightning fast email access with 2GB of space per user. You will be able to create and share simple calendars, spreadsheets and more. Google provides a tool for building and customizing your partner home page (or you can just make it your business home page). The whole process is slick, swift, and straight to othe point.
The Bottom Line
If you are a small business looking for something that is easy to use and free, give Google Apps a whirl, but if you need cohesive collaboration software that works today, you'll have to pay for it.
If you are an existing business trying to save some money, Google's collaboration offering is a long way from maturing into a viable alternative. Of course, to be fair, Google does not specifically refer to this service as a "Business" service, but the implication is there.
If you can afford it, I highly recommend considering a hosted Exchange Mail service like AppRiver. (Once again, Annatech would be happy to assist with consultation & setup services.)
For more information on Google Apps for Your Domain, got to http://google.com/a