Friday, May 04, 2007

Review: Google Apps

Google has released its own application suite, Google Apps, almost for a month. The application suite is basically a bundle of all the current Google offerings (Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Documents, Google Web Page Builder, Google Daskboard/iGoogle), Google Talk in a single package which is bounded with a domain name. I'm sure

There are 3 different versions of Google Apps: Standard, Premier, and Education. Besides the Premier version, the other 2 versions are totally free of charges. Premier provides more reliability, larger storage space, more security and supports. However, for average small business/organization/family, Standard and Education version are far more than enough.

Setup is very easy. You can goto the sign up page to pick which version you want to use. Personally, I only tried the Standard version.

If you already have your own domain registered, make sure you have access to your domain's DNS entry. Either you have your own public DNS in your company/organization or using some public services. However, if you do not have a domain registered yet, Google helps you to pick and register one for a pretty standard price.

Once you have the domain name setup, Google Apps will ask you some very simple questions. For example, how many people are going to use this service? At the end of the registration, Google will help you to setup the first user account. This account will be the first administrator account for your domain's Google Apps as well.



At the end, you will be ended up in the administrator dashboard. In order to activate Google Apps, you need to proof you are the one who really owns the domain. Google Apps provides you 2 methods: Create a HTML file in your web server that contains specific text or Adding a CNAME in your DNS entry. The first method is the most simple way but only if you have a web server already. If you don't have a web server running for your domain (like me), modifying the DNS is the only method. Google provides very detail information about how to do it. However, if you still have no clue how to modify the DNS, you better ask someone who has network administration knowledge to help you.

Google claims it will take at most 48 hours to activate Google Apps for your domain after you have verified that. It took me about 5 minutes though. The next step is activating all the Google applications. The default URL for each application is not using your domain yet. You have to click on each application and change the URL settings. For example, start.yourdomain.com or mail.yourdomain.com or docs.yourdomain.com. Google provides extremely detail explanation on how to modify your DNS CNAME entries. It is very straight forward if you have very simple DNS knowledge. However, mail server is the most tricky one since you have to modify the DNS's MX (mail exchange) record. Again, Google estimates the activation time for each application will be at most 48 hours. However, besides Gmail (after 12 hours and still not done yet), all the applications' activation only took me at most 10 minutes.

For more information, you can visit Google Apps Help pages.

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