I spent some time this weekend setting up to use Google Apps for my wine club‘s email, while leaving the site hosted where it currently is on GoDaddy. My primary reason for doing this is that GoDaddy’s webmail sucks (although mostly I just POP it down to Outlook) and the mailbox provided with my hosting account is only 25MB unless I buy one of their email packages on top of my hosting — only $20/year, but the webmail still sucks.
The free version of Google Apps has a lot to offer:
- 2GB/person email storage for each email address in your domain, and access through the familiar Gmail user interface and spam filtering
- Google Calendar, with calendar sharing between those in the same domain
- Google Documents for collaborative word processing and spreadsheet file creation
- A page creator that allows you to actually host your website, although the functionality is pretty basic.
Since our site is on WordPress, I can’t move it over here, but I’m happy with the GoDaddy web hosting, just not their email, and this gives me a nice alternative.
The one glitch was that we have a .ca domain that is registered with DomainsAtCost.ca, who don’t offer custom DNS: that means that I can only specify a single set of nameservers for the domain, and therefore can’t have my web site hosted in one place and my email in another. (For the technically-minded, the location of your web site’s host is dictated by the A records and CNAME records, whereas the location of your mail host is dictated by the MX records). Luckily, James Woods, who I know through the Toronto tech community, pointed me towards ZoneEdit for a free custom DNS remapping solution.
Here’s the final configuration:
- The domain is registered on DomainsAtCost, which points the domain to ZoneEdit’s nameservers.
- On ZoneEdit, I set A, CNAME and MX records to point everything to the right place.
- The A records point to my hosting server on GoDaddy (the actual server IP, not the GoDaddy nameserver IP’s, as I found out after a day of pulling my hair out), where our site is running on WordPress.
- The MX records to point to Google’s mail servers.
- CNAME records for four subdomains point to Google as well, to provide easy access to the calendar, docs, webmail and a launch page for my domain.
I didn’t have to change anything on GoDaddy (in fact, the old mail account is still there, it just doesn’t have any MX records pointed at it so will never receive anything), and the Google setup was easy; I had to do a bit of research on the DNS stuff to get ZoneEdit to work properly, although this would not have been necessary if my domain registrar allowed me to set my MX records independently.
I’m going to try this out for a few months, then if it works out, I may switch over my corporate email addresses — although it’s only me in the company, I maintain four separate email accounts for easier tracking. Although it’s currently hosted on an upgraded 1GB hosted mail account on GoDaddy, along with the web site, the superior user interface and spam protection of Google’s email may convince me to just abandon the rest of the year’s worth of paid email to move to Google Apps.
I like what Google is doing here. They’re taking the “free email for everyone” idea and expanding it to “free email on my own domain for everyone”. I have a number of friends who don’t even have a website but do have their own domain for email, and this would be a great solution for them. Google will, of course, sell you your domain registration as well, but that’s not required.