There are several reviews (ITNews, CRN, and TechWeb) of Microsoft’s Office Live Basics versus Google Apps for Your Domain. My key problem with Microsoft Office Live Basics was the requirement to switch my domain to Melbourne IT as the registrar and to switch my DNS server, perhaps in a way that I had less control. (The restriction to 5 emails addresses or $30 per month were not exactly appealing either.)
However, switching to Google Apps was far less invasive. I could just change my MX record and immediately be up and live with GMail Web UI for my domain.
- Over comes regular GMail issue in which your reply address is gmail.com on Behalf Of. (The result of this issue was that folks generally reply to gmail rather than your domain.)
- Only needed to change MX record
- Great email web user interface – certainly better than the Exchange 2003 version Outlook for Web Access (I haven’t seen the 2007 version yet.)
- Excellent search and Archive capability
- Label support
- Association of both sent and received messages into a single thread and location
- Spam filtering
Email for Michaelis.net Before Google Apps
For several, years now I have used ZoneEdit‘s Mail Forward feature in addition to their free DNS support. With the Mail Forward feature, I have all of the email for my domain go to ZoneEdit where it is forward to the destination address of my users. For example, some users have comcast email addresses so an email to InigoMontoyaThe3rd@michaelis.net gets forward to InigoMontoyaThe3rd@comcast.net. The reply address (in Outlook) for that user, however, is set to InigoMontoyaThe3rd@michaelis.net so that they can change the forwarding address with out needing to notify everyone.
For addresses like my own (mark@…), I host using Small Business Server’s license of Microsoft Exchange. The primary email address on the server is set to be michaelis.net, but all email into the server is destined for the domain mail.michaelis.net. That way, I use ZoneEdit as the initial store and forward location and email is stored (even for the rare times when my mail.michaelis.net email server is down).
Email for Michaelis.net on Google Apps
To switch to Google Apps, I first (before I switched the MX record) setup all the email addresses I previously hosted on ZoneEdit and placed them onto Google Apps.
By the way, on the Google Apps registration it asks how many account you will need. Furthermore, once created, you appear to be limited to that number of accounts. I tried 100 and that worked but Michael Stokesbary (at my prompting) tried 1000 and he was placed into the we-will-contact-you category. Re-applying with 100 accounts successfully created his Google Apps account immediately.
There were several hiccups.
- Problem: Google Apps does not support forwarding in the Domain Management site. Therefore, InigoMontoyaThe3rd@michaelis.net could not be forwarded on to the destination comcast.net address as I wanted.
Solution: Create a user account for InigoMontoyaThe3rd then logon as the users and create a filter that forwards all messages to the comcast address (and possibly deletes them from the Google Apps account assuming you don’t want to have a backup.)
- Problem: Google email addresses do not support underscores. Arghhh!!
Solution: On the Domain Settings page of Google Apps, you can configure a particular account as a catch-all address. “A catch-all address allows you to receive mail sent to any address that doesn’t already exist.” Next, logon to that account and setup a filter for all email destined for the email address with an underscore to the appropriate address.
- Problem: Forwarding via filter is not ideal because users that are blind copied on an email will not be picked up by the filter.
- Problem: Email lists can only include email addresses in the hosted domain. Therefore, if I previously had an email list that included addresses not in the domain, the addresses would have to be excluded.
Solution: Include the catch-all email address in the email list. Next, login as the catch all email account and create a series of filters for messages with a to line of the email list, and have each address forwarded to the external domain email address.
- Problem: In spite of how good GMail is, it has a long way to go to support the functionality of Exchange with Windows Mobile Outlook.
Solution: Continue to run exchange using a sub-domain email address (mail.michaelis.net in my case). Setup a filter for all users that want to continue using Exchange so that email is forwarded from the Google Apps account to the sub-domain. Set the reply address in exchange to use michaelis.net rather than mail.michaelis.net.
- Problem: Import of existing messages, perhaps from a GMail account, into Google Apps.
Solution: Discussion online points to Google Gmail Loader or gExodus. I have not tried either yet.
- Problem: Filters are essential unordered or prioritized. This means that all filters apply. You can’t have earlier filters delete messages for example. so that later filters are not applied.
- Problem: Filters do not support forwarding to multiple addresses.
Solution: Enter the same filter multiple times, each time forwarding to a different address. You may have to refresh the browser window between creations of each filter.
- Problem: There is not a “for all messages” filter option.
Solution: In the message does not contain option enter something that won’t appear in a message such as, “Do Not Forward To InigoMontoyaThe3rd@comcast.net.”
- Problem: Filters cannot handle OR or AND logic. You can’t, for example, state if the message does not contain X or Y.
This is quite a few workarounds but they have not been too difficult to put in place.
In conclusion, I am very happy with the solution. GMail under Google Apps is now my back up and a great search resource. I expect that many of my family will switch to use this rather than the Exchange setup I have hosted for years.