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Thursday, 28 May 2009 02:04

I've had a few clients using Google Apps and have been interested in trying it out in large part because Gmail allows the sending of large files via email, something that ISPs and most hosting setups don't permit... and with good reason. Sending large files on via email takes up a lot of bandwidth that is needed for email itself. But for anyone involved in Graphic Design and/or requiring the sending/receiving of large files as a regular part of business, this is a great feature to have. Until recently I have not had time to get it all installed for any of my own domains, and I wanted to try it out for myself as well.

I set it up for one client who was having regular email problems on their hosting account. It had something to do with their internal network, as well as them wanting to send and receive large CAD files and for other reasons. Not only does Google Apps allow 7GB of space per user, but they could then send and receive large files without issue. All told, it made a lot of sense for them. While they did have some issues setting it up for a couple of their users, overall it went in just fine--I found the online help files for them that showed them how to set it up, as well asworking with them over the phone. I've not heard a problem from them in a long time now, where I used to hear from them pretty much every week in order to get some problem or other sorted out.

Finally I made some time this past weekend to set up Google Apps for myself. One has to verify website ownership first, of course, and this is typically done by adding a CNAME (i.e., a DNS record) record or else uploading an HTML file, so allow two days after doing this before setting up Google Apps in your site's DNS records. Once you start seeing that the other Apps in Google Apps are "Active", then you know it's okay to set up the email.

Setting up the email means you have to be able to change your site's DNS records, so it's important that you have hosting that allows you to do this. First task is to set up all the email addresses in Google's interface so they'll be ready. Next task is adding the MX records (this is part of the DNS, or Domain Name Server records) to reflect using Google's servers rather than your host's servers, and deleting the host's server(s) from the MX records. Once this is done, the email switches over right away.

Additional items to take care of... in the settings panel in the Google Apps account you'll want to make sure to check that you're using POP3--this will allow you to download your email into your regular email program. You'll also need to change the mailservers used for each affected email address, as well as port numbers for those accounts.

Once all this is done, however, your email comes in just like it always did... except the Google spam filters are extremely accurate compared to most hosting setups, and that means the spam is pretty much gone. Yes, spam is collected in an online folder and will be automatically deleted out of your online account (you use Google's gmail interface for webmail after changing over) once it's 30 days old, but if you get the volume of spam that I do you may want to log in every so often and use the "delete all spam" link in the spam folder to get rid of it. I've been thrilled to find half of my incoming spam now gone... 

The other consideration here is in your website hosting. As long as you have hosting that permits you to change DNS, it becomes really easy to move a website without having any disruption in email service. Usually it's dealing with email that's the biggest headache when changing a site's hosting. With email going through gmail and no longer associated withwebsite hosting exceot indirectly, if you have to move a website for any reason, there is a lot less to worry about and your email stays stable.

My experience with Google Apps thus far has been very positive. Yes, they say they have filters that checks through email in order to target ads (Google Adwords) for you.. .if privacy is very important to you, you may have some issue with using Google Apps. However, one shoudl keep in mind that email is never private, that anyone with access to your hosting account can potentially read your email as wel.. so it's best to assume that email is never private.

Personally, I like having the reliablility of Google powering my email... email will get through even if your host has a router or other issue (and this does happen from time to time, even with the most reliable hosts).We'll see how it goes, but so far so good... large file send/receive (I've sent 20+ MB files before now), far better spam filtering, calendar function, and more. Plus it's a backup in case my hard drive should go down (as one did recently) as I archive important email in the Google account and it's always available from any computer I want to use.

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