Trying out Google for Domains

More than a month ago, I was invited to try out a Google beta product, Google for Domains. (Abe, Mike and I have previously discussed it here at Pinoy Tech Blog.)

In a nutshell, Google for Domains lets your mail service be hosted by Google, through GMail. You get *some* of GMail’s features like two-gigabyte storage, integration with Google Talk, and the same web interface. In essence, you’ll get mails to, in my case, using Google’s servers. (My own address, by the way, is im[SPAM_ME_AT] {bring it on, spammers!}.)

Setting it up is quite easy. One major requirement for Google for Domains (for the sake of brevity, we’ll call it “Google Hosting“) is that you must be able to add resource records to your DNS. Once the MX records point to Google’s servers, you’re ready to receive mail.

Adding users, customizing the web interface (to a very minimal extent), and other features can be set using a domain administration interface. You can even export users using an online tool that allows you to specify user information in a CSV file. From the interface, you can reset passwords, redirect mails from one mailbox to another, add aliases, and even create distribution lists.

Like I’ve mentioned, it does have its limitations. Although it enjoys the XMPP federation brought by Google Talk, Chikka, et. al., you can’t log in to, say the Google Talk (or GAIM or Psi) client using your domain credentials. But through some DNS modifications (addition of SRV records, specifically), that can be done as well.

It also has forwarding and POP access, so you can use your favorite mail clients like Thunderbird, Evolution, Mutt, or even — shudder! — Outlook for offline mail reading.

“Mailing lists” in the Google Hosting sense are distribution lists for your own domain. Then again, there’s always Google Groups for your full-blown mailing list needs.

There are issues, of course. Most likely, they are the same ones that cropped up when GMail first came out: privacy (or the lack of it), targetted ads, etc. We’re not likely to see big organizations using Google Hosting. Most likely, it will be for SMBs and the like. All one needs is basic domain registration and a Google Hosting account, and voila! you got mail powered by Google. There’s no need to set up mail servers anymore, plus you get to use GMail’s anti-spam and anti-virus solutions.

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