I recently switched my email to Google Apps, which provides the benefits of Gmail while still letting you use your own domain name. I'm glad I did it, although I had to overlook privacy concerns and Google's idiosyncratic technology choices.
Google Apps is Google's private-label version of its Web applications. You get Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and more. For Gmail, instead of having firstname.lastname@example.org as your address, you have email@example.com. Also, the calendar, Docs, and other applications are integrated, and can be administered centrally. It's Google's attempt to compete with Microsoft Exchange.
It comes in a free version, or a $50 per user per year Premium version, with tech support and increased email storage quotas.
This is not my first go at Google Apps. I used it as my primary personal email from 2007 until last year. However, the domain I was using was odd -- wagmail.com -- and when I started my own business in December, I wanted to use the more professional-sounding "mitchwagner.com."
I had three options at that point: Continue using Google Apps and integrate the new domain with the old one. Google Apps lets you associate multiple domains with a single account.
The second option was to start a new Google Apps account.
I decided on the third option, letting Westhost manage my email. I was concerned about privacy, having too much of my information with Google. Also, I had grown dissatisfied with the way Gmail handles mail filtering. Instead of using folders, Gmail sorts messages using labels, which gets clumsy if, like me, you have a lot of mail filters.
However, over the next couple of months, I regretted my decision. Although Westhost is very satisfactory as a Web hosting comany, I found I preferred Gmail after all. The filtering and Webmail clients on Westhost didn't work as well for me as Google's own tools. And the client-side email options on the Mac are disappointing.
So back to Google Apps I went. I decided to continue using my wagmail.com Google Apps account, rather than start a new one.
The transition was pretty simple, it was just a matter of adding the mitchwagner.com domain to the wagmail.com account. To add a domain to an existing Google Apps account, go to your account, click "Manage This Domain," enter your password, click "Domain Names," "Add a domain alias," and follow the instructions.
Since I made the switch back to Google Apps last month, I've been happy I did. I'll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of Google Apps mail another day.