About half a year ago, just before my lengthy travels to Bangalore and Seattle I came to the conclusion that its about time to take my emails online so that they’ll be accessible from anywhere, not just the Outlook client on my personal machine.

Google Applications for your Domains seemed like exactly what I needed:

  • I could keep my ekampf.com email address
  • 5GB of online storage – no need to take care of backups etc.
  • GMail’s spam filter
  • GMail’s web interface which is a lot better than the interface my domain host had to offer
  • Online Calendar and Address Book

Included Services:

  • Email (obviously)
  • Calendar
  • Start Page

“The personalized start page is a syndicated version of iGoogle, allowing you to set up dynamic homepages for your users that bring together your content, Google services, and the best of the web.”

  • Chat – GTalk integrated with the Email service
  • Web Pages – Allows you to create web pages for your domain using the Google Page Creator.
  • Sites

“Google Sites is an online application that makes creating a team web site as easy as editing a document. With Google Sites, people can quickly gather a variety of information in one place – including videos, calendars, presentations, attachments, and text – and easily share it for viewing or editing with a small group, an entire organization, or the world.”

So, how do Google Apps stand up to the expectations?

The Good

Setup

Setting up my Google Apps for Domains account and configuring my domain was quick, smooth and simple.

Migration from Another Online Service via POP

GMail supports getting mail from other accounts via POP3. Simply go to your Google Apps mailbox, click Settings|Accounts and you can add a POP3 account for Google to fetch information from. I fetched all the information from my old email account without any problems.

When I wanted to import the mail items from my gmail.com account I got a message saying that GMail for Apps can’t import from a Gmail mailbox via POP.
You have to use Outlook\Thu8nderbird as an alternative…

Migration from Outlook

Since I was using Outlook as my main email client before switching I had lots of emails on a local PST file (and several backup PST).
In order to move all these emails to Google I used Google’s IMAP support in Outlook and drag-and-dropped all my items from the PST into Google’s IMAP folder.

Note #1: that the Outlook 2007 support for IMAP sucks. It simply hangs when trying to move a large amount of items, so you have to perform this operation on small item batches….

Note #2: You can use this method to migrate mail items from any online service that Outlook can connect to. I used it to migrate my gmail.com account too…

Mobile Support

Google’s mobile HTML interface for GMail works great. They’ve also got a GMail Mobile application that I’ve installed on my E65.
Now I can really access my mailbox from anywhere…

The Bad

Migration from GMail accounts

As noted in the previous section, Google Apps do not support fetching items via POP from Gmail mailboxes. I’d expect Google to make migration from GMail to Google Apps smoother, allowing me to merge my accounts.
This leads us to the second point which I find most annoying…

Severity: Bad.

Google Accounts CHAOS – Google Apps Accounts ARE NOT Google Accounts

So far, that’s the most annoying issue with Google Apps.
I expected Google to support identity federation but they don’t. My Google Apps account can only be used for logging into my Google Apps (mail, calendar, docs, etc.). In order to access any other services Google has to offer (Google Reader, Google Code, Analytics, Adsense…) I have to keep a gmail.com account (which means another mailbox etc.).

I can’t tell you how annoying it is that in order to use the new friends feature of Google Reader I have to add all my contacts to the gmail.com address book and GTalk. I have to maintain two identities to be able to work with Google…

Severity: Awful.

Different Codebase Than Regular Google Services

It seems that the Google Apps codebase branched out of the main Google development code.
This is most noticeable when looking at iGoogle vs. Google Apps Homepage.
Google Apps users do not get the latest features and Google is in communication blackout as to its plans for Google Apps.
There’s no Google Apps Blog, no roadmap describing Google’s plan for this service and I haven’t noticed any enhancement in the service so far.

Seems like Google just came up with an initial beta for a bunch of services, branched out from its main codebase and just left the project hanging in mid-air.

Severity: Awful.

Google APIs are not Compatible with Google Apps

I’m using Plaxo to sync my Address Book and Calendar between all my devices, computers and online accounts.
From all the services out there, only Google’s calendar sync was buggy until not long ago (seems to work fine now) and Address Book sync doesn’t work at all (it supposed to work one way only according to Plaxo but I was never actually able to get that work at all).

There seems to be all sorts of compatibility issues between Google services APIs and Google Apps.

Seems like I’m not the only one suffering here as Zoli posted about his Google Apps troubles too…

Severity: Bad.

Google Start Page

Simply doesn’t measure up to its iGoogle brother and the other competitors. It looks bad and there enough good content available to make it usable…

Severity: Bad.

The Summary – Google Apps Chaos

For the simple use of online email, Google Apps deliver what is expected of it.
However, it seems like Google is in chaos with its services strategy:

  • You have to maintain several identities to use different Google services.
  • No clear roadmap for Google Apps. As a customer, I hate the uncertainty
  • Google Apps are branched out from Google. Again no word from Google on feature parity or integration efforts…

Google Apps could have been a great service for individuals and small businesses, but (as usual) Google seems to be missing it and yet again
providing us with a functionality impaired “beta” and no vision…

Maybe its time to look for alternatives. Microsoft Live seem to handle most of the mentioned issues so its worth to take a look…

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4 Comments to “Google Applications for your Domain – Does it Measure Up to Expectations?”

  1. Krish | October 5th, 2008 at 3:40 am

    I did try out Microsoft’s live services. There is no way I could get the same experience as Google, in spite of all the problems you have mentioned. I came out frustrated after trying out Live services.

  2. ekampf | October 5th, 2008 at 3:45 am

    After trying both I’m afraid that I both are frustrating… :(
    And both don’t have a clear roadmap (though I tend to think Microsoft is more trustworthy here…)

    Meanwhile I’m stuck with Google…

  3. Microsoft Updates Its Windows Live Services | CloudAve | November 13th, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    [...] offering can be amazing for collaboration and communication inside the organization. While Google doesn’t seem to care about its Google Applications for Your Domains customers its good to see that Microsoft is going [...]

  4. Microsoft Updates Its Windows Live Services | DeveloperZen | November 14th, 2008 at 12:55 am

    [...] offering can be amazing for collaboration and communication inside the organization. While Google doesn’t seem to care about its Google Applications for Your Domains customers its good to see that Microsoft is going [...]