According to Google’s enterprise blog, the basic Google Apps package (previously offered free for small groups of under 10 users) is being abandoned to streamline the service, offering businesses a single, $50 per user option, that promises 24/7 phone support, 25GB inboxes and a 99.9% uptime guarantee.
Luckily for me, since I do use it on GadgetReactor.com, pre-existing free customers can still continue along, as per normal. Google Apps are not to be confused with personal Gmail or Google Drive accounts. It is meant more for businesses or enterprises with a custom domain and to use Google services such as email (firstname.lastname@example.org), calendar alongside them. It is an enterprise level solution targeted at companies. The reason explained by Google Enterprise for removing the free option is that the team hopes that streamlining the Apps will allow it to provide better service, possibly offering enterprise users new features on a faster timetable. This worked very well for new start-ups or just a personal blog like this, as most people are already familiar with Google Services.
Well, an alternative to Google Apps is Microsoft, who offers Windows Live Custom Domains.
Setting up Windows Live Custom Domains for your Email
It’s easy to setup. In a nutshell, all you need to do is have your personal domain name and point your MX/TXT records to the Windows Live (Hotmail) MX servers.
- First up, you need a domain name. If you already have a domain name, you can use it with Windows Live Custom Domains without changing your existing registrar. Your current registrar must allow you to make custom changes to your DNS settings. If you don’t already have a domain, Microsoft gives you the option to purchase one from one of its partners.
- Next step is you will need to assign an administrator for your Windows Live Custom Domain. If you already have a Windows Live ID, you can use that. For security reasons, I would recommend creating a brand new Windows Live ID specifically for your domain. Assigning your personal Windows Live ID as the administrator can be a time-saving measure, but if anyone were to get access to your personal account, they would also have access to your business accounts as well.
Comparing Google Apps and Windows Live Custom Domains
Both services do allow the use of their whole suite of online software and have similar offerings, the basic email, calendar, office editing apps. However, they have their own unique advantages.
Google has better collaborative features, with Drive and Google Docs, while Microsoft does offer its Office Web Apps, Skydrive and Skype, which are actually pretty good as well. It is also more advantageous for companies who predominantly work in Microsoft Office and the integration features with the Office Web is better design. Similarly, another strong advantage of Windows Live Custom Domains is that it offers easy integration with Outlook, which is still a very popular email and scheduler client. Furthermore, Outlook.com has been improved drastically this past year and has very good integration with Windows 8 as well. Overall, I think Google is better positioned at collaborative features and familiarity for those current Google users.
Well, if you were not able to get a free Google Apps account, it isn’t all that bad. You could still save quite a fair bit and go with Microsoft’s offering which has improved significantly over the years and has its unique advantages as compared to Google Apps.