All the Google applications described in this article are available free, à la carte, to individual users. But Google also offers them in a special package known as Google Apps (formerly called Google Apps for Your Domain). The big difference is that if you own a domain and you sign up for Google Apps, Google can essentially take over hosting your domain’s e-mail and Web site—for free or a very low price. You get the full power of Gmail, but with addresses in your own domain name (rather than gmail.com). And you get all the collaboration features of Docs, Spreadsheets, and Calendar for your group, as well as the ability to add as many users as you wish.
Google Apps comes in three editions. All three give a group administrator the ability to set up user accounts and control how users share various kinds of information within and outside the group’s domain. To give the programs a corporate flair, organizations can use their own logo on each page and provide companywide information on each user’s start page (see “Custom Apps”).
The free Standard Edition is probably what you’ll want if you just need to run a small business’s Web site or manage your family’s domain online. It includes Docs, Spreadsheets, Gmail, Calendar, Google Talk, and Page Creator (an online Web-design program), but it offers less storage (2GB per user) than the Premier Edition and no advanced features such as telephone support or conference-room scheduling. The Premier edition costs $50 per year—for an entire organization—and adds more e-mail storage space (10GB per user); it also includes telephone support and several other administrative features. The Education edition is free to accredited institutions. It’s similar to the Premier edition but includes less storage (only 2GB per user) and gives the option of removing advertisements from students’ e-mail. (Get more details about the editions.)
To sign up for Google Apps for a group, visit www.google.com/a/, click on the Get Started button, and follow the prompts. If you don’t already own your own domain name, you can search for and purchase one during sign-up for $10 per year. You can use Google Apps without interrupting your domain’s existing Web and e-mail services, but if you want Google to host your domain’s e-mail or Web site, you must follow Google’s instructions for modifying your DNS records.
[ Joe Kissell is the senior editor of TidBits and the author of Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups (Peachpit Press, 2007). ]Custom Apps: When you subscribe to Google Apps, you can add your corporate logo to each user’s start page; users can also add or rearrange items on their individual pages, including news items, weather reports, and access to company resources (such as a phone directory).