Recently I have been trying out Google Apps as a possible alternative to office and more importantly an alternative to pop3 emails that we use with our hosting company. At the moment we offer unlimited email accounts with our hosting however these standard mailboxes are limited to 20 meg, and the SMTP has to be the SMTP your ISP provides.
The free version of Gmail on Google Aps however offers 2 Gigabytes of storage! Virus, Anti Spam, and Phishing protection. The SMTP is also roaming ( and Googles Webmail is fantastic.

Google Aps also allows you to use Google Calender, Google Docs, and Google Start Page.
If 2 Gb of email is not enough for you then each email box can be upgraded for £25 per year allowing you to have 10 Gb of emails and have the webmail adverts removed.
The main issues we had when implementing Google Aps were:

  1. You need to create multiple MX records for the domain for Google to control, while this is quite easy some Hosts have very poor advanced DNS features. Fast Hosts for example only allow you to input 1 IP address for the MX record. Therefore we had to use 123 Reg where we could add the 5 MX records in domain format that Google had provided.
  2. An A record or file needs to be created on the server to authenticate your domain. While this is not hard to do it is another add step in the process.
  3. The whole process of changing MX records and adding an A record can mean it takes 48 hours before you can start managing you emails through Google.
  4. Setting up emails on your computer is harder than a normal Pop 3 from the likes of Fast Hosts, the outgoing server requires authentication, and it needs to be on port 465. The incoming server requires an SSL connection on port 995. Again while this is not hard for many computers users it can be quite confusing for an inexperience computer user.
  5. Each email address needs to be set up via webmail first, the user must log into the account and then go to settings within Gmail and enable Pop 3. An easy process but another step into setting up the emails.

While there is quite a bit of extra setting up for Gmail over normal Pop 3 provided by companies such as Fast Hosts I do think it is worth it. The extra work will hopefully pay off by avoiding issues when a user fills up 20Mb in no time and start having emails bouncing, it also provides improved security, with Googles Spam blocker being one of the best we have used. Googles webmail is also fantastic and much better than the solutions we have tried from Fast Hosts (livemail).
Another advantage is the ability to sue Google Docs, while I have not been converted they are very Good, and for a company wishing to reduce costs could be an excellent alternative to using Office.

Sign up for Google Aps here