Google doesn’t just offer free email of the form firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also outsource your own domain to them (free if you accept incoming ads, $50/year/mailbox if you don’t). I’ve chosen to do this, because:
- I need a mail host that can stand up under the kind of mailbomb/DDOS attacks that shut me down twice in the past year.
- Similarly, I want to diversify my email addresses among two providers, rather than leaving them all with my general web hosting company.
- David Ferris first wrote up Google Mail outsourcing, with a favorable view, last July. And some of his criticisms (e.g., lack of IMAP support) have already been rectified.
- What’s more — as I remarked last night, David and his associate Richi Jennings have been voting with their feet, and moving their own email to Google. That’s an impressive endorsement. Ferris Research is a serious rival to Gartner as an analyst firm covering email, and Richi — who evidently LOVES Gmail — has also carved out a non-trivial identity as an expert in his own right.
- Free sounds good, compared with the alternatives.
Now that I’ve gone ahead with the move to Google Mail, here are some scattered thoughts:
- Some terminology: Technically, Google Mail is part of the Google Apps service. And the terms “Google Mail” and “Gmail” are pretty interchangeable (you even have two choices of server name when setting up POP3 access).
- Google’s UI to get started can be a bit confusing. But googling on Google Apps will get you to the right place, namely this link.
- Particularly confusing is dealing with the MX records. My domain registrar didn’t seem to offer a way to redirect them at all. The cpanel interface for redirecting MX at my hosting company wasn’t very good; Google asks for about 7 entries of declining priority, but cpanel only makes it easy to enter 1. (I wound up asking my hosting company’s support to make sure all the entries were listed that should be.)
- If there’s a way to sort messages by subject or sender in Gmail online, I haven’t found it. That’s a major oversight if it can’t be done, or a minor one if it’s merely too hard to figure out how to do it.
- Setting up POP3 access has some steps that aren’t present in, say, setting up POP3 via a typical hosting company. You need to go into “Settings” and explicitly enable POP3 access. You also need to explicitly enable SSL in your mail client (on Eudora, the default setting did NOT work). Basically, you need to open this page or something similar, and actually look at the steps for your client. Chances are one or two will be non-obvious.
That’s about it for now. In particular, I haven’t done anything yet with Google Mail’s search capabilities. More on that down the road, perhaps.