How to Easily Set Up Google Apps on Your Website

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The other week I moved my email service over from Yahoo Webhosting to Google Apps.   I finally managed to stop the procrastinating after a year of dithering about and just did it – and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to set up.

This was one of the reasons why I procrastinated so much – I am not much of a technical whiz and I was nervous that I would well and truly cack it up.  Then I would have to go through the embarrassment of asking someone to look at my mess and clean up after me.    Meanwhile, all my incoming emails would be disappearing into a black hole never to be seen again.

But it turned out to be a cinch.   I had the whole thing up and running in 30 minutes and the emails flowed in without a hitch (after being briefly slow at the beginning – but I put that down to the email servers being transferred over and my new Google Apps account being processed.  After a while, email service went back to the normal speed).

In case you have ever wanted to move over to Google Apps but you’ve been nervous about the set-up, I would like to help you end your apprehension and get you started.  Kudos to Google for making it so easy.

Fill Out The Online Application

If you are a family, private user or non-profit organisation, Google Apps is free to use (businesses can have a trial period and then $50 per year per person).   But for me and probably for most of you, the free “standard edition” is the one to go for.   Go here and fill out the application.

The first step of the application is to enter your domain name (or you can buy a new domain name though Google which automatically sets everything up for you).   You also need to verify that you own the domain or if you are a member of the domain.

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Then click “get started” and a standard application form pops up.   Fill it out.

Assuming all of the information is acceptable to Google and you are authorized to set the domain up on Google Apps, you will then be taken to your new dashboard.

The first thing to do is activate your email. You need to specify whether you like the URL Google automatically makes for you. So for example it may have made :

http://mail.googleapps.yourdomain.com

But if you don’t like that URL, you can easily change it to something secret such as :

http://mysecretmailbox.yourdomain.com

Now to activate the email.   Go to the email settings page and there are two options – “create user accounts” and “change MX records”.   OK, no need to get nervous.   Let’s do them one at a time :

Create user accounts

You may have a lot of email addresses for your domain such as info, contact, your name, webmaster and so on.   You need to now input all those email addresses into Google Apps.    Or if you don’t feel like typing them all in, you can upload an Excel CSV file with the addresses already in it.   Google Apps will then insert the email addresses into your email settings.

Change MX Records

OK, now the biggie.   The MX records shows which company handles and delivers your emails.   You need to change the records from your old email provider to Google so your emails can be sent to your Apps account.

It’s not a problem as Google provides step-by-step instructions for whoever your old email provider is.   Just choose your hosting service from the drop-down list and you will get instant specific instructions on where to go and what to do.

It basically involves locating the MX Records list in your hosting account (Google tells you where it is) and deleting them all (you may want to take a screenshot first in case you need to revert back).   Then in their place, enter the following :

Then save the whole lot. And that’s it – email set up!

As I said, it may be a little sluggish at first with emails trickling in slowly but once your Apps account is processed and set up by Google and your MX records get transitioned over, the email will start to come in a lot faster. Just be patient.

If you had your Apps email address already previously set up to forward everything to your old Gmail address, you need to go to the old Gmail address and cancel the forwarding rule.   Otherwise you will end up with two copies of the same email – one in your Gmail account and one in your Apps account.

Next, you can decide if you want to change the destination links for your calendar, Talk app, Documents and Sites (just like you may have changed the URL for your email inbox).   Then activate each service in the settings.

The last thing to do is go to the CNAME settings in your hosting account (again, Google points the way) and you need to enter each URL along with ghs.google.com .  That points everything to the Google servers.   Save everything and you-are-done!   Finito, The End.

All that remains to be done is browse through the settings and customise everything to your liking (for example, you can replace the Google logo witb your own customised logo).

I highly recommend moving over to Google Apps.   It’s a nice all-in-one online email, calendar and documents application.  The only grumble I have about it is that you can’t import your emails over from a normal Gmail account.  Google doesn’t provide any email exporting function so your emails are stuck in the other account – unless you go the long tedious way of downloading the emails to Outlook or Thunderbird and then using an import tool to re-upload them.  But it is very easy to import your filters and contact book over and I had the email purring along in no time.

Do you have any experience of moving your online presence over to Google Apps?   If so, how did it go for you?   Please do let us know.   If you haven’t moved over yet, has this guide persuaded you to give it a go?   Feel free to leave all your questions and comments below.

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