Monday, January 23, 2012

Setting up Google Apps for Your Domain

As the title suggests, this article will teach you how to set up Google Apps for Business on your domain.
Hundreds of millions of people use Google products and services every day. Chances are, you probably found this article through a Google search; or even better, you may have even seen this in Developer Shed’s Weekly Newsletter, which you read from your Gmail account. One thing is for sure, though--you probably use Google services at least once per day. Whether you are searching the web, checking your email, researching stock prices, or watching online videos, Google has the products to keep information, entertainment, and productivity at your fingertips.

One Google product you may not have heard of yet is Google Apps for Business, or simply Google Apps. This product packages many Google services--including Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Chat, Sites, Groups, and Contacts--into a single, collaborative service which can be used to easily manage users, communication, and collaboration at an affordable, low yearly price. In fact, depending on your needs, you may even be able to use it for free.

At a minimum, you will have access to the following core Google services:

   1. Messaging applications: Gmail (7 GB inbox), Google Talk, Google Calendar
   2. Collaboration applications: Google Docs (1 GB of storage), Google Sites
   3. Additional Google applications: YouTube, Blogger, Reader, Picasa Web Albums, etc.
   4. Mobile access: Android, Blackberry, iPhone and Windows Mobile phones

Paying Google Apps customers will have access to the following extra features:

   1. Additional business application: Google Video (mini YouTube), Google Groups, Postini (spam filtering, message archival)
   2. Additional features: 25 GB Gmail inbox, Outlook and Blackberry connectors
   3. Administrator controls: Single-Sign-On, SSL, password strength, and more
   4. Support and reliability: guaranteed 99.9% uptime, 24/7 phone support

So what exactly is Google Apps? It is Google’s online collaboration suite designed to compete with larger enterprise players such as Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, but it does so by offering an exceptional service at a low price. With Google Apps, you are no longer at the mercy of your address--you can use it with your own domain! This functionality allows businesses and organizations to use their own domains with the Gmail service. So if you own, you can now use your email address,, with Gmail. You no longer need to set up complicated forwarding rules or use the outdated IMAP protocol--you get the full power of Gmail (and the other services) with your own domain. And since Google Apps was designed for business users, you get a full back-end for managing your users, services, and other organization-specific functionality.

Google Apps is available in four different versions:

   1. Standard Google Apps, which is free.
   2. Google Apps for Education, which is free for all educational institutions and 501(C)(3) non-profits.
   3. Google Apps for Business, which is $50 per user, per year.
   4. Google Apps for Government, which is $50 per user, per year, and is certified by the U.S. government.

Google Apps for Business, Education, and Government are essentially the same product with the same features, except educational and non-profit institutions are free. Google Apps Standard includes the core Google productivity services, but lacks the additional space, reporting, and back-end management provided by the Business edition. You can find a full comparison of features among all editions here.

In this tutorial, we will be setting up a free Google Apps account. The setup process is very easy and straightforward, and with any luck, you should be up and running in about an hour. Before you begin, you will need to make sure you have access to a domain (it can be a sub domain if you do not want to disrupt your current mail flow), and you will also need the ability to edit the domain’s current DNS records. If you do not know what DNS records are, then this tutorial may be too complicated for you. If you make the wrong change, you can severely inhibit your domain’s visibility on the Internet.
Signing up for Google Apps

To begin the setup process, visit From the top menu, go to Solutions -> Google Apps (Free), then click the blue Get Started button.

Next, you will be asked to enter your domain. This can be a root domain ( or a sub domain ( Once you have entered the desired domain name, click the Get Started button.

Next, you will need to enter some information about yourself and/or your organization. Remember, you can use the standard Google Apps for free even if you are using it for business purposes. After you have entered the required information, click the Continue button.

After you have entered the required information, you will now set up your first administrator account. After entering the appropriate information, agree to the TOS, then click the I Accept Continue with Set Up button.

After your information has been processed successfully, you will be redirected to your Google Apps administrator control panel. Enter the administrator username and password you created earlier, then click the Sign in button.

After you have logged in, Google will prompt you with some information regarding Google Apps accounts and standard Google Accounts. Prior to 2010, Google had two types of accounts: Google Accounts and Google Apps accounts. The problem with this setup was that it allowed users to have two completely separate accounts, but still use the same email address. And since these accounts were separate, you were unable to share any data between the two, like Gmail contacts. Google solved this problem by merging Google Apps accounts into Google Accounts, thus streamlining data sharing among all Google services.

But enough with this history lesson; let’s get back to setting up our domain! Click the I accept Continue to My Account button to continue setting up your account.

Before you can start using Google Apps, Google will require you to verify ownership of your domain. This can be done a number of ways:

   1. Modify the domain’s DNS settings.
   2. Modify the HTML of a web page on the domain.
   3. Upload an HTML file to the web server.
   4. Link to a Google Analytics account.

While it is possible to skip this process and start it at a later time, I find it easier to do this part now instead of forgetting about it later. Click the Continue button to start the verification process.

Next, you will select the verification method Google will use to verify the domain. I find the third option -- Upload an HTML file to your server -- to be the easiest and quickest option, because once the file is uploaded, Google will find it instantly. If you select the Add a DNS record to your domain’s configuration option, it may take anywhere from several minutes to several hours for the verification process to complete, because the DNS changes must propagate through tens of thousands of DNS servers, which of course takes time.

In this tutorial, I am going to select the third option -- Upload an HTML file to your server -- to verify my domain ownership. You can select another method if you wish; the end result will be the same. After selecting this option, you will need to perform the following tasks:

   1. Download the verification file (You will find this in the blue box).
   2. Upload this file to the root of your domain, eg,
   3. Visit the link to confirm the file is uploaded.
   4. Click the Verify button.

Once you have double-checked everything, click the Verify button to continue.

Once Google successfully verifies your domain, you will be redirected to your Google Apps control panel, specifically the Dashboard page.

Activating Email

Before you start exploring the administrative interface, we are going to finish the setup process by activating Gmail. To do this, scroll down towards the bottom of the Dashboard page, then click Activate email under the Email heading.

Now you will begin the email configuration process. Google makes this step very easy by providing you with specific instructions based on your domain registrar. For example, if you are with DreamHost (as in this example), it shows you the exact steps to follow according to each registrar’s control panel. Not every domain registrar is listed, but the most popular ones are. Because this step varies so widely from one registrar to the next, it is impossible to describe the exact steps you will need to follow to make the necessary changes. However, I will list the basic steps to completing this task.

   1. Log in to your domain registrar’s control panel.
   2. Find a listing for all of your domains.
   3. Find the domain you used in this tutorial, then look for an option to edit the domain’s settings.
   4. Look for MX (email) records. You will need to update the current MX records for the domain (they are probably set for your web host’s mail servers).
   5. Enter ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM as your new MX record. If you have the option to set a priority, just enter 10.
   6. Save the changes.

Once you have updated your domain’s MX records, click the I have completed these steps button to finish the process.

Google will now verify your updated MX settings for your domain. This process can take up to 48 hours, so you must be patient. You can find the status of this process by viewing the Email heading on the Dashboard. You will not be able to send or receive any emails until this process completes.

When the email activation process completes, the gray “Updating” message will disappear.


In the past few minutes (I told you this would be quick), you were able to successfully sign up for Google Apps, setup your domain, verify your domain, and activate the Gmail service. You have just completed all the steps necessary to have a fully functioning Google Apps suite for personal or business use.

In my next article, I will show you the inner workings of Google Apps, which will include a brief overview of your domain’s global settings, a list of best practices, an overview of your support options, and an introduction to the Google Apps Marketplace so you can extend the functionality of Google Apps one step further.


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