I just posted about Google Apps Standard Edition and how it is still available. But what about those of you who might need more users? Perhaps you are running a small neighborhood organization and would like to setup email service for a custom domain & allow more than 10 users to use the service. Perhaps you would even like those people to be able to sign themselves up instead of administratively adding them all. Outlook.com may be the better option for you.
Until tonight, I didn’t even realize that Outlook.com offered a free custom domain option. The setup is pretty much exactly like that of Google Apps’, but you get everything through the new Outlook-like web interface. There is also the ability to sync your mail account, calendars, and contacts to your Windows 8 PC and most mobile devices including Windows 8 Phone, Android, and iPhone/iPad. Another benefit is the ability to create up to 50 users (versus 10 in Google Apps).
When you begin the domain setup, you will have to sign into an already existing Windows Live account (or create a new Windows Live account under the new domain) that will be used as the administrating account for the domain. If you have multiple domains, I believe you should be able to use the same administrative account to manage all of them.
To setup your custom domain with use on Outlook.com mail service, go to http://domains.live.com to begin the domain setup & verification.
Recently, Google announced that they would be discontinuing the Google Apps Standard (Free) Edition of their Google Apps platform. This was kind of lame to hear, especially since Google seems to be so big on offering free stuff to personal/non-profit users. Luckily, I had already created my domains and had them setup on Google apps long before this “discontinuation”, so my account was grandfathered in. In fact, one of my accounts was created back when they offered 50 users in the Google Apps Standard Edition and I have apparently been allowed to keep those 50 licenses for that domain.
At any rate, I am posting because I have recently discovered that it appears Google Apps Standard (Free) Edition still exists. It is just slightly hidden. The trick is to sign up for a Google Apps Business Edition 30 Day Trial. Before your 30 day trial is up, Go into your domain settings and attempt to Cancel your Google Apps account. You will need to not have any users & all market place apps need to be removed as well in order to do be able to get the Cancel option. Upon attempting to cancel your account, you will be presented with 2 options: 1) Downgrade your account to a Google Apps Standard (Free) account — allows no more than 10 users & limits some of the Google Apps functionality, but perfect for those who just need good free webmail service with a custom domain & 1-10 users. Or option 2) Cancel the account immediately.
So for those of you who were wanting to take advantage of Google services with your own custom domain without the cost that businesses pay, this is how you do it. I have not actually gone through these steps. I just happened to notice the option when I was deleting some sub domains for one of my customers so that they could be re-added to their primary Google Apps domain. I did not take the time to test the Google Apps Standard option, but it is there.
Update (4/21/2013 1:57AM): I just attempted to setup a new domain with Google Apps following my method above. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work. The accounts I was toying with must have been grandfathered in to have the ability to downgrade while still in their 30 day trial period. But it appears that new domains do not have the options to become Google Apps Standard accounts period. This is unfortunate, but Outlook.com offers a solution for free (and up to 50 users). See my next post here: Outlook.com & Custom Domains