So I went ahead and registered RossHollman.com with Google to try out not only their domain registration service, but also Google Apps for Your Domain ("Google AFYD") -- note that I wrote about this service just a few days ago.
Registration took literally around 3 minutes: I signed in with my Google Account, checked the availability of the domain, proceeded through the registration process, and, of course, used Google Checkout to pay for the registration. Following payment, I clicked the link that had me set up an administrative account and immediately took me to the Google AFYD Dashboard -- Start Page was running immediately, E-mail took about 45 minutes to configure itself, Chat was running immediately, and Calendar was running immediately; Domain Web Pages required my interaction in order to start running.
While waiting for other services to start up, I went to RossHollman.com, which was already active and resolving with DNS -- the page redirected to the default Start Page as I had not yet configured Domain Web Pages. So, the next thing I did was configure the Domain Start Pages, starting out with the www.rosshollman.com main/index page; I very simply created the main page on the site with Google Page Creator in about 5 minutes.
I left to run some errands, and when I came back, the E-mail service was running, so I checked out e-mail administration, and was pleasantly surprised to find that for my $10 per year, Google allowed me to create up to 200 unique user accounts (note that you can create user accounts using a spreadsheet to lay out usernames and default passwords, exporting the spreadsheet as a CSV file, and uploading the file to the Google AFYD dashboard) -- quick math tells me that if Gmail offers around 2.5GB of free storage for each e-mail account, that Google AFYD is giving me around 500GB of storage.
It did take me a little while to figure out what some of the Google AFYD services were, but I've got it figured out now, so here's a quick list of services with analogs to common Microsoft products and services:
- E-mail -- web-based e-mail that is similar to Outlook and the Exchange server that supports Outlook. Contact sharing is available between users, which is similar to the Outlook Global Address list function. Calendaring is easily accessible from the e-mail window, though not as directly integrated as Outlook; one nice feature is that the e-mail service is intelligent enough to recognize calendar events within an e-mail and give you the option quickly click and add them to your calendar. E-mail provided by Google AFYD still runs contextual advertising, which is something not seen in current iterations of Outlook.
- Start Page -- a landing page for all domain users, which makes it like a very basic version of SharePoint. The administrator can lock certain areas of the page in order to provide domain-specific data to users while other areas are user-editable. Presumably once Google launches a storage solution there will be some sort of document sharing interface, but that does not currently exist.
- Chat -- Google's direct competitor to MSN Messenger with tight integration into the e-mail interface. Administrators have the ability to restrict chat to other users int he domain or to allow users to chat with others outside the domain, control that is available through Exchange.
- Calendar -- web-based calendar that is similar to the Calendar included in Outlook and Exchange. Users can keep multiple versions of calendars with different sharing permissions for different users inside and outside the domain. All of the standard features of Google Calendar are included int he version implemented by Google AFYD, including SMS reminders for appointments.
- Domain Web Pages -- primarily for administrators, this is a web-based WYSIWYG web page creator that works in a similar fashion to Microsoft Front Page.
It is important to note that individual domain users can gain access to all Google products such as Docs and Spreadsheets and Google Reader, but there are not currently any sort of administrative controls for these products.
For a startup that's bootstrapping, a small business that just getting off the ground, or even a large family that wants to set up a common domain with individual e-mail addresses (think "hollmanclan.com" with each family member receiving their own address), it's hard to imagine being able to get so much for so little.
Happy to answer any further questions about the service if anyone has any.