Been living with Windows Live Custom Domains for a while, I decided to sign up for Google Apps for your domain instead.
Google Apps offers you a free *) hosting of the following services for your own domain:
Gmail – Offer email to your members with 2 gigabytes of storage per account, search tools to help them find information fast, and instant messaging built right into the browser.
Google Talk – Your members can call or send instant messages to their contacts for free — anytime, anywhere in the world.
Google Calendar – Members can organize their schedules and share events, meetings and entire calendars with others.
Google Page Creator – Create and publish web pages for your domain quickly and easily with this what-you-see-is-what-you-get website design tool.
The setup is quite straight-forward. Sign in with your Google Account, answer a few questions and then you have the possibility to setup 25 accounts. It will take a few hours until the MX-records have been changed and the Google servers has been updated.
When setup, all users of your domain get a personal login to Google where they can access their services. The services themselves do not differ from the public services. The difference is the administrative interface for your domain where you can do bulk updating with CSV-files, create e-mail lists, upload a company web logo, administrate catch-all addresses and configure contact-sharing, which makes sure that each user in your domain has every other user in their contact list.
When setup, you browse to http://mail.google.com/a/yourdomain.com/ and sign in with your account.
It’s free, and hopefully it will remain free. This is that they say in the fine-print: *) Organizations accepted by Google during the Google Apps for Your Domain beta period are eligible for free service for their approved beta users even beyond the end of the beta period, as described in the Terms of Service.
So what do I think? If you’re a company with on a tight budget – this is definitly more professional than using an @gmail.com or @hotmail.com. It works perfectly and there are a lot of service around Google so I’m sure they will add more and more valuable tools in the future.
However, you have to remember, compared to buying this service from an ASP, that Google more or less doesn’t offer any guarantee of uptime nor privacy. If this if of your concern, you better read the terms of service.