(also posted on NerdLifestyle)
About a month ago, I got an invite to try out Google Apps For Your Domain, a system that allows you to do semi-private label Gmail, Calendar, Chat and Web page stuff using your domain name.
Honestly, I didn't even mess around with the Web page tool, and I haven't enabled it. I can't tell you if it's any good. I don't really bother with the chat service either. However, my main focus was to get e-mail service that I didn't have to host, and to that end, Google Apps is like a dream come true.
The reason for its positive impact should be fairly obvious: Gmail rules because you search for e-mail and you find it. Doesn't that sound radically obvious? But seriously, when have you ever had an e-mail program that could do that, and do it from anywhere? You never had such a thing, and that's what makes it so cool.
If you've hosted your own Web server, you've probably either used your host's e-mail system, or ran your own. I was using SmarterMail, and I give it very high marks for being an excellent product. The truth is, the only reason I no longer wanted to use it was that I didn't want a process handling a couple thousand e-mail messages every day (mostly spam) on the same box as my Web server, and I didn't want to keep everything there on the server either for searching purposes (disk space issues). Gmail solves these problems for me.
Now when I need to find or keep some kind of information, I just tell people to e-mail it to me. So when I need to know "Catherine's address," I type it in and find it. When I need the link to my vacation photos, I type in "Mackinac Island photos."
What seals the deal is that Gmail does enable POP access, so you can still "own" your e-mail and download it. It even keeps the messages you send from your e-mail client on the server in your "sent" folder. That's pretty smooth. The only weirdness is that it lumps together all of your inbound and outbound mail together when you get it via POP, so you need to set a filter on your program that moves it to the client's "sent" box and marks it read, simply by applying the rule to e-mail from whatever your address is. Works great in Eudora and OS X Mail.
Side note: I recently migrated all of my Windows-based Eudora e-mail, lots of it dating back to 1997, to OS X Mail using this awesome little mailbox cleaner app.
I'm actually using the Calender app now too. I was skeptical that I would have much use for it, but I find myself using it pretty frequently to keep track of my junk. It's only a link away from my mail, so why not?
So I'm finally in a world where I can access and search my e-mail anywhere, and own it on my local computer, and not have to host it myself. Big thumbs up for Google Apps.