I recently received a comment on my blog about a post I had over at churchvideoideas.com in regards to Google Apps. Because I am excited about how Google Apps has helped me as a network administrator here at the church I decided to answer some of the questions asked by another church pursuing Google Apps.

Question number one- was “Since we want to keep our same domain name for web and email, how would that work?”

This church had purchased a domain name via network solutions, which coincidentally is where my church has also purchased our domain names from. Once you decide to use Google Apps for your church Google makes it very easy to continue using your domain name in your email address. Once you set up your Google Apps account you will need to modify your “MX” records for your domain name at Network solutions. Directions on doing this can be found here. Please note that this process can take a little while to update across the web. My recommendation would be to make this switch during off peak hours for your users.

Question number two- “Would we need to contact *****.com and Network Solutions to let them know email, domain name and domain registration are changing to Google? Or does it happen automatically through the Google Apps application process?”

The only thing that you will need to do is point your domain name to Google Apps. This will redirect all of your email to Google Apps and you do not need to contact them to let them know. You are still using there services but they are no longer hosting your email.

Question number three- “Since Email is the first main thing we’d change, how difficult would it be to migrate from our old email system/POP to Gmail, using the same domain we were using?”

This was probably the most difficult part of the process for me and our users. Users are most concerned about moving all of there contact information and there older sent and received messages. Google also has a step by step guide for this here. You will need to properly educate your users of the changes that are going to happen and also work hard not to inconvenience them during the migration. Perform some tests with either your own email account or a test account before you try and move your senior pastors account etc. This process will most likely take the longest for you. My advice would be to search online for users using your current set-up. I know Google now has a lot more resources available then when we made a transition so do your research.

Question number four- Web design:  Our church needs to do something about web design.  Google Apps also has Google Sites available. Are you familiar with Google Sites?  Is it easy to work with?  If we choose to use Google Sites, would we still be able to use our regular address to get there.

Google apps does have the ability to create web pages inside its app suite. Our website (www.pequeachurch.com) was already in existence prior to our switch to google apps so to be honest I have not spent a whole lot of time looking at those features of Google Apps. I know at quick glance it seems pretty simple but the simple set-up is also not very cutting edge from the design standpoint. Google Apps has built in templates and designs that make it easy to use so it might work for you but from our perspective the feature set from Google Sites was sub-par in comparison to our existing website.

 

Overall the switch to Google Apps went really well. The built in features that Google Apps has are a great asset to our church staff. From an administrators standpoint it takes the load off of managing your own email solution. We had our own exchange server box and I was always having to keep my eye on things and now with Google Apps I leave that up to the professionals. We have experience very little down-time from Google. This can sometimes be the frustrating side of it because the downtime is completely out of your control. If you have any additional questions be sure to let me know.

 

Thanks for the question!