Alternative to Google Apps for Business – Zoho

I am working on a little project with a friend over at BrightVape.com so I went to sign up for a Google Apps for Business account in order to get both of us some business email addresses. For those of you who don’t know, this service allows businesses to use the Google Apps suite of products with their custom domain name instead of @gmail.com.

To my surprise Google has stopped offering their free 10 user accounts back in December and I began looking for hosted alternatives as I did not want to configure a mail-server on my VPS hosting.

After doing some research I ended up signing up with Zoho. In addition to email, Zoho offers a large number of business products ranging from bug tracking to recruiting. However, their free email service is significantly more limiting than the Google suite as it is limited to 3 user accounts and does not provide any funcionality that is included with their other tools. In comparison Google had offered Mail, Calendar, Talk, etc.  Since I was looking for email accounts I was all set and moved forward with signing up.

I found the signup process a lot more confusing that it should have been. First you need to verify that you own the domain through modifying CNAME records or uploading a file – pretty standard. But then I was first asked to create an account name and was informed this was going to be used as my email address, but there was oddly a min of 6 characters and it said my name had already been taken. I was perplexed for a moment and then figured out I was not actually creating my email address here, I was actually creating a Zoho username.

Once that was set I had my account set up and was able to simply add my 3 users and be done. When logging in to retrieve your email, you have to enter that Zoho account username that was created as part of the signup process, but after I have learned this it has been pretty smooth.

The email UI for Zoho is a pretty decent looking and quick for webmail but it is surely no GMail. That being said, I’m pretty disappointed that Google has shut down their service, but I can’t complain too much since I use a ton of free Google products every day.

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