How to network Outlook using Google Apps

How to network Outlook using Google Apps

Summary: Over the past eight years or so, I’ve grown accustomed to using Microsoft Outlook as my e-mail client, calendar, and contact manager. But I ran into a wall after leaving the refuge of a corporate network: I found that I couldn’t rely on Outlook because I regularly use four different computers at two locations.

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Over the past eight years or so, I’ve grown accustomed to using Microsoft Outlook as my e-mail client, calendar, and contact manager. But I ran into a wall after leaving the refuge of a corporate network: I found that I couldn’t rely on Outlook because I regularly use four different computers aHow to network Outlook using Google Appst two locations. And because I manage my e-mail by organizing it into folders and subfolders (I’m a filer, not a piler), I’d have to put my Outlook files on a network server. Or something. I really didn’t know how to overcome the networking obstacle.

So I used a Web-based e-mail client, until a friend told me that I could “network” Outlook by using Google Apps, a suite that gives small businesses and groups e-mail, calendaring, and collaboration tools. I wasn’t so interested in the Google Apps themselves (although Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and others are integrated very nicely). Rather, I liked the fact that for $50 a year, Google Apps gives you 25GB of storage. I was using an e-mail service from GoDaddy.com, where my domain name is hosted. GoDaddy.com was charging me $20 a year for 1GB of e-mail storage so, by comparison, Google Apps was a great deal.

Setting up Google Apps can be a little choppy. For instance, moving my e-mail account from GoDaddy was more complicated than I had anticipated. I had to modify MX records on GoDaddy.com to point to Google's mail servers. I also had to create a CNAME record to verify domain ownership and customize a URL. I’d never dived this deep into my domain name, but Google offers very good step-by-step instructions. And if you get really hung up, you can call tech support, which I found to be amazingly well-trained and helpful.

After the initial setup, Google Apps provides step-by-step instructions for installing IMAP versions of Outlook. It doesn’t provide that info for Entourage, but I just copied the Windows installations and it worked on the first try.

Today I have Outlook 2007 running on a Vista notebook and an XP desktop, Outlook 2003 running on an XP desktop, and Entourage running on a Mac laptop. The setup maintains all my folders so that Outlook/Entourage looks the same on all computers, with all folders and contents neatly stacked just where they ought to be. You can also access your e-mail from any Web browser using a customized Google Start page. Google also offers an app that will sync your Outlook Calendar with a Google Calendar, which enables you to maintain a single calendar across your network of computers.

I’m very happy with Google Apps. I’m not using the service the way that Google intended, although I do keep a couple of important apps stored as Google documents so I can access them from anywhere. All in all, I’m getting what I wanted: a way to network Outlook for use on several computers across locations.

Topics: Networking, Apps, Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Google, Microsoft, Software

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  • Could you do something similar THIS way?

    What if you installed netdrive.exe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NetDrive) on all your PCs, and used it to keep your Outlook PST file in one place. That way, you could use Outlook on many computers, using only one PST file. No need for synchronization at all.

    I'm sure there's a reason this wouldn't work...
    roystonlodge