I've been looking into Google Apps for Your Domain, which sounds cool, but I'm confused about what it is and why you'd use it. If I sign up for Google Apps for Your Domain, is Google actually becoming the host for my domain, or just providing a bunch of services for it? What's the advantage to using GAppsFYD versus just vanilla Gmail and the rest? I have my own domain name that I use for my primary email address and my web site.
Unsure About Mixing Google and My Domain
Google Apps for Your Domain is pretty cool for folks with their own domain names who want to manage a bunch of email/calendar/homepage users for it. To answer your question, GAppsFYD does not become your domain host, but it does provide a bunch of services, like Gmail, Google Calendar, a Start Page (a la iGoogle), Google Docs, Google Talk, etc. The difference between GAppsFYD services and free vanilla Google services is what you'd expect: your domain.
For instance, if your domain is thesmithfamily.org, using GAppsFYD, you could set up a bunch of users who get Gmail, GCal, a personalised start page, and chat all with usernames like [email protected], [email protected] Your users would log in to a Google hosted control panel (which you can customise with a thesmithfamily.org logo), and all their email would get sent with their custom domain email as the From: address.
Here's a grab of what the domain control panel looks like to administrators:
The advantage here is that you don't have the "hey look at me using a free email service!" @gmail.com address. I know, I know, you can send vanilla Gmail messages from any email address, but it comes through reading "on behalf of [email protected]" in some email clients, and that's annoying. With GAppsFYD, if you decide to move email providers away from Gmail, you can do so without changing or losing your domain address.
The disadvantage to GAppsFYD is that Google seems to roll out new features a little slower for it versus non-domain Google offerings. Google's awesome mobile Gmail app, for example, only works for straight-up vanilla Gmail accounts.
I've got GAppsFYD set up for two domains, and I love it. Basically you get all the goodness of Gmail et al. (storage, spam handing, etc.) with total portability, and if you're a domain administrator, you can easily manage and create other people's accounts, too. At the price of free, that's a pretty sweet deal for small businesses and organizations, especially considering that most web hosts charge for extra email addresses and that kind of storage space.
Like I said, GAppsFYD does not provide web hosting in the traditional sense; like, there's no FTP access to the server, for example. There is Google Page Creator, which has a pretty decent in-browser WYSIWIG web page editor and 100MB of space to upload photos and files, which is perfectly serviceable for a nameplate site. If you want full on web hosting, you can use a non-Google provider but still use GAppsFYD Gmail and the rest.
Good luck Googlifying your domain!