One of the quests I have as resident family technologist is keeping our family
together using tech. Over the last two years, this has been done through the
use of Skype and telepresence of me at family events (birthdays, holidays,
etc). And it was good.
The big thing lacking has been a central calendar. I know that seems strange,
but with seven grownups and two little girls, keeping track of who goes where
isn’t easy. Yeah, most of us have work calendars (raises hand), but I make
it top priority not to mix work calendar and home calendar. I’m just of
strong belief that they have no place crossing over.
So what to do? My first thought comes to Exchange (hosted, most likely), but
the costs of that jump so fast it isn’t even funny. The cheapest I could find
was $9.99 per mailbox, and that was for 200MB mailboxes. What’s more – some of
the addresses probably would be forward-only, which is easy enough to do in
Exchange, but not in a hosted solution. Plus, if you want to sync between
Exchange and a device (read: smartphone), that’s almost always extra.
The logical answer there is to run my own Exchange server – naturally. The
incredibly unfortunate part of that is that just as quick as I’ve dropped the
per-box fee, I’ve picked up the $399 fee for Windows Server 2003, $699 for
Exchange, and – oh yeah – I don’t have a server sitting around. Then, it has
to be connected to the Internet, and probably in a colo environment.
In other words: Epic Fail.
Then it hits me – Google to the rescue! Google Apps can do 80% of what
Exchange can do for 0% of the price (Standard Edition). And if these tough
economic times have proven anything, it’s that 80 for 20 (or less!) is the
right kind of ratio. I already have a domain, it’s just a matter of hooking it
up. Easy as pie (which I know now is incredibly easy – more on that later).
Everyone has a mailbox that they can point to whatever other mailbox they
want. We each have a calendar that is shared with everyone else. And the icing
on the cake, distribution lists! Yeah, my entire family is reachable via one
address now. Fantastic.
All in all, I’m happy. I’ll roll this thing out to my family during the
holiday break and see what they think. I’m for it, but it makes me wonder what
is the feasibility of switching email addresses nowadays. But, that too is