Inside your car, press a button as you approach your home. The garage door rises and you drive inside. You can thank C.G. Johnson, who invented the electric garage door opener in 1926, and two other inventors who separately created the first wireless remotes a few years later. Together, the tools automate a previously manual task.
Web domain setup used be manual, too. You bought hosting and email services, then configured domain name server (DNS) settings to display your site and route email. You added more DNS settings to combat spam and improve email deliverability. DNS configuration was sufficiently complex that most people left the task to tech professionals.
Google Domains helps you setup a website. Choose a domain name, then select a web host from one of several Google Domains partners (Figure A). Google Domains configures DNS records for a newly acquired domain to point to the right places. The partners — as of January 2015 — include Weebly, Shopify, Squarespace, and Wix. Monthly hosting at these services starts as low as $3.29 (USD) a month. Or you can point your domain to Google's own Blogger service, which is free.
In the US, Google Domains offers integrated setup with several web hosting partners.
Google Domains also helps you connect a new domain to Google Apps, thanks to a feature Google calls " synthetic records." A synthetic record configures multiple third-level domain name settings at once. For example, choose a synthetic record for Google Apps, and Google Domains creates DNS records for mail.yourdomain.com, calendar.yourdomain.com, and drive.yourdomain.com that point to Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive. Google Domains handles this for calendar, drive, docs, groups, hangouts, mail, plus, sheets, sites, slides, start, and vault. You don't have to create each of the DNS records individually; the synthetic record creates them all at once.
A synthetic record also configures your email settings to point to Google Apps ( Figure B). The system not only provides the necessary MX (mail exchange) records, but it also configures SPF and DKIM settings. These settings improve email deliverability and help reduce spam. Too often, even organizations that use Google Apps wouldn't configure these records. The process was complex, so I wrote it up in an earlier article (see "Send better email: Configure SPF and DKIM for Google Apps"). Use a synthetic record, and Google handles the setup with a checkbox.
Google Domains' synthetic records automate the creation of multiple DNS records.
Synthetic records also create connections to services for developers and enterprise customers. A developer could point a third-level domain to Google App Engine, or a system admin might direct a third-level domain to a server, thanks to Dynamic DNS support.
Google Domains offers manual configuration of DNS records for your domain, too (Figure C). Direct your name servers elsewhere or forward your domain, if you prefer. (For example, pa311.com points to a Wordpress site at pa311.wordpress.com.) Create up 100 custom resource A, AAAA, CNAME, NS, MX, PTR, SPF, SRV, or TXT records.
Create and customize DNS records manually, if you prefer.
Google Domains pricing seems competitive. Google charges $12 per year for .com, .net, and .org domains, while some other top-level domains cost more. For example, .cc domains cost $20 per year, .co domains cost $30 per year, and .haus domains cost $110 per year. The site supports both new and transferred domain registrations. See the full list of top-level domains at Google's site.
Should you use Google Domains?
A small business owner just moving online should also consider Google Domains. Buy your domain, choose a web host, and get started with Google Apps — all without having to learn the details of DNS. The synthetic records feature eliminates several DNS configuration steps. Companies with existing DNS configurations benefit much less. (Note: As of January 2015, the service is US-only.)
Just as we press a button and our garage door opens, Google Domains applies automated configuration to processes historically done by hand. You can still open your garage — or configure your DNS settings — manually. But if you're purchasing a new domain and plan to use Google Apps or Google App Engine, save yourself some time: use Google Domains.
Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.