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Host your domain on Google Sites

posted 14 Nov 2014, 08:48 by Markus Helander   [ updated 5 Jun 2015, 12:16 ]
Hello,

To get a website with pretty ok features online and to do it cheap, might be a challenge. I decided to test how Google Sites compares to Microsoft's Sharepoint Online. And it does! At least to my needs. It's a bit suppressed obviously but it's also completely free compared to 365 with it's 4-5eur monthly fee per user.

So, what you need for this is the following:
  • A domain
  • A DNS provider
  • A Google account
  • Time

To get yourself a domain there are tons of choices for .com and .net addresses. For good domain registrars Namecheap comes to mind. For .fi domains go to Ficora's Domain.fi. After you've acquired your very own domain, go get yourself a DNS provider. These will ultimately point your domain to the right address online or even host your entire site but for Google Sites' purposes you will just need their DNS addresses. I'm using Hurricane Electric's services and they seem to work just fine. Customer support is also fast. If for some season you don't already have a Google account.. what an odd article to read.

UPDATE HERE: Issues with naked domain and HE. I changed my DNS provider to Namecheap (article here)

Now, that you have all the accounts and services you need, the next steps are:

  • Give your Google Site a new canonical address. The default address is https://sites.google.com/site/yoursitename. To give it a canonical name you need to go to Manage Site -> Web Addresses -> Add a web address. Type in your domain name (in my case www.markushelander.fi) and see how Google requires verification from you that you actually have access to that domain. So go toGoogle Webmaster Tools and select the verification method that suits you the best. I used the meta tag since I found it the easiest. Here are some tips from Google:https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35179?hl=en. After you've delivered what Google wants, the verification will succeed immediately.
  • Next give the DNS server addresses of your DNS service provider to your domain registrar. So login to your domain registrar's site and type the name servers. Hurricane Electric's name servers are ns2.he.net, ns3.he.net, ns4.he.net and ns5.he.net.
  • The make the appropriate changes for your DNS service to point to your website. In this case it is Google Sites, so you need to make a CNAME record for name WWW (for the www part of www.yourdomain.com) and a hostname which is ghs.google.com for Google Sites. For other sites it might be the ordinary www.yourdomain.com. Set the TTL value to 1 hour.
  • Finally wait. Just wait. It really may take from few hours to two days for the changes to replicate. Mine was done overnight so take it easy. And ghs.google.com will give you a 404 error - that is normal. Just give it time.

The steps are really pretty easy and straightforward and you can always start over or change service providers if some of them don't work the way you need them to. For example, not all DNS providers support CNAME record, so just try to find one that suits your needs.

Hope this helps. Thanks!