Having recently decided to investigate options other than Google Apps (http://gmailblog.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/reach-people-you-know-more-easily.html) I've backtracked somewhat (a regression of sorts) to a time prior to Gmail, and if memory serves, a time prior to Google itself. I have a number of clients running their business’ from Google Apps and it has been a stellar performer for all of them, delivering consistent uptime and near zero support calls for me. On a personal level though with recent changes to Google's product suite and their seemingly single minded insistence on social media connectivity I have branched out a little and dipped my toe into other products, something I wouldn't have done if it wasn't for said social media integration.
I found an excellent guide on setting up a domain of your own, hosting your mail through Outlook.com for free (Microsoft's rebranded cloud email service). It does take some time, it does take some effort but these are not insurmountable issues. The best guide I found was here:
and it helped me set a custom domain for Outlook.com. I'm living with Outlook as my primary email (admittedly for my test domain) for the time being but my initial thoughts are extremely positive. The interface is stripped down minimalist styling with a very obvious white colour scheme. The whole interface does quietly remind me of Gmail several interactions ago and does allow me to focus on my primary objective: email. I will post again on my long term experience with the product and see if I am as happy with it as the gigantic catch-all that is Gmail.