Google is running trials on Gmail to see it can cut it as an enterprise hosted e-mail service.

The programme makes Gmail the back-end service for all users on an organisation, with all necessary hardware and software provided by Google, according to a posting Friday on the search engine operator's official blog.

Each end user will get 2GB of storage space. The service, called "Gmail for your domain," also gives organizations a control panel for their IT departments to administer and manage user accounts, wrote Stephanie Hannon, Gmail product manager in her blog.

San Jose City College, in San Jose, California, is testing the new service to power the e-mail domain of its about 10,000 students, Hannon wrote. Organisations interested in being part of this limited beta program can apply here.

It isn't clear how much it costs to participate in the beta programme, nor how much Google plans to charge for the service when it becomes generally available. Google didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

Until now, Google has offered Gmail as a consumer-orientated web mail service. However, this new program shows that the Mountain View, California, company has wider expectations for Gmail, which was introduced in April 2004 and is still itself in beta, or test, mode.

Gmail isn't the first consumer service Google has tweaked to make it appealing to organisations and their IT departments. Google, which has a small but growing enterprise unit, sells the Search Appliance and Google Mini, which are hardware devices loaded with its search engine software. Organisations use the Search Appliance and Google Mini to index data on their internal servers.