Migrating email providers may seem like a complicated task for a business, and it may well be, but by following simple steps one could end up with a better email provider that offers more features and is easier to use. To elaborate on this process a migration from an Exchange Server (Microsoft) to Google Apps will be described. This of course does not just include email (Gmail) but other services such as calendar.
- Why should I change?
This is a good question. It’s all up to whether or not your current service works well for you.
A common reason to swap to Google is it has great anti-spam built in. A very simple reason, but completely valid if you’re getting flooded with dubious emails requesting for your personal details or offering mail order brides. No thanks. Another reason may be added tools. If you find yourself using some of Google’s other services then you might prefer to just have one account for everything. Great tools like Google Analytics could be contained into one account with Gmail and Calendar. Yet another reason, would be that it is possibly cheaper.
- Why shouldn’t I change?
Maybe you think Google has enough information about you as it is. Maybe you already have a good deal for a business solution that works for you, possibly a free one. Or maybe your email provider is managed by your mate Dave and you want to cut him some slack. The important thing is to consider the positives and negatives and decide for yourself.
- Start planning.
If you are migrating several users then the best way is to have an Excel Doc in CSV format with all the users you are migrating. Talk to them in advance, and decide when is the best time to do the migration. Weekend is usually best as it’s generally the quietest time. Getting all passwords from users is important, whether you can do this via an admin section on your Exchange Server or you can ask for them individually, it is important. You should also choose a way to perform the actual email migration before hand. MigrationWiz is a great tool that handles the process, you give it authentication information for both Exchange emails and Google Apps and it runs the migration via their own servers. This is helpful especially if you aren’t managing the Exchange Server yourself such as Exchange, which is the most common situation. Another option is using Google’s migration app for Microsoft Exchange. This, however, for the clients, is done via each person’s client computer and may take longer and requires a higher degree of coordination.
- Setup your new accounts.
You need to setup the new accounts to migrate. In Google Apps you can do this as an admin and even upload the CSV you made earlier and do it in batch format. You will have had to pay for the licences for each user before hand. If you are using emails then give each user the same email. Next, if you had any group emails in Exchange, add those to Google Apps too. Assign the users to each group and make sure you tick the option to allow outsiders to email the group address, if you intend to receive email from, for example, clients.
- Dual delivery.
Before you change your MX records (next step), a good choice is to setup dual delivery. This way when you do change the MX records, and you start receiving email to your Gmail as opposed to Exchange, Exchange still receives emails sent to the address, whilst the migration is happening, so there is an easier transition. You can do this by setting up a route in Google Apps to re-send all received emails to your Exchange Server. This documentation can be helpful.
- Change MX records.
This step is usually done on your host. Google Apps can run this process with you once you click on the option to setup email. Once these records are changed, you should wait for a few minutes before the change takes place. It’s a good idea to reduce the TTL in the MX records configuration beforehand to make sure the update is done quicker.
- Start migration.
If you are using MigrationWiz, then go ahead and click on initiate migration for each user. For this to happen you can provide the service with all the users you want migrated and passwords and it should handle most of the technical process in the background. It is substantially user-friendly. You may notice whilst migration happens a few errors occur, which leads to migrations being paused, but if you follow instructions this should be left to a minimum.
- Monitor the process.
If everything goes well users should be able to use their new email with updated mail as well as calendar if that option is selected from anywhere from a few minutes to a couple days for larger mailboxes.
Once this is done and users have all their old emails and are receiving new email, then whichever way you decide to configure your Gmail is up to you.