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I’ve completed my move to Google Apps and now all my mail goes into my inbox there, one way or the the other. In Part 1 I’ll cover the domain setup and IMAP mail migration using the migration tool, while in part 2 I’ll cover the features that are available to all GMail users.
My reasons for moving to Google Apps were:
- Sometimes they can be a bit creepy but I trust them as much as I trust any other ISP or mail provider.
- I want to provide email to family members.
- My current setup has my mail provided by Bluehost as part of my hosting service. This pretty much puts me in charge of the email server. I just don’t want to have to worry about backups and email problems. It was OK when I was the only one using it, but if I’m going to bring other’s on board it’s just a disaster waiting to happen.
- EMail is not tied to an ISP.
- GMail has the best spam filter I’ve ever used.
Google Apps includes Mail (including Talk & Calendar), Docs & Spreadsheets, Personal Start Page and Page Creator. There are two versions, free and Premium. Free allows 2GB for email and is ad supported. Premium allows 10GB for email and allows the ads to be turned off. Premium also has a 99.9% email uptime guarantee, along with mail migration tools and integration tools a business may look for. My only interest in Google Apps is for email.
I started with the free edition but quickly signed up for the 30 day Premium trial so that I can use the IMAP mail migration tools that’s included.
The domain I use for email is my primary domain with my Bluehost account but there’s no website associated with it. While I *should* be able to use the same domain as the primary domain with Google Apps I decide to be cautious since I’ve never done this before. I registered a new domain with 1&1 and use it as the primary domain with Google Apps. The domains I’ll use are (not the real names):
myfamilyblue.com – this is primary domain with Bluehost and the domain I use with email. I want to use this domain for email addresses.
myfamilyga.com – this is a new domain I’ll register and use as the primary domain for Google Apps. This will be available for email addresses and deliver to the same mailboxes as the other domain, but I won’t hand out the domain name.
In addition, while I can change MX records myself with Bluehost I have to go through tech support to change CName records. With 1&1 I can change both MX and CName records. This means I can make changes myself without having to go through tech support. This will be less annoying to me and less annoying for them if I decide to undo changes.
For the subdomains I’ll want mail.myfamilyga.com to access mail but I’ll use the default URLs for the other tools. You don’t need to use subdomains since Google Apps will give you URLs but I wanted the sub-domain for easy access to the frequently used mail. I can setup redirection for the subdomains of myfamilyblue.com to redirect to the Google App URLs.
There are additional restrictions if you buy the domain from Google, such as not being able to cancel Google Apps for a year. I’ll use my own domain that’s already registered.
Setting Up the Domain
- I registered the new domain, myfamilyga.com, at 1&1 and waited for the DNS to replicate.
- Then I registered with Google Apps for Domains. I set up the first user during registration and this will is the admin ID.
- Google does create a test address so you can test email before changing your MX records. The address is displayed when you first set up Google Apps.
- I need to verify the domain with Google before the services will actually start working. Google provides a couple of ways to do this. Either copy a specific html file to the site or create a CName record. I went the CName record route since I wanted one anyway. Google provides instructions for various domain hosts and I used the ones they provided for 1&1. In the case of 1&1 I needed to create a sub-domain then go in and create a CName record for that sub-domain and point it to ghs.google.com. I didn’t have to wait for this to replicate before I could continue, although it does need to replicate before email can be fully used.
Note: It’s a bit hidden in the help but Google also allows a MX record to verify domain registration. So if your mail system is ready to go you can just create the MX record. Remember, mail deliver will go to Google once the MX record is created so make sure all users are created if they have mailboxes on another server. My domain verification seemed slow so I created an MX record and then verification completed immediately. It may have been a coincidence.
- The next step is to set up the users which will also create the mailboxes. I already created a user name for myself while setting up Google Apps. So I set up nicknames for all the other mailboxes and forwarding addresses that I had set up on the old myfamilyblue.com.
- The next step is to change the MX records for the domain. As soon as the MX records are changed all the email will start going to GMail so you’ll want all the users set up before making the change. In my case I have a new domain so I changed the MX records immediately so they have time to replicate. The MX record information provided by Google is here. The setup may vary depending on your domain host. Just make sure the entries are in the order listed by Google and that the priorities go from higher to lower. My setup for 1and1 MX records is shown below (click for full screen).
- Since I wanted multiple domains reporting into Google Apps I went into the “Domain Settings” section, “Domain Names” tab and added the myfamilyblue.com domain as an alias. Then I went to Bluehost and changed the MX records. Here’s how to set up the MX records at Bluehost.
- Test mail delivery to the users that have been set up. It may take time for the MX records to take effect.
You can use this NSLOOKUP(kloth.net) tool to see if the CName and MX records have changed on your DNS server. Enter your domain in the domain field and enter the DNS server (from your hosting/DNS provider) in the server field, then select the record type from the dropdown list. If you registered a new domain in step 1 it may take time for the change to replicate through the internet. For the first 48 hours the query may show your DNS server has the correct information but the rest of the internet may not know that your domain info is on that server.
IMAP Mail Import
I registered for the free-trial of the premium version so I could use the IMAP migration tool. My Bluehost email was in IMAP mailboxes and was the bulk of my EMail.
The IMAP email migration tool is under the “Advanced Tools” tab (premium edition only). I set up the server connection to Bluehost. For server software I picked “Cyrus” (first choice for trial and error) no security and port 143. Some mail systems may require an “IMAP Path” such as “Inbox”. I told the wizard I’d specify a few accounts and then I entered the user id and logon information for the accounts to migrate. I was pulling everything into my one new GMail mailbox.
The migration took some time, about 45 minutes in my case, and is dependent on quantity and size. A progress bar displays the status or you can click into the details and see how many emails have been migrated. As the mail was pulled in the migration tool added two tags, one was the email address of the old mailbox and the other was the full folder path that the email was in. The tagging was an unexpected and nice bonus.
My AOL My eAddress mailboxes are also IMAP mailboxes. I tried the migration tool on them but always received errors soon after the migration began. I only had about 100 emails in those mailboxes and only a couple of folders. So after a few migration failures I went to plan B. The My eAddress mailboxes were already set up in Thunderbird so I created a new IMAP mailbox on Bluehost, added it to Thunderbird and dragged the AOL email to the new account. Then I used the IMAP import utility to pull it into GMail.
At this point I had GMail working in my own domain. I really don’t have an interest in the other Google App pieces.
Some things to keep in mind:
- I have two domains. When I set up a user ID it gets one mailbox that is addressable with both domains. So ray -at- myfamilyblue.com and ray -at- myfamilyga.com deliver mail to the same user mailbox.
- Nicknames can be set up for users. I consolidated all my myfamilyblue.com mailboxes and forwarding addresses into one GMail mailbox by setting up a nickname for each one.
In part 2 I’ll cover importing mail from POP accounts (such as my other GMail accounts) and consolidating all my email in this one mailbox. All things which are available with regular GMail accounts.