Hosted MS Exchange to Gmail (Google Apps) migration guide

After my investigation for an Alternative to Exchange resulted in Google Apps for business being the winner, I promised an update and implementation guide.

Here is a implementation brief that covers most of the major features that we were looking for to replace our hosted MS Exchange service.

Its not meant to serve as a step by step implementation guide from Exchange to Google Mail, more of a pointer of features  and the main issues to consider during setup along with some answers to common questions asked when migrating.

 

Pricing & Free 30 trial

At the time of pricing, there is a free 30 day trial available, with pricing per mailbox set at $5 per mailbox per month which is roughly £3 GBP.

Domain setup & Aliases

When you add domains to your Google Apps for Business Account, you are prompted to prove your ownership of the domain. The simplest way of doing this is to upload a file to your website (Google provide this during setup), but you can also prove ownership by providing changes to DNS TXT records.  All of this is well documented during the setup process.

Additional domains can be setup as Aliases to the main domain name, allowing all users to have email addresses for as many domains that you need.

Alternatively, you can managed additional domains on an isolated case by case basis rather than inheriting settings from the primary domain.

MX Records

Each domain that you are migrating over to Google need the following MX records setting up:

 

1

ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.

5

ALT1.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.

5

ALT2.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.

10

ASPMX2.GOOGLEMAIL.COM.

10

ASPMX3.GOOGLEMAIL.COM.

 

If you are migrating from an alternative email provider but wish to test Googles Email first, ensure that the above MX records have lower index weightings than your current MX records.

e.g: Set your current mail provider MX record values to say 15 or 20 based on the 1,5,5,10,10 values above. This, together with configuring routing in the Google Mail set-up will ensure that email is delivered to Google servers first and then forwarded on if there are no mailboxes configured for that recipient.

 

Mailboxes

Mailboxes are easily created and configured using the Create New User function from the Organisation/Users tab. Its all pretty straight forward allowing you to specify password, email address and other additional contact information.

 

Testing

You can setup email routing for each domain and/or mailbox to forward emails onto your current or alternative provider if there is no existing mailbox set up for Google Mail.

This allows you to test with a subset of users first with the remainder of emails being forwarded on to your current provider.

As you create additional mailboxes on Gmail, email then gets routed to the Google servers rather than the old supplier for each new mailbox.

 

Public Folders / Shared Mailboxes

You can delegate access to your mailbox to other domain users, or as an alternative option we configured mailboxes to be “shared” separately on each outlook users profile – essentially setting up multiple users with the same mailbox to access billing@somecompany.com

Although this could have been handled via the Google Groups facility and web interface, our internal processes meant that we ideally needed to use Outlook to manage the emails. In this case we simply setup the shared mailbox as an account on each Outlook installation that required it.

Email Distribution Groups

e.g. Billing@somecompany.com sales@somecompany.com

This side of things is handled by Google Groups for Business. Mailbox users are members of groups with messages stored as a group repository and also delivered to individual mailboxes. Users subscribe to a group with various notification options available to each mailbox user.

Members can be invited to the group, or be assigned by the domain administrator individually or en-masse.

Subscription type


Membership type

Posting permission


Calendar (and Google Calendar Sync for Outlook)

To enable your Outlook Calendar to be synchronised with your Google Calendar, the Google Calendar Sync tool needs to be installed on your PC. This is a small background utility that performs regular sychronisations with your Google Calendar.

 

Google Calendar Sync

Google Calendar Sync for Outlook

 

 

Import Outlook (mails and folders)

Setting up a new email account in Outlook is simple. The following IMAP account settings work without a problem (Outlook 2010):

Incoming Mail (IMAP) Server – requires SSL: imap.gmail.com
Use SSL: Yes
Port: 993
Outgoing Mail (SMTP) Server – requires TLS: smtp.gmail.com (use authentication)
Use Authentication: Yes
Use STARTTLS: Yes (some clients call this SSL)
Port: 465 or 587
Account Name: your full email address (including @gmail.com) Google Apps users, please enter username@your_domain.com
Email Address: your full Gmail email address (username@gmail.com) Google Apps users, please enter username@your_domain.com
Password: your Gmail / Google Apps password

 

 

Existing emails can be imported to your Google Mail account by using the Outlook Migration tool. You simply login using your Google Mail details and then select the Outlook Profile that you wish to import.

 

Google App Migration for Outlook

Google App Migration for Outlook

 

Importing the emails and folder structure is a simple enough process, but can take some time depending upon the size of your Outlook PST file that is getting imported. For a 1.5Gb file, it took around 2 hours for me.

 

Mobile Device Synchronisation

This can be done via POP or IMAP protocols from your mobile device. We configured Blackberry Bolds and Samsung S2 phones to access our Google Mail for Business account over  both POP and IMAP without a problem.

The IMAP Settings used were the same as for Outlook above.

 

Organisational Email Footers

Finally a great feature of Google Apps Mail for business is the ability to add company wide email footers, configured centrally rather than on each individual client.

This is achieved by going to the Google Apps Control Panel and choosing

Settings -> Email -> Filters -> Add Setting -> Append Footer

You can then design a company email footer to be appended to all emails being sent from your organisation.

 

Conclusion

Overall Google Apps for Business provides everything that most SME businesses will need for their email and calendar needs and also allows integration with your existing client applications such as Outlook.

For $5 a month for a fully managed email service with good SLA’s, its hard to fault. For an organisation with 25 users, this amounts to about £1500 per year for a rock solid service, which is good value at any level.

Share

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply