In the Trenches: An Easy Email Migration

by Brett Snyder

2 min read

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how I needed to set priorities in order to get important projects completed in a reasonable amount of time. The first one on my list — email migration — is now complete. It was shockingly easy.

We had experienced reliability problems with our email provider on several occasions, and I was fed up. After doing some research, I opted to switch to Google Apps, because most of us were already using Gmail to manage our email anyway. I just needed to pick the right time.

I received a push early last week, when our existing email provider failed us once again. This time, it stopped supporting the port we using to send email. The company never bothered to tell us it was doing this, and so our outgoing emails suddenly failed to send. I got us back on track fairly quickly, but I was steaming that the company didn’t give us any notice. When I confronted a customer-service rep, he claimed using that port “would not have ever been a setting we suggested, and thus we did not anticipate it affecting anyone.” That’s it. No apology. Nothing.

So, our email migration moved forward quickly. I decided to do it on May 24, the Friday night before Memorial Day. Why? I just looked at our flight schedule. We had someone departing right around 7 p.m. PDT Friday, but then no new departures happening until 2:45 a.m. Saturday. For us, that’s a pretty sizable gap. And with the office closing for the holiday weekend at 7 p.m. Friday, I figured we wouldn’t receive many new inquiries.

Before then, however, I had to get Google Apps ready. After signing up, I created everyone’s accounts in the new system. I did a little bit of customization in the settings, and then I used Google’s tool to migrate email from our old system to the new one, for those who were interested. Since most employees were forwarding their company email to Gmail already, so that they could manage them via the web, this step of transferring old messages to the new accounts wasn’t really necessary. Finally I set up a test domain to make sure our email was working as planned. It was.

Next, all I had to do was explain to everyone in the company how to handle the transition. For those who wanted to manage email in the current system, they didn’t have to do anything but start using it. For those who wanted to manage messages in Gmail or another email client, I explained how to forward email and then how to set their system to send properly. It was very simple.

On Friday night, I waited until that 7 p.m. flight was airborne, and I made the switch. The good news is that, during an email switch, you don’t lose any email: It just keeps going to the old system until the new one kicks in. Within an hour, email was flowing into the new system. There were no problems at all.

So, scratch that one of the list! Whew. Now I can only hope future projects go as smoothly.

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