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3 Steps: How To Migrate "Your Mail" To GMail / Google Apps

Moving from one system to another is never fun the very thought of migration can can place a wall between you and a "better world". This can be frustrating as hell when you can see the new world being used by others but you just can't get to it because of the system you're currently using.

In the email client world there hasn't been a lot of innovation because, to be honest, once you've got sending, receiving and replying sorted what else do you want. There are clients that are slightly better at finding your emails, managing your contacts and hooking into your calendar system but fundamentally it's been a world of "meh" for a long time.

But then along came GMail.
GMail initially and then the Google Apps version changed the way we look at:
  • Size: it is so big we no longer think about removing old emails to save space
  • Search: finding old emails is no longer an issue, it just works
  • Conversations: emails are no longer distinct elements but a part of a conversation viewable as one - see all replies in one place, yaay!
  • Available how you want: use your email via your iPhone, Outlook, Firebird, other web accounts ... however you want. Plus consolidate your other emails accounts into GMail - one service to rule them all.
  • Spam: it is no longer an issue for Google Apps users, simple as that
  • Labels ("tags"): getting away from the "one folder" approach and allowing any conversation to be labelled (automatically if you want) with as many labels as you want makes finding conversations so much easier (if you're not naturally a searcher)
  • Labs: there's so many "if only it could" about products and the Google approach is to allow innovation and new stuff through all the time using the Labs "add-on" - eg, need to display online photos from an email, add in the Lab item; need to have more control over your IMAP access; add in the Lab item
All of these pieces of functionality add up to a seamless and smooth experience for communicating with people - it rocks!

OK, sounds awesome BUT ...
  • How do I move my .PST files into GMail / Google Apps?
  • Can I use Microsoft Outlook with Google Apps?
  • How do I transfer my Lotus Notes email into Google Apps?
  • Can I get my mail when I'm not connected to the Internet? (yes,of course)
  • How can I move my contacts from Outlook into GMail?
  • What's the difference between the GMail interface and Outlook?
  • I've heard that GMail goes down and there's no way I can afford to be without email!
  • GMail's OK for personal use but we need governance, security and archival - how can I get that?
  • ... [enter your own question here :-)]
Yep, everyone has questions when there's a change and that's just how it should be, in fact my first step in the process of migrating your email to Google Apps is ...

1. Question The Brave New World
My first question to you is, "Why are you moving to Google Apps?"

I know I should probably sell you all the pros as the silver bullets defeating all your woes and dismiss the cons as mere machinations of the competition but that's not my job. My job is to ensure YOU get the best system for YOUR business.

Take a look at how your staff use your current email client - are there problems? Ask yourself where you're going with your email in the future - do you need access anytime/anywhere? How do "real people" in your organisation use email, what are the links they have to other applications (particularly calendaring) that you have to think of?

In essence take the "shiny new toy" label off Google Apps, sit back with the real business reasons for changing and put them onto a piece of paper - if it all adds up then change, if not then don't.

For those that decide that there is a definite business reason for changing (examples include lower operational cost, huge decrease in IT support requirements and increased flexibility for users) then you'll start to think about how to get from A to B ...

2. Do You Need To Migrate Everything?
Change is never easy and one way to avoid change is to not do it. By that I mean only change when you have to - do you have to change EVERYTHING?

Maybe you can get away with only migrating last weeks emails, last months emails, emails send by current customers, emails that were direct to you and not CC. Why migrate everything when you may never need to read them again? I'm not saying you have to pick a subset but this is a good time to have an email cull :-)

Oh, and you may chose to migrate over time using dual delivery of email - mail goes to the new shiny Google Apps and to the old tired system :-)

Another good opportunity to dump those prospective client details from the 1990s - they aren't calling you back and you've surely got all their wrong details anyway.

This is a hard one for a lot of people but if you think about it in the same light as above you can help people through it. Why try and take across/migrate to the new system with everything you already know - yes the "Compose email" icon might be comforting but it won't be migrated. Your current set of rules might relish a revisit before being migrated across.

This is something that (probably) can't be done at a corporate level but those migrating can provide help, guidelines and even real life examples of how they dumped the "old view".

Links to other applications
And finally, email is no longer a client that sits all alone and interacts with others - CRM, calendar, to-do/tasks lists. You may not be able to migrate those links/applications across to Google Apps and if that is the case now is the time to revisit them.

3. Get The Tools & Services To Help You
Finally you're set to migrate.

If you've not done it before then you're going to need help from tools and others and here's a list of both for you:


Service providers that can help
(and why the gratuitous picture - again proving how right Kathy Sierra is (Webstock preso)

Other articles related to this:

This article is dedicated to Sue Tyler (fantabulous creator of my brooch) who coincidentally asked me about moving to a new mail system this very morning proving once again that life is all about timing :-)


  1. So Freakin AWESOME!

    now i feel safe knowing i won;t screw it up when i move


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