Replacing Google Apps Email

Update 5th June 2014: New signups for Outlook Custom Domains have been disabled, and current customers won’t be able to add new accounts from 31st July 2014. At the moment, my most likely choice for email will be Office 365.

For many years I have been using Google Apps for Business to host my email. For various reasons, I decided it was time to change. This posed some challenges:

  • Choosing another provider that met my requirements
  • Migrating ~10GB of email
  • Rescuing content (such as Google Analytics) from my Google Apps Account before closing it

Choosing an Email Provider

As email is very important to me, I was willing to pay money for my new email hosting. Here are the requirements I had:

  • Lots of email storage (10GB+)
  • 2 Factor Authentication
  • Push Email, at least to my iPhone
  • IMAP Support
  • Reputable provider
  • Use my own domain

This gave me a few choices:

  • Hosted Exchange / Office365
  • Fastmail
  • Zoho
  • Outlook.com
  • Stay with Google Apps

In the end, Outlook.com won out over the others. It was free, supported my own domain, had good security, and ticked all of the other boxes too. Plus, you can’t find providers much more reputable that Microsoft. Hotmail has been around in one form or another for many, many years and in that time they have had a pretty good run.

Migrating Google Apps email to Outlook.com

This could’ve been very painful. Thankfully, Outlook.com has a solution for this exact scenario. They allow me to link my Google Account to my Outlook.com account and directly migrate the content. It took a couple of days, but as it was done by their servers I didn’t need to worry about it. It was handled perfectly.

As a backup, I also downloaded my data via Google Takeout. If for some reason there was an issue with the Outlook.com migration, I still had my email in a MBOX file ready to mount in Apple Mail.

Rescuing content out of my Google Account

Once the email had been safely migrated, I wanted to close my Google Apps account and go back to a regular Google Account with the same email address. It seems Google doesn’t have a built-in mechanism to do this. The best solution seems to just keep your Google Apps account but disable the email features.

I wasn’t happy with this, as it seemed dirty and unnecessary to keep that around. Instead, I had to deal with each Google product on a case-by-case basis. I was able to move what I needed.

The main product which I needed to keep the data for was Google Analytics. The solution to move this data was to make a new Gmail account the manager of my Analytics properties and remove my original account. I could then delete that Google Apps account and recreate it as a new Google Account. The data could then be linked back in.

Similar techniques seem possible with other services such as Google+ Pages and YouTube. However, don’t count on it for everything. I did end up loosing some content, but thankfully it wasn’t much as I didn’t extensively use their other products at the time.

Thankfully I had held off using some Google services for some time, knowing this transition was coming.

All in all I have been very happy with Outlook.com. It has caused me minimal fuss. The web GUI is very functional, and doesn’t get in the way. Most of the time I use my iPhone and Apple Mail, and these two clients don’t have much trouble with Outlook (the exception being push email not supported in the desktop client).

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I'm Anthony Eden, and I'm a IT Professional, Broadcast Technician, Software Developer, and Solutions Engineer. I've been working in broadcast media since 2008, and developing software and websites for just as long. Right now, I provide freelance services through Media Realm - in particular, to the media and not-for-profit industries.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_eden