For the last 6 years or so I've been hosting my own IMAP mail server and this evolved from just running an IMAP server on Linux to having a the full Zimbra collaboration suite in the end. Of course it is fun to do this, you learn a bit. However, it does take time and resources to do it properly and the guys at Google can all do that for you: Google Apps. You can use Google Apps for free for your familily and get Email, Calendar and much more functionality. And what's best: you don't have to do any maintenance, simple use it. One point to take note of, you do need a domainname, but who does not own a domainname nowedays?
Of course there was the migration question... there was close to 10G of mail stored in my server (split over multiple accounts) and we did not want to loose that. How to get this into GMail? Several blogs posts suggest to simple use your desktop mail client (Mail.app on OS X, or Thunderbird) and then simple copy the mail (folders) from one IMAP account to the other. Sure works, but when I tried the copy process stopped several times due to a time-out... and then it was not clear what was copied and what was not copied yet. Time for a more robust and scriptable solution, enter imapsync. Imapsysc is a perl script that can keep two IMAP accounts in-sync. It can be run multiple times and then will only copy the messages not available on the target server yet. So that also makes it perfects to do a phase by phase migration (first copy all existing mail and then just before you switch over to the new IMAP server, do a last - quick - run to copy the few remaining messages.
I've been using Google Apps for ~2 weeks now, am I happy with it? Definitely, here a couple of reasons:
- the web ui for mail is great and I'm more productive processing tons of mail. After setting up some filters it is much easier to quickly archive mail and by assigning colors to filters I can quickly spot the important new mails. And of course, searching is a breeze... I have hardly used my regular mail client (Mail.app on OS X) since I switched.
- Using SpanningSync I can perfectly sync my Google Calendar with iCal on multiple Macs and keep them in sync with my iPhone. With Zimbra I also managed to sync them (see earlier post) but one big drawback was that the calendars hosted on Zimbra were read-only on iPhone... not very convenient when you have to move an appointment.
- We can easily share calendars within the familily
- I have to worry less about making backups (although to be honest, I do consider to set up something... better safe than sorry)
- You can manage multiple mail accounts from 1 Google Mail account (but... see wishes below).
- When using Google Mail to send mail from another account it includes a header saying "firstname.lastname@example.org On Behalf of email@example.com" (where googleapps.com would be the primary domain on Google Apps that you registered and firstname.lastname@example.org some other mail account). The annoying thing is that some mail clients (Outlook of course, who else...), show this header to the user. According to Google they do it this way to prevent mail from being tagged as spam. And although there is definitely truth in that I would like ot have a setting to enable/disable this behaviour. Escpecially when managing multiple domains on Google Apps it should be possible to get rid of this message. The problem is that Google tags one of you domainnames as primary and the when sending mail from another domainname (that is hosted on the same Google Apps mail account) it also includes the "On Behalf of" header.
- Todo list support in Calendar would be nice.
- I still need to using my regular Google account for services like Google Reader, iGoogle, etc. The list of services for which you can use your Google Apps account is less than the list of available services to regular Google accounts.