Switched to Google Apps for Personal Email

Over the holidays I was testing Google Apps and except for a small false positive spam issue with google alerts — I was really impressed.

The reason I was testing it was to see if I could replace my gmail account with one of my own email accounts, using my own domain — but running on google apps. Google Apps essentially allows you to use all the Google services like email, docs, calendar, etc — but using your own domain (i.e. myname.com).

The main motivator for me was to have a permanent email address that had great web interface, and also pop/imap support for a desktop client.

My old personal email setup:
* hosting: running on my own server
* Spam: using SpamAssasin to filter out spam. It worked fairly well but required some maintenance overhead of keeping up with new versions and tweaking the spam’s whitelist was a chore
* Webmail: the default Squirrel webmail was good, but not amazing
* Search: using Thunderbird for search when you had gigs of email was tough, and webmail search was OK

My move to gmail:
Then in July 2004 I signed up to test gmail and was amazed. I was tired of endless mailboxes/archive rules/folders of the Outlook/Eudora/Thunderbird world. Gmail had:
* awesome search
* no folders ( but simple & powerful labels )
* virtually unlimited storage
* killer feature — the threaded view which I’m amazed hasn’t been copied by every mail provider (and conversely i’m amazed gmail doesn’t offer a non-threaded view for people who just hate the threaded model)
* really solid spam protection

In addition to gmail’s great features I found that I needed a google account to use i-google, google reader, google webmaster tools,etc and I quickly found myself just using the gmail address as my person email address, and forwarding all my old accounts to the gmail address. ( since then google has changed the google account setup so you can use a non-gmail address for google services )

I can still easily call up the Gmail welcome email:

You’re one of the very first people to use Gmail. Your input will help determine how it evolves, so we encourage you to send your feedback, suggestions and questions to us.

I recall emailing in and saying that they should support domain mapping so you could have email@yourdomain.com. Fast forward a few years, and google now has that option. I quickly set it up on google apps, made some DNS changes and was up and running in no time.

Google Apps
I’ve been using google apps for about a month now, and here are a few observations:
* the free version I’m using is perfect for my use. They do offer premium options of larger organizations.
* everything you would expect with gmail you have with google apps – including docs, calendar, etc
* the mobile blackberry app for google apps works great
* with the calendar there are some extra features for people “on your domain” to always have access to your calendar
* outside services that provide a way to grab your gmail address book ( such as facebook ) do not work with google apps – this could be considered a good thing for some people 🙂
* moving my gmail emails to google apps was relatively painless. Details & lots of discussion at Scott Hanselman’s blog.

WordPress.com Support:
If you have a blog at WordPress.com and are using a mapped domain as I now do with this blog, you can enable Google Apps for that same domain. Details are here in our faq.

Wish List:
* Fix the “on behalf of” issue. If you use multiple email addresses, gmail and google apps are easy to setup to receive those emails. But when you send out using those non gmail/google apps addresses, certain recipients – especially those using Outlook – will see a “on behalf of email@gmail.com” in the “From” field.UPDATE: Now fixed.

Conclusion:
Pretty much a no brainer. If you love gmail, want your own domain, and like having the safety to know that you can pop/imap your email, and move it at any time — google apps is a great choice.

42 thoughts on “Switched to Google Apps for Personal Email

  1. I’ve actually thought about it, but I’m ultra-paranoid, and the nice thing about having my mail on my own server is that I can back it up.

    To be fair, I haven’t really looked at options recently, but other than always forwarding a copy elsewhere, is there any way to back up your mail? I’d be dead without it!

    (And yes, I know it’s unlikely, but it does happen.)

  2. @ Chad —

    I’m with you on the paranoia 🙂

    But with gmail & google apps you can now POP the mail or even better use IMAP to stay in sync with a desktop client.

    So I run thunderbird in the background, and it’s always pulling down my latest emails from google apps.

  3. I went the other way a few months ago. I waited for eternity for Gmail to support IMAP so that I could use my iPhone and Mail.app properly. My impression of GMail’s IMAP was horrible though. It’s non-standard in many ways.

    I’ve moved to Tuffmail and while I have to pay ($30/mailbox) I get everything I want with bullet-proof reliability, proper IMAP support and nice benefits like sieve support.

    It’s not as simple, but for a power emailer paying $30/year for your mailbox is trivial.

    After making the switch, I’m really happy. Also happy to know that Google can’t read all my emails to target yet more crap at me.

  4. I’m always flabbergasted by things google. Gawd, how many months did I struggle with identity management on blogspot after they took over? Hours I’ll never get back.

    One example that leaps to mind: I monitor my GMail accounts in NetVibes (And you can be sure Twitter is there too! *grin*) and that’s a lovely example of mundane goodness.
    But dig: when I see a new message and click on that link, I get a very nice presentation of that new item. And that very nice presentation, so far as I can tell, provides no link back to Inbox. (I’m half-thinking there’s a Javascript link that fails with Firefox … I dunno.)

    My stomache gets knotted by Web2.0 incompetence too often each day as is … fact is I don’t trust google apps for anything remotely like mission critical. And for me, EMail is #1, along with file-storage on my own box, right here under my desk … the one Cat likes to curl up beside.

    After having said that, year after year google becomes more and more a part of my daily work-flow. And M$? Less and less. *wh00t!*

    –bentrem

  5. @jamie — thanks for the tip re: tuffmail. How’s the web interface ?

    For me the gmail/google apps email interface + spam protection + native blackberry mobile app + calendar sync with blackberry is just too good a combo.

    Also happy to know that Google can’t read all my emails to target yet more crap at me.

    Ha ! They know so much already — what’s a few more bits thrown in the mix 🙂

    @bentrem —

    After having said that, year after year google becomes more and more a part of my daily work-flow. And M$? Less and less. *wh00t!*

    Should be interesting with the possible yahoo mail + hotmail/live — microsoft will actually own a big chunk of the email space.

  6. Oh but Raanan, privacy and slipper slope don’t go so well together. I seriously have started to grow more concerned about that matter. It’s the reason why one of my Tech Resolutions this year is Less Google.

    Tuffmail’s webmail is all open source. You can pick. I use RoundCube mostly. This does highlight a business opportunity for me though. Someone needs to make a “bring your own IMAP” webmail client. Really — would be sweet.

    Also, I’m Blackberry light so I really just want IMAP for my iPhone.

    Lastly, Tuffmail’s spam filtering is as good as GMail. No difference in experience. Actually, in one way better since I have a different folder for Spam and Discard. Essentially, if it is brutally spam it goes to discard which I never look at. If it is just barely spam it goes to junkmail which I actually scan from time to time. Also, auto expire by folder makes that a total breeze….

    I’m a fan. 🙂

    Let’s go build a webmail with independent IMAP service. 🙂

  7. count21 says:

    I am also planning to do like you Raanan, I feel google is reliable as far as service goes, I have never seen server failure messages ever (sofar).

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Ronald says:

    Yes, moving from Gmail to Google Apps is really painless, but I don’t find it great.

    1) gmail.com doesn’t allow google apps user to login like you used to do so with @gmail.com account. You have to log in mail.google.com/a/xxxx.com to login own-domain account.
    2) google apps doesn’t include google reader
    3) Tuffmail’s spam filtering is not only as good, but far better than Gmail’s spam filtering.
    4) Gmail still lacks of subfolder feature by default although you can use Better Gmail 1/2 to enable that.
    5) Gmail’s deletion support for Thunderbird sucks. Delete message in thunderbird will basically move the message from Inbox to All Mail.

    Lastly, I don’t know why you failed to mention those facts. Or google fans are just unwilling to accept the facts that Google actually suck in some way.

  9. @ronald,

    a few comments:

    >1) … You have to log in mail.google.com/a/xxxx.com to login own-domain >account.
    Actually that’s not true. You can add a DNS record — so for me it’s mail.mydomain.com to login.

    > 2) google apps doesn’t include google reader
    Not sure what you mean. I login to google reader with my google apps account w/o a problem.

    >3) Tuffmail’s spam filtering is not only as good, but far better than
    >Gmail’s spam filtering.
    That’s good to know.

    >4) Gmail still lacks of subfolder feature by default although you can
    >use Better Gmail 1/2 to enable that.
    for me labels actually work much better than folders.

    >5) Gmail’s deletion support for Thunderbird sucks. Delete message
    >in thunderbird will basically move the message from Inbox to All Mail.
    Hmm, hadn’t run across that as I tend not to delete much. But ya, I think many people have correctly criticized the IMAP support as being “weak”. Hopefully they can improve it.

    • The two downsides of Google Apps are, (1) their IMAP support doesn’t appear to properly sync messages between the webmail interface and a desktop client in the best way and (2) while you can add a DNS record to route your mail.mydomain.com to your Google Apps subdomain, Google Apps doesn’t add a true virtual host for mail.mydomain.com – they simply make it a web redirect to http://www.google.com/a/mydomain.com. Unless, you’ve managed to get it working properly, that is? Can I test it with your domain?

      Cheers,
      Doug

      • Would you prefer it not redirect for branding reasons or why do you care? From outlook using sync or imap your golden and from the web client, using the cname is just a nice way for your end users to not need to remember an ugly google domain. but in the end, it just works. 😉

  10. Hi Raanan,

    I did a switch yesterday. I was preparing for this day for months ! i made an account las year but at that time there was no IMAP & im a thunderbird user. Now google apps have IMAP & more years running i felt this was the time to switch.. toke me some time to copu all my mails from my old provider (lots of GB’s) but finally & really happy ! i will be writing a howtoo very soon for people who want to do this in the future.

    Cheers
    Anibal

  11. I tend to find nothing scratches the itch completely, but one alternative to Google Apps/Gmail is Zimbra. Only, you still need to host it yourself, but on the other hand, you get all the same benefits to one degree or another. Nice ajax webmail client (with traditional folders), collaboration, calendars, and you still have the flexibility to use your domain how you want.

  12. I have been using Google Apps for a while now. I do like the idea that I can have Gmail functionality with my own domain. I think the system is great for those who don’t want the latest and greatest Google account features.

    I may be switching back to Gmail (but forwarding my Google apps email address). Here are my reasons:

    -Google Reader – According to Google, this does not work with Google apps. This is fine if you are not using the “Personalized home page” because you just log in with your gmail account. But I want to place my Reader items on my personalized home page.

    -Blogger/Blogspot itegration – It is not possible to login to Blogger through your apps account.

    -External API’s – External API’s that access your address book (such as LinkedIn.com’s “Find users you may know”) do not function with Google Apps.

    Personalized home page / Gmail Themes – None of these have kept pace with google’s development of their Gmail/iGoogle counterparts (i.e. Themes). Quite disappointing.

    Adsense/Adwords – You cannot login using your Google apps ID.

    So my conclusion is that for a good email client, Google apps is great, it just lacks in some of the other, more advanced, features.

    Thanks for the post!

  13. I use gmail and recently signed up for the google apps premier trial.

    The main reason I wanted apps was I needed an email addy with my domain name AND I wanted to have multiple email addresses going to ONE user account (me).

    So, what I wanted was ………. sales@mydomain.com, technical@mydomain.com, etc. ALL going into my user name/account.

    I could not make this happen and I tried many internet searches to find out how with no luck.

    Apps wanted me to sign up to a new account for each email address.

    So, in frustration I cancelled my account even though I REALLY wanted apps.

    Please fell free to help a complete newbie. I would be happy to rejoin if I can fix this problem as I love everything else about apps.

    • @allan —

      not sure I completely follow. but in google apps you can add a “nickname” or alias which allows you to use one email account but have multiple addresses pointing to it.

      • Hi and thanks for the help!

        In Apple mail I can open up my email and their is seven different email folders (one for each address) all in the same window. Example: allan@ mydomain.com, sales@mydomain.com, etc.

        All I have to do is click on a folder and I get all of the mail for that particular address. I don’t need to sign out of an account and into a new account to get mail from a different address but I still get my mail separated by address as each address has it’s own folder.

        Does that make sense? Not sure I am explaining this very well.

        So, I am looking for a similar functionality in apps. It doesn’t have to be identical but similar.

  14. But I want seven different emails going into the one user account. So are you suggesting that I set a filter for each email address and have it assigned to an equivalent label?

    If so, then how do I get 7 different emails pointing to my one user account? Remember that these 7 email addresses are NOT @gmail.com addresses but are @mydomain.com so I want all of my replies to show the individual @mydomain.com addresses as they have been sent to me.

    Meaning if I get an email to sales@mydomain.com and I reply to that email I want the reply address to be sales@mydomain.com

    • ya, I don’t work at Google 🙂 So you may want to direct this at their support for …

      but my understanding is that to reply with different addresses you need actual accounts to be created. But if you have the free google apps option it shouldn’t cost you extra for those accounts.

      good luck 🙂

    • Paul says:

      You should be able to do this. Create a group for each email address you want in addition to your own – one for sales, etc. Include yourself in the group. Look at the “multiple inboxes” feature in gmail (settings, labs) to be able to isolate the incoming email in their own inboxes. If necessary set up filters to label the emails as they come in with the group name. I haven’t tried it myself, but it seems like everything you need should be there.

  15. Great post. I’ve been a big proponent of apps for years. The pros outweigh the cons for sure. My company and my household runs entirely on apps. I can access a ten year old email anywhere in the world in 2 seconds. Can’t beat that.

  16. amithc says:

    My iPhone is really becoming my primary choice for communications (voice, email and tweets), organization (docs, info, research) and meetings (contacts / calendars). It’s just so darn handy and cute 🙂 and portable!!

  17. Ok this is an old blog post but still thanks for the link about the switch from Gmail to Google App, I’ve been using Google App for 6 months and it’s really good, so i’m going to move everything there =)

  18. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there really is no need to use Google Apps for email IF you already have email access provided through your webhost, correct?

    I was reading through these posts and I was thinking, “I need to sign up for a Google Apps Account”, but the more I read, the more I realized that the majority of the individuals were signing up for Google Apps in order to get email for their domain (email@mydomain.com). If they already have that throught their webhosting provider, then what use is their to sign up for Google Apps? If your webhosting provider isn’t providing emai accounts with your webhosting service, take your business elsewhere…

    • Correct — you certainly can get email from your web host, but the trend (even among web hosts) is to use google for email … the advantage being the interface, features, mobile support, etc …

    • Email is usually a pretty essential piece of your business. I have worked with clients who wanted to move hosting companies, but they were so tied into a proprietary email system with their host that the move was, in their view, too complicated and too risky. Instead, they stayed with a bad service provider.

      The advantage of Google is that your email address contains your domain name, but is no longer tied to your hosting company. It makes transitions smoother, should you choose to move someday.

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