Migrating from Gmail to Google Apps

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Google offers a service called Google Apps (for Business) – which mainly consists of all of Google’s services hosted under a domain you own. It’s free as long as you don’t need more than 10 accounts and decide to forgo some features. After using Gmail and other products for several years (and finding a suitable domain) I decided to make the switch, mainly because I think an own domain looks better but also due to being afraid that Google turns evil and kicks me off its services. Regular backups and an email address I own will make sure that this won’t be too hard.

What’s in my old account

I started using Gmail in October 2005 and subsequently got in touch with several other Google services. After all these years some data were stored in my old, traditional Google account (use Google Dashboard to take a look at your own data):

  • Mail: almost 43k emails totaling 2.7GB, 200 people in „My contacts“ and another 400 in „Other contacts“
  • Calendar: 6 calendars consisting of ~1k events
  • Docs: 64 documents I own, 36 shared with me
  • Picasa: 48 albums consisting of 1254 photos
  • Google+: 71 people in my circles and me being in 44 circles, 172 +1s, some posts (the Dashboard doesn’t display any number)
  • Web history: data starting Nov 2009 (27 months)
  • Android Market: 54 apps, 11 of them paid apps
  • Chrome: 133 bookmarks, some extensions and apps, 75 passwords
  • Reader: 219 feeds, 346 starred and 152 shared articles
  • Talk: 33 contacts
  • Latitude: 8 contacts, no places history

So, let’s see how to migrate all this stuff to a Google Apps account. I’ll start with the easy things and work my way up.

What’s easy to migrate

Picasa: This is the only service that supports migration in the way I expect it to work. Go to your Picasa Webalbums settings, open the „Privacy and Permissions“ tab and select „Migrate my Photos„. You’ll receive instructions by mail. However, Google in it its infinite wisdom decided that you cannot use this feature twice and hence your photos won’t move that easily again.

Chrome: Just open Chrome, make sure it’s synced, disconnect your original account and connect to your new one. Done.

Calendar: You can export all your calendars at once and afterwards import them to your new account. All events, including those in the past, will be transferred. The colors of your calendars will be set to default though.

Contacts: That’s the easy part of Gmail. You can easily export them from your old account and import them to the new one. Groups will be transferred, too.

Reader: Export/Import also works for subscriptions. Looks like you can’t transfer your stars though.

Up to this point, the migration went pretty fine – now let’s see what didn’t work that well:

What’s not so easy to migrate

Docs: It’s possible to give write permissions to another account, but you cannot transfer ownership across domains. At first, granting the new account access to all your old documents seems easy: select all, share, done. Google even offers you to select only documents, that you’re allowed to share (select all, press share, a dialog will appear and offer you to select only those with the necessary permissions).

The problems start right after that: Hitting the share button again results in a meaningless message saying „Sorry, you do not have permission to share.“ or that sharing is currently not available. I started to share only 5-10 documents at a time – which worked pretty fine for the first 30-40 docs but then I hit an error saying „Sorry, you have exceeded your sharing quota.“ Again, I tried to share fewer documents which worked one time after solving a CATPCHA, but after that I couldn’t even share a single document. Some research revealed that this is not the sharing limit per document, but some undocumented spam fighting policy, Google has in place. Waiting 24 hours is supposed to help. Bummer.

[Update] After waiting 24h I tried to share some more documents. I was pleasantly surprised, that Google would allow me to move all of the remaining docs. After the first 30something documents I had to solve a captcha per sharing action though. [/Update]

Google+: When Google started offering + for Google Apps accounts in October 2011, they promised a migration tool to help all those early adopters that used a regular Gmail account to try Google+. As of today, this tool is not available. Migrating your posts is not possible, the same is true for +1s. People who have circled you, will have to recircle your new account.

The only thing that’s pretty easy to move is your circles. Google+ offers the possibility to share circles – just log on to your old account, circle your new account and share every circle (one by one) with only your new account. You’ll have to add every circle by its own though.

Mail: There’s an easy way to move all your mail, it’s called YippieMove and will cost you 15USD per migration – but I only discovered them after I was done. Hence, I can’t give any details on how well this works. Apart from that, there are two ways to get your old mail to its new home – either by POP or by IMAP. Gmail offers you both options so you can use local clients to do your mail. Also, Gmail provides an option to fetch mail from other POP accounts, so your new account can fetch your old mail easily via POP your mail ever leaving Google’s servers.

If you decide to move your mail via POP, you’ll have to keep in mind that labels, stars and „important“ flags won’t be transferred. I’m not sure if chat logs from GTalk will be moved. I tried this option but since all the mails came trickling in at a rate of about 2 per second, I decided that this is not the way to go.

This leaves IMAP. For this solution, you set up both accounts in an email client like Thunderbird and then move your mail between the accounts. Make sure to activate IMAP in the Gmail settings. If you want to keep the labels, you’ll have to create them first in the new account and then move your mail label per label. This means, that all your mail is routed through the computer that the mail client runs on, so – depending on the amount of mail you have – you may want to make sure it has a decent internet connection.

To make sure you don’t miss anything (e.g. because it doesn’t have a label) I suggest to copy the „All mail“ folder too (it’s called „Archives“ in Thunderbird). If you copy an email twice – for example because it has two labels or because you decide to copy some labels and the „All mail“ folder – Gmail will not store it a second time but only apply the corresponding label.

If you want to keep your chatlogs, you’ll have to activate this label in the settings for IMAP use before the chats will show up your mail client. Also, after transferring them, they won’t be marked as chats in the new account, so the „is:chat“ operator in Gmail search won’t work.

Using IMAP has on caveat though: Thunderbird will not transfer messages larger than some limit, probably around 10MB. Also, it won’t show an error message or message at all, it will just stop the operation and also it won’t copy any other mail in the queue. It took me a while to figure that out. I’m not sure if this is a problem with Thunderbird, Gmail or the IMAP protocol. To get around this problem I decided to sort my mail by size in Thunderbird and only copy mail smaller than 10MB and forward the few that are bigger from the webinterface. I contacted YippieMove to ask whether they know any details concerning this problem but they couldn’t explain it either. However, the customer rep stated that they have „a lot of workarounds in place to deal with various strange behaviors.“ Just in the case that you have a lot of large emails, you may want to use them.

In the labs section of Gmail you can activate export/import for filters, so these won’t be lost during the transition.

What’s better not called „migration“

Connections and authorizations from other people in one of Google’s services – i.e. GTalk, G+, Latitude – cannot be transferred, hence you’ll need to ask for re-authorization.

Apps from the Android Market can’t be moved to a new account either, which is – especially for paid apps – quite annoying. Google recommends to contact the developer and explain the situation. If you buy an app a second time, some developers will offer you a refund.

Also, web history is not available for Google Apps accounts.


One thought on “Migrating from Gmail to Google Apps

  1. Pingback: Gmail: Versand rückgängig machen | marrai

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