February 2011 Newsletter

Move Your Business Email to Google Aps

**** The 4specs Perspective

Over the New Year's weekend I moved the 7 email accounts for 4specs from our web host to Google Aps. While I was satisfied with our web host for email, I felt that Google Aps would be better.

Here are the reasons to convert your email to Google Aps while using your domain name for emails:

1. Google has probably the best email spam control. Google purchased Postini, one of the best spam control services. As a major email host, they can quickly see spam being pushed their way and not put it in your active email box.

2. No charge for up to 49 email boxes on the standard program [08/2013 - no longer free, but still a great value] and $50 per mailbox per year for Google Aps for Business where unlimited numbers of email users are permitted.

3. Easy to set up and maintain. You can access the email from Outlook, Thunderbird and other email programs, cell phones such as Android and iPhones, and from a web interface.

4. Stop using your AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail and ISP email accounts for email. Many smaller companies have never changed their email address to use their domain. Google Aps makes it easy to use your domain for email and have Google Aps fetch your email from other accounts. This makes a transition to your own domain for email easier.

5. You can use Google Docs, their calendar and other services and enable others in your company to access the information.

Here are the basic steps:

1. Now is a good time to consider setting up a special domain just for email and consolidating all email into that domain. If your web domain is a long one, perhaps stuffed with key words, consider finding a 5 or 6 letter domain – such as abcmail.com or abc-mail.com or abcmail.cc. Consider adding numbers to your company initials, try a hyphen, although I would avoid 1 (one), l (ell), 0 (zero) and O (oh) to minimize typing mistakes. I would consider an alternate top level domain such as .cc.

I would also be careful not to look for names using one of the common domain registrars – such as Network Solutions. They have a history of locking names being searched and not immediately registered "so you can register it with us later on." I would recommend using the registrar I use to research name ideas:

2. Use your selected domain name with Google Aps and set up an administrative account. Google recommends using a mailbox name not currently used and setting a tough password to protect the accounts:

3. Set up mailboxes to match your existing email accounts. You can use aliases to merge multiple names into one email box. For example, colin@, cg@ and info@ all go into my main email box.

In the future you can move a changed email box as an alias to one email account used for ex-employees and other deleted email boxes.

4. You will want to enable Catch-all Addresses (under service setting in account admin) for the first few weeks. This will catch all the misaddressed email and email to any boxes you may have missed setting up. After a month, I recommend you change the setting to "Discard the email."

5. During the setup Google will provide new MX settings – these go into your DNS settings and will tell other email servers to forward the email to Google's email servers.

6. Just before activating the new MX settings, I sent an email to each of the 4specs email box holders reminding them that I was changing the email system. I asked them to be prepared to change settings to access the new email system. I sent the new setup instructions in this email on how to change their accounts – Outlook, Thunderbird and an iPhone were able to change the settings to Google Aps email.

7. After an hour (while you are cautioned it may take several days to update the DNS records, I found the change effective in under 30 minutes) send an email to your new email box on Google Aps and verify that the changes are in place. I then sent a hello message to each of the other email boxes that the changes were in place and for them to send me a confirming email.

8. To improve spam control, Google recently added DKIM headers to each mail sent from a Gmail account and made the option available to email accounts using Google Aps. Domain Keys has evolved into DKIM. DKIM is a digital signature security system so the sender can take responsibility for transmitting a message, in a way that can be verified by a recipient.

I made the change on 4specs and tested that it worked. Google has enabled a soft fail with DKIM so you can still use other email servers without creating failures.

9. You may also want to set up SPF records to minimize emails from spammers using your domain name. This is called a Joe Job:

SPF can be complicated to set up as you must identify every SMTP (outgoing) mail server used in the company. While most are easy to identify, Blackberry users use the RIM SMTP server. Might be tricky, so go slowly and think it out. You will want to use a soft fail at first and have every user send an email from every device they use to double check that you have all the servers listed. Once you are confident you have identified all the SMTP servers, you can change the SPF record to a hard fail where you tell email servers that an incoming email from another non-listed server can be rejected.

With Google adding DKIM and SPF headers, other email services will increasingly use these headers to identify valid emails and whitelist them as not spam.

10. If you are consolidating other email accounts, configure your Google Aps account to download any messages from there.

11. You will want to notify users of your outside email accounts (AOL, Yahoo and Hotmail for example) that you are now using your domain for all email. It may take some time to transition or delete all the users of the old email account.

In December I probably spent more time thinking about and worrying about the email changes than it actually took to implement. As with any changes, think, think again, implement and test, test, test.

Questions and comments are always appreciated.


Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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