Thursday, 25 August 2011

Google Apps Migration from Thunderbird

I have a small client with about 7 users. They have a Windows 2003 terminal server and have always used Mozilla Thunderbird as a POP3 client. Recently they have needed to use shared calendars and some webmail access from home and mobiles. I recommended that they move to Google Apps for Business and gave them a few options of how to use it. I  recommend and use Google Apps for Business and NetSolutions is a Google Apps Authorized Reseller.

Option 1 was to continue to use Thunderbird as a POP3 client and use Lightning for Calendars.
Option 2 was as above but move to IMAP.
Option 3 was to move to using the web interface to Google Apps.
Option 4 was to move to Outlook.

Initially they were tempted to use the Free Version of Google Apps and to go with Option 3, but they later decided on using Google Apps for Business and Outllook 2003 which they already had installed. One reason for the decision to use Outlook was that they currently use MYOB and that requires Outlook to send email, mainly for Payslips.

I went through the usual routine to deploy Google Apps for a client, including all the DNS changes for mail delivery, domain keys  and SPF setup. The next step was to install the Google Apps Sync software on the server and configure each user profile on the server to use Google Apps Sync for Outlook.

The biggest issue I encountered was migrating the old email in Thunderbird to Google Apps. The problem is that we have really poor ADSL connectivity in Regional NSW. Uploads, even from ADSL 2+ services are woeful, regardless of what the Telcos want to say.*

My first method of migrating the old emails to Google Apps was to configure an addiiotnal Google Apps IMAP account in thunderbird and simply copy the folders across. This worked for a few users who had very few messages and folders. With bigger users it was slow and unreliable. I even tried doing it after hours using remote access but this still caused problems as it would fail at some point and I had to manually figure out where it failed and restart the process.

I decided to install hMailServer (hMailServer is a free e-mail server for Microsoft Windows) on the windows server and created local mailboxes for all the users. I then added a IMAP account to the local hMailServer for each thunderbird profile and copied all the mailboxes/messages/folders to the hMailServer.

The Next step was to download and install the confusingly named Google Apps Migration for Microsoft® Exchange which also enables you to migrate from IMAP servers. I configured the firewall to allow external IMAP access, created the configuration file with the correct usernames and password, and kicked of the migration. I did have a few issues with the OAuth setup, but this worked well. I actually ran the migration over the weekend and it completed successfully.

The next issue was address books. I had to export each address book to a CSV file and import it into Google Apps via the web interface. This was a bit time consuming but easy to do.

Now The client has a fully functioning Google Apps for Business deployment that works in the Office, From their smartphones and from home via the web interface.

* I once had an abusive phone call from a Telstra Account Manager from Melbourne who was trying to install a service for a client, even though the client had previously requested a TPG service to be installed on the same number. Anyway the unprofessional bozo from Telstra was going to have me in court for some reason or another and made all these other threats. It seems Telstra still thinks it is the only Telco in Australia and that is there god given right to provide services to everyone. What a Dinosaur! I enjoyed his claim that the Telstra Business Broadband service that he was selling was far superior to any other service anyone could offer. Well, I have other clients with Telstra Business Broadband services and it performs no better (or worse) that any other service.

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