A few years ago I migrated our office of about a dozen people to Google Apps. It’s one of the smartest I.T. decisions I’ve ever made.
Google Apps for Work allowed me to retire our aging Microsoft Exchange server, a headache I was more than happy to be rid of. No more software patches, no more obsolete hardware. Our domain email moved over seamlessly with no interruption and users were immediately able to access mail from whatever device they preferred using Gmail.
Want to try it?
Right now you can fire up Google Apps for free. Set up a test domain and run it alongside your current email network. If you like it, you can save $10 per user for the first year by entering promo code
when you sign up. Keen, huh?
Each user has 30 gig of storage (or unlimited if you choose that plan). That allowed us to end the frustration of archiving email, and the headache of keeping track of Outlook data files. Another benefit was the ability to more easily collaborate on documents and share files– privately or with the public.
Back then we had trouble whenever users checked their mail from different locations/machines. Downloading a message while on your laptop meant the message never showed up on your desktop. It seems quaint today in a world accustomed to IMAP. But Google Apps made the transition much smoother.
But beware the pitfalls. Here are a few helpful hints for making the transition as smooth as possible.
Helpful Tips for Implementation
- Test Domain – take advantage of the proxy/test domain name to get everything set up the way you want it. Run it side-by-side with your live domain for a while. Once you are happy, point your real domain over to Gmail’s servers.
- Executive Support – make sure the corner office buys into the transition. If possible ask the boss to announce the change.
- Google Gurus – I bet you already have some in your company. After all, Gmail is the most common email system on the planet. Identify your Gurus and use them as beta testers before the rollout, then as trainers afterwards.
- Rollout Chrome – if everyone uses Chrome you can set up the startup tabs (make sure one of them is Gmail) and simplify the login experience. Be sure to specify all users must log on to Chrome using their work account.
- Email Alias – an alias delivers mail to users just as their regular address does. Create a short alias of each user’s initials to make it easier to relay their email address over the phone. Or use an alias for special projects- like HR@ for job postings.
- Google Groups – we had a number of mailboxes that forwarded messages to a group of users. Instead of using an alias I turned on Google Groups for Business to remedy this need. It’s very flexible, and even keeps an archive of the messages– handy for people joining the group later.
- Avoid Outlook Sync – Google offers a tool to allow Outlook users to sync mail, contacts and calendars. And it’s notoriously buggy. If you can ditch Outlook altogether, do it. If you must use it, avoid the sync tool. The Outlook mail folders will sync over IMAP without it.
- IMAP Fun – speaking of IMAP, users accustomed to POP3 mail may not understand the difference. Like deleting an email means deleting an email. It took a couple of reminders before everyone on our team realized the actions they took on their phone were going to be reflected on their desktop. And visa-versa.
- Chrome Extensions – clever extensions such as Hangouts, Chromecast or Remote Desktop can assist with your Google Apps rollout, but also increase overall productivity. Check out Momentum to offer a fresh perspective to new tabs.
- Archive vs Trash – I advise users to use Archive instead of clicking the trash can. The immediate result is the same– the message goes away and no longer takes up storage space. The difference is you can find it 6 weeks from now just in case you need to. The trick is to search under All Mail.
- Canned Responses – one of the Outlook features that is lacking in Gmail is multiple signatures. We weren’t suffering from multiple personality disorder– we used them to answer frequently asked questions. But there is a tool available for Gmail to solve this issue, and it’s actually better! Look under Settings > Labs and enable Canned Responses.
- Preach Patience – most of the issues we encountered were merely differences. You may need to research a request to find the best solution. Let your users know that! But rest assured– with over 50 million fellow users, there is someone out there experiencing the same challenge. Between Extensions, Labs and third-party apps you can do almost anything.
- Work for a Non-Profit? If you join Google for Nonprofits you can take advantage of Google Apps for Nonprofits for free!