If you talk to anyone who has used Microsoft Outlook to manage their email account for business, you’ll quickly realize that the possibility of using anything else does not exist in their minds. In fact, if you are an IT administrator and you mention the idea of leaving Outlook behind for a (gasp!) web based email system, be prepared to be assailed. Some will react as a mother bear whose cub is being threatened.

Push back

When our organization made the switch to Google Apps, there was a lot of push back. The reality was that our users not only felt intimidated by learning a new email system, they just did not have time to learn it. We found that about half of our user base was open to switching, but they felt uneasy because it was vastly different than Outlook. The other half was passionately opposed to moving away from Outlook. We moved ahead with our migration and everyone survived.

Since that time, Google has released Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. With this tool, users can enjoy all the comforts of Outlook while on a Google Apps platform. Not only is email synced, but also contacts, calendar, and tasks. Whatever is created/edited/deleted in Outlook is synced to Google’s cloud and therefore is available when logged into Gmail. Even the company Global Address List is synced. While some features of Google Apps are not available in Outlook such as chat and shared docs, that can be remedied by installing additional software, i.e. Google Talk and Google Drive.

Google Apps Sync

As a Google Apps administrator, there are a few settings in the Google Apps Control Panel that must be enabled in order for Google Apps Sync for Outlook to be fully functional. First, it is necessary to enable the option “Enable Google Apps Sync and Google Apps Connector for my users”. Go to the Settings tab (Figure A) and then click “Email” under Services. Under the General tab go to the “Outlook & Blackberry Support” and check the box to enable Google Apps Sync.

Figure A

Then scroll further down to “User email uploads” and check the box for “Allow users to upload mail using the Email Migration API”. (Figure B) This will allow users to upload email from a previous Outlook profile.

Figure B

Second, verify that the Google Calendar service is enabled. Go to the Dashboard and under “Your Google apps” Google Calendar will be listed if it is enabled (Figure C). If it is not, click on the link “Enable more services”, scroll down the list to find Google Calendar, click the “On” button, and then click “Save changes”.

Figure C

Third, in order to use the Global Address List, go to Settings, then click on the Contacts service, and then “Enable contact sharing”. (Figure D) Also, enable the provisioning API by going to Domain Settings, User Settings, and checking the box. (Figure E)

Figure D

Figure E

To get started using Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, download the tool. If you are using Chrome the tool will install within minutes and start automatically. (Figure F)

Figure F

Sign in using your email address and password clicking “Continue”. Give the tool a few seconds while it signs into your account and starts Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Outlook (Figure G), which enables you to import an existing Outlook profile to your Google Apps account.

Figure G

To import data from an existing profile or PST file, check the box “Import data from an existing profile”. Select the Outlook profile stored on the PC, or select “From a PST file…” and then select the PST which contains the data you want to import into your Google Apps account. Select which Outlook items to import: Email messages, Deleted messages, Junk email, Contacts, Calendars, Notes, Journal entries, and Tasks.

Clicking on the “Show advanced settings” button allows you to turn on the AutoArchive feature, which is turned off by default. With Google Apps large amount of storage, there is no reason to turn it on. When ready, click “Create profile”. Another screen comes up asking you to start Microsoft Outlook. Click the button and Outlook immediately starts syncing. (Figure H)

Figure H

Click the “Show more” button to see the status (Figure I) on the other items that are syncing.

Figure I

While Google Sync is working, you can close the status window and it will keep processing. To check on it periodically, right-click on the system tray icon and select “View sync status…”. (Figure J)

Figure J

To ensure that all items are synced, right-click on the system tray icon and select “Set mailbox size limit…” and select “Unlimited”. (Figure K)

Figure K

To set which calendars to sync, choose “Select calendars to sync…” from the system tray menu (Figure L). All calendars that have been added in your Calendars settings in your Google Apps account appear in the list. (Unfortunately, within Outlook it is not possible to add other Google Apps calendars. You must log into Gmail to add co-workers or public calendars.) Check the box next to those calendars you want synced in Outlook.

Figure L

In the rare circumstance where your Outlook profile gets corrupted or data is missing, Sync for Outlook allows you to re-sync the data with two options: overwrite or delete and re-sync. The Overwrite option overwrites profile data from Google’s cloud, but preserves Outlook data.

In other words, any changes made in Outlook remain while data that was imported into Outlook is overwritten. The Delete and re-sync option does just that: it wipes the Outlook profile clean and then re-downloads the data from Google Apps. All Outlook specific data is gone.

To get to these options, view the sync status and then click on the “Re-sync” link under the type of data you want re-synced. (Figure M) Select the option you want and click the “Re-sync” button.

Figure M

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