This is the final post of a four-part series detailing the best practices for completing the process of Going Google.
Throughout this series, we've covered the best practices for 'Going Google' and in part 2, we discussed configuring and testing the Google Apps suite in depth. This prior preparation makes the actual data migration much less daunting. Having already walked through the Google Apps Setup Wizard, migrated a few user accounts for testing, reviewed what does and does not migrate to Google Apps and the differences between Google Apps and your legacy provider, all that's left to do is conduct the remainder of your migration - which will include transferring the bulk of data in your legacy system to Google Apps and configuring MX records to point mail to Google's servers rather than you legacy server.
Flipping the switch
While the idea of migrating contacts, calendars, and mail to the cloud can be daunting, Google provides tools that help make the process a little less painful.
As outlined in Part 2, Google makes guides and tools available to help you conduct full scale migrations. If you're migrating from Microsoft Exchange, review the Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange Administration Guide (PDF) and download the accompanying tool. And if you're making the move from Lotus Notes, check out the respective installation and administration guide (PDF) and accompanying video tutorial.
Since every migration will differ, it's best to rely on the support manuals and videos provided by Google. And remember, if you need help with your migration, a Google Apps reseller can be a tremendous resource.
Make sure you block off time on your calendar to conduct the migration. It's best to run the migration on a Friday afternoon so the data can migrate over the weekend when fewer disruptions to your employees will occur. Note that depending on the speed and reliability of your connection, the migration speed will vary. And of course, be sure to send out a reminder email to employees alerting them again to the upcoming changes. The email should also include instructions for logging into their new Google Apps accounts come Monday.
Redirecting mail to Google AppsWhile you're conducting the data migration, go ahead and finish setting up Mail through the Google Setup Wizard (this was the one step you did not complete when configuring the suite initially). To access the wizard, simply log into your Google Apps domain at www.google.com/a/your-domain.com and select the Setup tab and then Set up your apps | Gmail.
Walk through the guided wizard, which instructs you to redirect your MX records. Note that once MX records are redirected incoming mail to your organization will go directly to your Google Apps account and not to your legacy system. You should also note that according to Google, redirecting the MX records can take up to 48 hours, but in our experience the process usually goes much faster. Just to be on the safe side, start the redirection on a Friday if you want employees to use Gmail the following Monday.
Over the past months, Google has made the process of redirecting MX records significantly easier. For example, if you purchased your domain through GoDaddy, you can now redirect MX records with a few simple clicks. If for some reason, you wish to manually set up MX records, you can still do so - here's how.
The screenshots below give a quick overview of the new process for redirecting MX records from GoDaddy to Gmail - all done in three simple steps.
Post Migration Wrap Up
Your data - mail, calendar, contacts - should now be transferred to, and operational in, Google Apps. (You should also run a "delta" migration to transfer any mail that flowed into your legacy inbox while the MX records were being redirected.) Following the migration, expect questions from concerned users and be prepared to provide support in a timely manner.
If you don't already use helpdesk software, you can set up a Google form where employees can file complaints, questions and concerns. You may even want to designate expert point people for each department in your organization. These "experts" can help lighten the load on support and make your company's transition to the cloud easier.
The Google Apps Marketplace
As you and your users become more accustomed to operating in Google Apps and the cloud, you'll probably want to complement Google Apps with a variety of tools found in the Google Apps Marketplace including security tools, accounting services, task management, and more.To do so, you'll need to first enable the Provisioning API. This is done through the Google Apps Control Panel. Simply click the Domain settings tab and select User settings, finally check the box marked "Enable provisioning API." You can then visit the Google Apps Marketplace to browse and install your desired software. If you wish to delete a third-party application from your account at any time, simply log into the Control Panel's Dashboard, scroll to find Your marketplace apps, click Settings next to the desired application and scroll down to finally click Delete.
David Politis is the founder and CEO of BetterCloud, the maker of FlashPanel, the number one cloud management and security tool for Google Apps, and the Google Apps resource site, AsktheGooru.com. Follow him @DavePolitis.
We hope this series was helpful and look forward to providing more content regarding the move to Google as well as best practices for operating on the platform. Is there something about migrating to Google we missed? Let us know in the comments.