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This is a step-by-step guide to migrating to Google Apps from a Microsoft Exchange Server using Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange (GAMME). GAMME is a free tool provided by Google to perform a server-side migration to Google Apps.

This guide covers the major courses of action for a successful migration in layman’s terms. It should be used as a general planning, preparation, and execution outline. Give this a read-through and you’ll have a solid idea of what’s in store for you as you make the transition to Google Apps.

Gooru’s GAMME Guide features some light technical descriptions, but please see the linked Google support resources for more detailed technical information whenever necessary. Google has a fantastic Administration Guide for this process, as well as a great Deployment Resource Center, but both are a little overwhelming if you’re just getting started.

Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange is compatible with:

  • Microsoft® Exchange 2000
  • Microsoft® Exchange 2003
  • Microsoft® Exchange 2007
  • Microsoft® Exchange 2010
  • Other IMAP servers

You’ll need to install the tool on a computer running:

  • Microsoft® Windows XP SP3
  • Microsoft® Windows Vista Business SP1 or later
  • Microsoft® Windows 7
  • Microsoft® Windows Server 2003 SP 2 or later

Step 1: prepare your organization for the migration

Get sponsorship from the right people
If the IT department decides to make this change and the company leaders do not support it (or vice-versa), your migration will not go smoothly. Ideally, you will have everyone on board after explaining the IT and cost benefits of switching.

Let everyone know what’s coming
Be sure to provide ample communication well ahead of the migration about service disruptions, client-side hardware changes, and the forthcoming software changes. It’s best if the users understand the reasons for the migration and how it will affect them.

Plan ahead for scheduling and troubleshooting
Not all migrations happen without a hitch. Most migration schedules begin on the weekend so the effect of any downtime is minimized. Be ready for some minor errors and allow time to get them sorted out. Users should also be prepared to report any issues at the beginning of the following workweek.

Be prepared to provide support
Being organized with change management is important. Every organization varies in what their users will need to become proficient with Google Apps. Options include everything from our beloved Gooru videos to paid, classroom-style training. The IT department should be on high alert in the weeks following the migration to help with any issues.

Step 2: make technical preparations

Set up Google Apps
If you don’t want to buy Google Apps for Business immediately, you can start off with a month-long free trial. Either way, you will need either Google Apps for Business or Google Apps for Education in order to use the tool. In the control panel, enable the provisioning API and configure OAuth Client access, and Google Apps will be ready to receive data from the migration tool. Be sure to set the appropriate time zone as well (whichever time zone your Exchange server uses).

Provision your users
You have a couple options here. If you use Microsoft ActiveDirectory or another LDAP server, you can use Google Apps Directory Sync. Otherwise, you can export a list of email addresses from your Exchange server in CSV format. Using only email addresses, one per line, is the least error-prone method of provisioning users. You can then bulk upload users into Google Apps from the Advanced tools section of the control panel. Alternatively, you can manually provision each user in Google Apps, but this can be a very time-consuming process if you have hundreds of users.

Provide access to a Microsoft Exchange admin account
You’ll need the login information to an admin account with its own mailbox, and at least Receive As permissions for all other accounts on the domain.

Prepare your Microsoft Windows computer to run GAMME
Go ahead and download Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange and install it on your client computer/server. You’ll also need the user list you exported when provisioning your users. If you have multiple machines available to run your migration, you can install GAMME on each and split up the user list into smaller, unique chunks for each computer to use. This will make your migration less limited by computing power and it will go faster. However, if these machines are using the same data connection, they will still be limited by bandwidth.

Optional: Perform a pilot migration
You can migrate a small subset of users to determine how long the total migration will take and make sure everything is working properly. This will not disrupt service for anyone.

Step 3: configure delivery and migrate your data

*DO NOT perform these steps until you are ready to interrupt email service to your legacy system and start receiving mail in Google Apps.

Change your MX records
Your domain registrar currently points all incoming email traffic to your Exchange server. Now that your users are provisioned in Google Apps, you can change your MX records so that mail now goes to Google’s servers. Log in to your account with your registrar, and add the following MX records and priorities:

  • Server: ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM (Priority: 1)
  • Server: ALT1.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM (Priority: 5)
  • Server: ALT2.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM (Priority: 5)
  • Server: ASPMX2.GOOGLEMAIL.COM (Priority: 10)
  • Server: ASPMX3.GOOGLEMAIL.COM (Priority: 10)

If there is a Time To Live (TTL) option, set it to 300 seconds (5 minutes)

Delete the old MX records, and be sure to save your changes. Your email is now going to Google Apps. However, it may take up to 48 hours for these changes to take full effect. It is best to perform your migration over the weekend to avoid disruptions as these modifications propagate through the Internet.

Migrate your data
It’s time to start up GAMME and configure it to migrate your data. This guide will not cover this process in detail as it is described very well on pages 37–62 of the Google Apps Migration for Microsoft® Exchange Administration Guide. There are many options, but since GAMME is an Exchange-oriented tool, you should not have to change many settings.

Congratulations! You have just migrated to Google Apps. Your users can now log in to their Google Apps accounts for access to Mail, Calendar, and Contacts.

*Special Gooru Tip*

Google Apps is a very full-featured and robust system, but coming from Microsoft Exchange, you may miss some capabilities to which you were accustomed. Fortunately, the nature of Google Apps has you covered – there are thousands of additions you can install effortlessly on your domain available in the Google Apps Marketplace.

Use the marketplace to find the best in Google Apps plugins, including cloud management and security applications like BetterCloud. The Marketplace is great for restoring functionality and facing new challenges, such as the security considerations of Google Docs.

Want more information about the top Cloud Office Systems? Learn more about Google Apps vs. Office 365