Moving on to Gmail for UNI

Never say we don’t eat our own dog food in ITS.  Over this week ITS staff are ‘encouraged’ to move their staff email from the Oracle Collaboration Suite we have used since 2006 to UNI’s new outsourced email repository: Gmail.

Inbound mail for @uni.edu recipients still enters our network in CF (we host the MX) and for those who have moved mailboxes gets forwarded out to Google/Gmail.  The transition process run on our end also makes a copy of all your email messages and folders on Collab Suite over to Google.  I had this done to my account Tuesday morning.

One huge gain to Gmail from end-user perspective is your 200MB quota grows to 7.xx GB.  All that historical mail that you rarely access, but cling onto forever in your Local Folders or PST file can now be in your Gmail, accessed from anywhere and *searchable*.  Fantastic!  Now only if I could copy multiple folders easily – and I’m finding that using Thunderbird 3.x as an IMAP client to Gmail is either de-duplicating some messages or losing them.  Especially with folders with 1000+ messages, I’m seeing a fraction of a percent of message count not being copied (really bad loss: local folder with 3436 messages came out with 2599 in Gmail).   This kind of stinks.  I recommend copying a couple hundred messages at a time.

Another thing to realize using Thunderbird as an IMAP client to Gmail: you may have two copies of your sent items.  Thunderbird/Netscape Messenger at UNI has historically been configured by most people to save a copy of all mail you compose in a local folder.  Gmail saves every message you compose on their server side, and tags it as sent.  So you certainly don’t need/want to configure an IMAP client to save a copy of sent messages to the Gmail server as it is totally redundant.

Second huge gain is mobile access.  Where previously we had IMAP or POP for email and Oracle calendar required a SyncML client (usually costs money) for your smart phone – Gmail supports IMAP, POP, and Microsoft Active Sync for email.  Active Sync also can keep your calendar and contacts up to date.  And the best thing is that most modern smart phones (iOS/iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, WebOS) all support MS Active Sync out of the box, there is nothing else to buy.  Configuration is easy: servername m.google.com, leave domain blank, enter your username with @uni.edu and your password… done!

Finally – I’m leaning towards ditching Thunderbird for UNI mail and using Outlook with the Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook . You (or your workstation administrator) installs this 10MB application – you start the app, give it your email address and password and VOILA! Outlook (2010 in my case) is automatically configured for mail, calendar and contacts. 

The calendar in outlook is different from what Netscape/Steltor/Corporate Time/Oracle calendar users are familiar with – but so is the Google web-based calendar interface.  If you’ve ever worked in a Microsoft Exchange environment with Outlook, you’ll feel right at home, since Outlook is unchanged – the sync connector does all the work.

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