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Migrating from Outlook to Google Apps for Business

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This article is intended to explain how to migrate your email from using Outlook, ostensibly with a POP or IMAP email service, to using Google Apps for Business. It will discuss preparation, data migration, as well as highlight some of the benefits Google Apps can provide for your business.

This article does not go into how to set up your Google Apps email domain, adding users and groups, setting permissions, changing MX records, etc.


Outlook or Not?

One of the first questions that needs to be asked is whether your intention is to continue using Outlook with Google Apps, or whether you're looking at just switching over, and using the Gmail (web-based) interface, as well as your phone, tablet, etc.  In this article, I will try to delineate some of the how-to's, where it makes a difference.


Outlook Versions

Beginning with Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft decided to migrate their Office platform to a semi-virtualized system, called Click-to-Run. With Click-to-Run, the relatively-small installer install the major components of the various pieces of Office, to your computer, and then downloads additional components as needed. In other words, when you launch Word, it opens, and then, as Word needs additional components of itself, it requests those components from Microsoft, and they are downloaded, automatically, in the background.

Click-to-Run also gives Microsoft the ability to update your software, on the fly, so you won't have to download and install patches to those applications. All in all, it's a pretty
decent system.

Until recently, there was one big caveat: the Google Apps Outlook Sync Tool (GAOST) simply didn't work with Click-to-Run. It seems that the problem was not with GAOST, itself, per se, but rather with the Migration Tool software that comes bundled with it. Now Google provides a bundled version of the GAOST client, and a Standalone version, which does not include the Migration Tool. So if you're using Office 2010 or above, you're going to need to determine whether your version is the MSI version, or the Click-to-Run version. And unless your software is part of an Enterprise License, it's probably the latter. And if it is Click-to-Run, you cannot currently upload your old mail to Google Apps. But any new mail will sync properly.

To determine whether your Outlook was, in fact, delivered using the Click-to-Run system, see the following links:
Click here for Office 2013
Click here for Office 2010
Office 2007/2003: Click-to-Run doesn't apply.
Earlier versions: GAOST isn't available, and you really need to upgrade anyway.


Installing GAOST

The bundled version of GAOST is available here.
If you are running a Click-to-Run version of Outlook, the Standalone version is available here.

Download the software and run the installer, with MS Outlook closed. The software will prompt you for your Google Apps username and password, and will create a new mail profile for you. If you are using non-Click-to-Run software, and the bundled Migration Tool, the Migration Tool will kick in as part of the installation process. You can say Yes, and let it begin migrating your existing profile to Google Apps. If it fails, you can always re-start that process manually, afterwards. The migration will take as much time as it takes to sync your mail, calendar and contacts folders. The more you have, the longer it will take.

At this point, if you're using the integrated system, you're done. When you launch Outlook, it will prompt you for the correct mail profile, and then open the mailbox, along with the GAOST. Email will sync down to Outlook. Any new contacts or calendar items that have been created through any other means, will also get synced down to Outlook. And anything you create in Outlook, will be automatically synced up to Google.

If, however, you are using the Standalone software, it's a little more complicated. At this time, there really is no way to upload your existing mail, into Google Apps. New mail will be synchronized, but not existing mail. What you can do, in Outlook, is open up your old mailbox as a secondary box, and you should be able to respond to those existing messages, with all new mail coming to your new mailbox.

As for Calendars and Contacts, those can be imported. First, use Outlook to export them to CSV files - one for Contacts and another for Calendar items. If you have multiple folders for those, you'll need to create multiple export files. Then, you can import those items into Google Apps, and they'll be synced back and forth from then on.

Uploading Calendars
After exporting your calender to a CSV file, go to the Google Apps calendar (web interface).
On the left side, look for a section called Other Calendars, and click the down-arrow on the right.
Select Import Calendar. Point to the CSV file with your Calendar items, and choose the destination calendar.
Click the Import button.

That's it. These Calendar items will automatically be synced down, to your new Outlook profile.

Uploading Contacts
This is basically the same as uploading Calendars, except that you just scroll down the left side, until you find the link for Import Contacts. Then, again, you browse to find the appropriate file, and click Import.


Setting Up Your Phones

The procedures for this are available using the appropriate links for your phone OS, on this page.


Caveats for using Calendars and Contacts with your mobile phone.

There are a couple of things you need to know about, when using Google Apps with your mobile phone:
You will almost invariably get duplicates sometimes, particularly with Contacts. Not sure why this is, but it just happens.
When you enter an item on your calendar, be sure that it's being placed on the correct calendar. Most of the time, when we get calls on this, it's because people have added appointments to the wrong calendar on their phones, which never show up in their Google web calendar, or Outlook.


Visualizing How it All Works

I've found that having a decent image of how this all fits together, helps ease a lot of confusion for my clients. This may be obvious to you, but I'm including it nonetheless.

Google Apps and your devices
It's important to understand that Google Apps is at the center of everything. Your Outlook syncs to your phone, which syncs to your tablet, because really, they're all just syncing with Google Apps. So when you add an appointment on your phone, that syncs first to Google, which then syncs to all the others. This means that if you ever lose a device, or have to re-create your Outlook profile for some reason, don't worry about losing your data. It's all at Google, and will begin downloading everything, once you've set it up.


Wrap Up

That's Google Apps, in a (large) nutshell. Things will change, periodically, but this is the gist of it all.

Good luck, and enjoy using Google Apps!
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