Going all in with Gmail

Posted on March 18, 2014 2:08 pm by | Technology

GmailAfter mulling over the pros and cons, I have taken the first steps to adopting GMail as my email client.

A little history for context:

When I started my own consulting practice in 1996, focused on helping companies communicate more effectively online, it was important to have my own domain for both email and a web presence. Eighteen years ago, most companies remained unconvinced of the need for a website and not everybody had adopted email. But since I was focused on the online dimensions of communication, it wasn’t optional.

Hosting sites were notoriously unreliable back then, so my friend Mike Vincenty built a server for me that included Apache and other tools for maintaining a website, along with Communigate, an ISP-grade email server package. I initially hosted the site at a small operation near my house, but they eventually folded. I moved my box to a server farm in the heart of San Francisco.

Since then, hosting services evolved from dicey propositions to trustworthy commodities. I moved my website to a service that specializes in the content management system I use. Because I was happy with Communigate, I had my tech guy move to another hosting service. (I confess to having way too many hosting accounts.)

Tradeoffs

There have always been tradeoffs with maintaining my own mail server. For example, the mail servers some companies maintain reject email sent from a server without reverse DNS set up on it. The policy is designed to reduce spam. To address that, I pay a service to send my email through their gateway; it’s a simple matter of setting up all my outbound email to be sent through the service’s system. I use the same service to check all my inbound mail and quarantine spam.

If you need something like this, by the way, the service is inexpensive—$200 per quarter for both inbound and outbound—and the team at Nuvotera is exceptionally diligent. That diligence, however, is another occasional problem. From time to time, somebody is able to infiltrate my server and send spam through one of the accounts I maintain. That triggers Nuvotera to suspend my outbound mail until I can prove I’ve taken measures to eliminate the spammer and prevent a recurrence. While I’m having my tech guy handle that (at a cost), I’m back to sending email directly, which means some emails to corporate mail servers never get there due to the reverse DNS issue.

Gmail has always been an appealing alternative. I could easily set it up to manage holtz.com email. But my own email account isn’t the only one. My wife maintains her email account there, too, along with a mailing list she uses for a weekly update to an organization where she volunteers her time. Other family members have forwards set up. They find it easier to tell people to email him at first-name at last-name dot-com than the convoluted addresses their ISPs have provided them.

The switch

After watching a recent episode of Geekbeat.TV about Gmail (embedded below), I decided to give it a try. I set up Gmail to retrieve all of my email from my email server, labeling it in bright orange as mail from holtz.com I had it import all the old mails sitting on the server, and to apply the .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) address to any replies or original emails I send. I am maintaining these emails on the Communigate server just in case I find this doesn’t work for me and I need to go back to the old system.

I have encountered only one issue: The process for importing saved messages from my email client (that are no longer on the server) is convoluted and complex. I haven’t gotten around to it yet—I figure I’ll need half a day—so in the meantime, I still have my laptop open and running alongside my desktop.

The advantages so far, though, are huge. Other than the occasional reference to an old email, I no longer need to run my laptop side-by-side with my desktop. (I handled all email on my laptop so it would always be with me.) Now, I just turn to the Gmail site regardless of where I am, and that includes somebody else’s computer. Also, I only need the Gmail app on my phone and tablet. Gmail-delivered messages aren’t rejected for the lack of reverse DNS functionality. And I have been able to quickly and easily apply filters that keep my newsletter subscriptions under one tab and social media notifications in another, leaving my primary inbox for real communication with clients and others. (The promotions tab has also made life easier, making it easier to unsubscribe to stuff I don’t want and check out everything else when I have the time.)

Because I don’t like Outlook, I’ve been using a different client that worked well for me—but it didn’t support Outlook appointments. GMail does, and with a single click, I can put those appointments onto my Google calendar (on which I have relied for several years).

GMail has exceptional spam protection, so I’ll suspend the scrubbing of my inbound email to see if Gmail does as good a job as Nuvotera has been doing. If it does, I’ll save $800 annually.

Have you switched your private-domain email to Gmail? If so, what issues or unexpected benefits have you encountered?

03/18/14 | 9 Comments | Going all in with Gmail

 

Comments

  • 1.I've been running our corporate email through Gmail's Apps for Business platform (so that's a yes) for four years now and we love it. Absolutely the best email solution there is - at least for us. Calendar integration, ease of use, search, sharing, not tying your corporate email to your website -- all awesome moves. We are huge fans. Glad you made the switch - you'll not be looking back any time soon.

    Shelly | March 2014 | United States

  • 2.I run my private domain email though gmail, but one bug I've never worked out is that my replies seem to sometimes come out as my gmail address "on behalf of" my domain address, which is really annoying.

    Rob Biesenbach | March 2014 | Chicago

  • 3.I haven't switched yet, but with your recommendation, G-Mail will soon by my go-to-choice. Thanks for the insights

    Dean Landeche | March 2014

  • 4.Shel, I've been using Gmail as my primary email for years for one reason: SPAM. Gmail weeds out the rubbish from everywhere, so I see only what I need to see. I redirect most of my email accounts to Gmail because email's a never-ending time sink; Gmail makes it as simple as it can be. Filters work; they help me to keep on top of everything.

    Check out IFTTT at https://ifttt.com -- because automation helps even more. My important emails go directly to Evernote. Search for "gmail" in IFTTT and you'll find lots of useful recipes. Or create your own. :-)

    Angela Booth | March 2014 | Sydney, AU

  • 5.I did this about a year ago Shel and it has been the best thing I've done for my small business. I can switch or upgrade computers with ease now. Gmail, combined with Google Calendar, Google Contacts and Google Drive make running my business in the cloud so easy.

    I sound like a commercial, but I've been really happy with the results.

    The downside? Putting all my trust in one company. But I got over that pretty quickly. The benefits far outweigh the risks in my mind.

    The reason I first went down this road? I got tired of waiting for Outlook on my machine to download all the attachments in all my waiting emails on crappy hotel internet connections. It all started with that....

    Tim Bourquin | March 2014 | California

  • 6.Rob, I assume you've already gone through this, but these are the steps I took to get emails I send from Gmail to arrive with "shel@holtz.com" showing as the email address from which it was sent:

    * Go to settings, then choose accounts
    * Under "send email as," click "add another email account you own"
    * Enter the account name
    * Once that's up and running, make it your default account
    * Choose to send all email from that account if you like, or just those in which you're replying to messages sent to that account.

    Worked like a charm for me. I don't get the "on behalf of" at all.

    Shel Holtz | March 2014 | Concord, CA

  • 7.Wow, Shel, in going through these steps (which, yes, I'm certain I've done before), I found that my domain email wasn't set as the default account. Crazy. I'll be embarrassed (but glad) if it's as simple as that. Thank you!

    Rob Biesenbach | March 2014 | United States

  • 8.I use the free version of Google Apps standard - it offers a bit more than Gmail does for a small business - Google Drive (16 GB on free online cloud storage), spreadsheets, and an integrated calendar etc.

    The best thing is, if you have an Android phone - your email, contacts, and calendar are all seamlessly integrated - I have a widget on my home screen of my phone with the day's appointments etc. You can also

    I also love the filters and file labels you can apply to group related email.

    I will say that both Gmail and Google Apps have a strong SPAM filter, but they also catch real email as SPAM (often e-newsletters you did sign up for) - so check your SPAM folder if you can't find and email you were looking for, or if you missed the most recent e-newsletter you wanted to read.) it doesn't happen often, but occasionally.

    Cathy Larkin | March 2014 | United States

  • 9.Thanks for this post. I just launched my own firm, and I've been using Gmail as a backup for all emails. Good reminder I could be using it for more.

    Chris Parente | March 2014 | Alexandria, VA

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