Migrating Email from Google Apps to Office365

So, as you might have gathered from the title, I’ve switched away from Google for my E-Mail, along with Calendar and contacts, I figure a post on how I went about it is in order.

Firstly, my setup, and thus how I picked Office365 to replace Google Apps for Domains.

I have a Mac, and use Mail.app, Contacts.app and Calendar.app on there. I have an iPod Touch and an iPad, where again I use the default apps. My Phone is a Blackberry (OS 7, not 10 – this becomes important later). When using Google to house Email, Contacts and Calendar everything worked, and I linked my Facebook Account on the Blackberry to my Contacts application so my contacts had display pictures and additional contact information.

I only require one account, with a custom domain name. I may add further domain names in future.

The vast majority of my contacts are simply a name and email address. Others are a name and phone number. A scant few have both email and phone – unless they are linked up with Facebook.

Evaluation of Options

I wanted, as I stated before, a hosted solution. A friend recommended Intermedia to me, however they now require a minimum of 3 accounts which makes the initial cost of an account for me at about £18 per month. I also considered running my own contacts and calendar software, and going with a less full featured email service such as FastMail. Software I looked at included OwnCloud and Baikal. However none of the software for Calendar seemed particularly well designed – the web UIs were often lacking or non existant.

Looking, as I mentioned into Microsofts’s own solution. At £5.60/month I get unlimited storage, and a full email, calendar, contacts house. An additional bonus – important for me, is that it includes complimentary access to Blackberry’s Business Cloud Service. BCS is kind of a slightly scaled down version of Blackberry Enterprise Server, that Blackberry host themselves, and is directly integrated in to Office365 if you choose to enable it. This is vital as adding the Office365 account to your Blackberry Internet Service only synchs the Email, and not the calendar or contacts. Both of which are pretty essential for my phone to achieve its purpose.

The Migration

Having selected Office 365’s Hosted Exchange plan, I signed up and paid my first £5.60. The signup was quick and smooth, as was the account creation. When you sign up you initially get to choose a subdomain underneath onmicrosoft.com for your account. You cannot remove or change this subdomain, but it’s free to add your own domains to the solution, and assign users to the correct domain name. Once the account was set up I setup access to the default subdomain account on my devices, and sent an email to check everything could work. This necessitated enabling, and setting up my Blackberry Cloud Services account.

Blackberry Cloud Services

This is the only negative experience I’ve had. This was the first time I got an error – when it tried to load their administration panel. It fixed itself on a refresh, but still. In addition, unlike Office365 it is not a sleek UI. It is very much a business/corporate designed UI. It reminds me very strongly in fact of this comic image. Every navigation element leads to a giant search form with many options. Naturally, in my use case, with only one account and one Blackberry, I’d prefer just to see my user details straight away. That said, my use case is obviously not the primary target for this tool.

Once I’d searched for my user and selected myself from the search result list, I checked through the options given for configuring a Users Profile. On a Blackberry, this profile can control every little thing that the device and users can do. It allows specifications of device passwords, remote wiping, separation of work and personal apps (to the extent of disabling copy-paste between the two domains). Naturally, this web tool only provides a fraction of the power, and the default options were fine in my case. Thus I used the option to send an email with an activation password to my email. On the Blackberry I had to download the ‘Enterprise Activation’ app, and use the password provided to associate my blackberry.

All the testing emails worked fine. So I set about doing the actual migration

Doing the Migration

The first thing was adding my domain to the Office365 account. This was incredibly simple, and contained helpful instructions on updating the DNS to verify ownership, and enable specific services, for a variety of domain name service providers. Having verified my domain, and activated it for my Exchange account I reassigned my user to use my own domain instead of the onmicrosoft.com subdomain. That done I removed Googles Records from my DNS. I then set up the email migration. Again, Office365 had an excellent Wizard that catered for a variety of Exchange-Exchange migration situations, and a generic IMAP importer for other situations. I went with the IMAP route naturally. After providing the domain and IMAP server, I uploaded a CSV containing the details of the accounts to migrate (one in my case), and set the import going. With 27,000 odd messages it took a few hours for my account to fill up – so many messages due to the way GMail handles its tags system over IMAP. Each tag is its own folder, and messages are duplicated across the ‘folders’.

I then used my own Google Account to export my Contacts into a .csv file which I then imported directly into my own account, again without any issue.

The Calendar app however  as far as I can see has no built in import function. Trying to use Calendar.app to export my Google Calendar, and reimport it into my Exchange Calendar with its own import function caused an error. As I don’t actually have any future appointments scheduled at the moment, this is bearable. My history is currently only viewable on my Mac as I imported it into a local Calendar. For those with future appointments though that could well be a stumbling block, or possibly a deal breaker). You may be able to use Google Calendar to ‘share’ the calendar to the Exchange one, but I didn’t investigate that option as the loss is minor.

Having imported everything I updated all my sync settings to point to the new domain, and everything was pulled down fine. I ended up with Duplicate Contacts in some instances, but Merging them when they showed up on a device was sufficient. My Blackberry I had to remove the syncs entirely as it was still trying to sync to my old account as well. After wiping out all the contacts locally and re-enabling sync to my new account everything seems to work.

I went to re-enable Facebook-Blackberry integration, only to discover that this option is disabled by Blackberry Business Cloud Service. It’s configurable in the full BES package, but it is one of the things they removed in this not-quite-BES-in-the-cloud version. For now I have simply enabled Facebook integration on my Mac and iPod/iPad. The information added by these isn’t synched up into Office365, so my Phone contacts aren’t Facebook integrated at the moment. Microsoft however do have US only facebook integration directly in Office 365. Hopefully that will come through soon. Either way, Facebook contact integration on the phone is only a nice to have and didn’t really benefit me aside from the display pictures.

I did however enable LinkedIn integration in Office365, which pulled in additional contacts into my contact list.

Summary

Everything went better than expected. Office365’s Exchange component is fast, sleek and very nice to use. The only things that went wrong are a lack of Calendar import; and the Blackberry which had by far the most issues in all aspects of the migration. Something that can be laid firmly at Blackberry’s feet. That said, BBOS10 doesn’t have BES, but instead integrates with Email, Calendar et al over standard protocols (hopefully reducing those issues?).

University is over.

So on Wednesday I had my last University exam.

It’s the end of my formal education (barring going for a Masters at some point in the future). Having been in formal education since the age of 4/5, this is quite something. Yes, I had a placement year last year, but for some reason I don’t really count that – I was still a student really. Still getting e-mails from my University. But that stage of my life is at an end now.

*flumps in to a seat*

So what have I done since the end of that exam? First I went into Bath’s centre and kind of wandered in a stupor for a while before going home and reading a book. I’ve played some games, tidied my room up after the garbage that collected during the revision-snacks phase. Watched the movie Night Watch (The subtitles on Disc 2 are excellent), and I have the last book in the series the film is a loose adaption of on my bookshelf waiting to be read. Rewatched the movie Adams Family Values. Looked in to alternative email/contact/calendar software. Email is one thing I don’t want to have to host myself – dealing with blacklists, spam and security is not something I want to do just to keep my email working. I’m thinking of perhaps using Microsofts Hosted Exchange offering. It’s cheap, but still paid (thus I’m the customer, and not the data). It’s Exchange, so it’s feature rich. And being Microsoft and Enterprisey it doesn’t go through upheavals with social media integration. Sure, they might work just as much with Law Enforcement as Google do – but at least they don’t have my search history as well.

A final thing I’m going to do over the summer is code myself up a private journal software. Yes, I have WordPress. And I could use that, but it doesn’t quite do what I want. Given my quality skills with UI design, I’m sure that this will look all modern and that </sarcasm>. Anyway, here’s a thumb sketch of my requirements:

  • Web access
  • One entry per day. You can extend, but after say a week you can’t edit them anymore.
  • With specific sections for
  • Interesting Links browsed / found
  • Interesting stories read
  • A way to pull in specific Tweets/Facebook/Tumblr posts.

So the way I’m kind of imagining it is a kind of digitally integrated private snapshot of my life day by day. It’ll be interesting to do this. Maybe I can use it as a chance to finally learn JQuery and AJAX and all the web 2.0 goodness? I don’t know. I’ve wanted to get around to learning how to AJAX and JQuery and that, but I’ve never found a tutorial that actually made it click. But anyway, this might be my project over the summer. 4 months of a clear diary is somewhat daunting. Although it will likely be the last time I have this amount of time free.

Well, this turned out to be somewhat rambly. Ooops.

Some ramblings on data silos and online identity

I have a problem with Google.

Google know far too much about me, and they also hold far too much of my data. Their policy of ‘don’t be evil’ isn’t comforting, especially with their recent increased product-cull rate and their lack of support among other things. All it would take is their login process to be compromised and anyone could have access to my data. If you think that’s unlikely, you should read about how their two-factor authentication lead to full account access without the second factor, nor the accounts master password.

There’s also the issue of US law enforcement having essentially carte-blanche access to the data Google owns. As someone who takes privacy seriously this sort of thing worries me.

So, what services do I use that belong to Google?

  • Email
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Browsing History, Chrome extensions, bookmarks etc. (through Chrome Sync)
  • Search History
  • YouTube History
  • Old Blogger accounts
  • Google+ account
  • RSS feeds that I followed back when Google Reader was a thing.
  • Old Google Wave postings
  • Purchases through Google Checkout
  • Documents/Files in Google Docs (including University work)
  • Location information – through Google Maps searches, journey planning etc.
  • Information about websites I own through Google Analytics – even this blog.

Given Google’s lack of support for anything (even their paid Google Apps accounts aren’t much better), if I should loose access to my Google account overnight, the effect would be immediate and devastating. I’d loose access to my email until I could get a mail server online (or a different provider) and redirect the DNS. I’d have to hope that my IMAP backups worked. My Calendar and Contacts would become unsynced – Calendar is something I use quite a lot, often updating it on different devices relatively frequently. Loss of other information wouldn’t be quite as devastating, although Google Docs/Drive access would inconvenience me a lot.

My other worry, given my privacy, is how complete a picture could be drawn up should someone go through all this. They’d be able to find me on multiple services through sign-up/notification emails. They’d find all my blog postings from previous blogs.

All of this has been percolating inside me for a long time. As someone who really doesn’t like this kind of data correlation to be easy, or to be going on without me knowing, it bugs me. I’m a paid supporter of the ORG (it’s the UK’s version of the EFF); I use, advocate and run a relay for Tor. I take my privacy seriously. It’s somewhat ironic given how public I can be on sites like Twitter, and Tumblr. Notice how I didn’t link to my Tumblr? That’s because I don’t want to publicly link the content there to here, or to my real life identity.

It’s kind of funny in a way. I have posted links to my Tumblr on my Facebook and Twitter before, but despite that I still like to think that it’s semi-private. It’s not linked via a common username like some of my other accounts are. This (unintentionally) brings me nicely to the second half of this post. My online identities.

I use so many servies, and social networking sites. I have a Twitter, a Facebook, a Tumblr, a reddit account, a LibraryThing, a YouTube account, a HackerNews account, a Dragonmount account. I even have a DeviantArt account (which I occasionally log in to), a MySpace account and a Bebo account – both of which were receiving my Twitter updates last time I looked several years ago. For someone who is determined to find all of my accounts, and is nifty with Google it wouldn’t be that hard. And yet, that also has me conflicted. I often claim that I don’t filter my Twitter feed as if someone is interested in me personally then they get me personally, not a filtered me. If someone isn’t interested in the law and legal process, but they are interested in Wheel of Time then they can either get their Wheel of Time fix elsewhere, or follow all of me and get to know me better. In other words, I want people to follow me because they’re interested in me, not because they’re interested in a small subset of my interests.

And yet, there are some things I’m not comfortable with both groups knowing. For instance, I ‘came out’ on reddit before I posted on my Facebook or even my tumblr. And now I’m feeling that I want to ‘re-invent’ myself online. It’s too easy to link my profiles to me, there’s also too much content going too far back. The picture someone could construct of me if they had the time and motivation to do so is something that creeps me out – not in a bad way, but in a “this sort of thing shouldn’t be possible” way. It’s a thing with our generation, that we seem to live more and more of our lives online and in public. And yet I want the pseudonymity  that a more.. disconnected set of online profiles would provide.

I guess what I’m saying is that I want to start fresh. A total disconnect would be impractical and likely impossible. And certain things, such as HackerNews, and Facebook I want tied to my real identity. But other identities such as my reddit profile, or my various forum accounts don’t need to be. And I feel like I should embrace that they don’t.

Someday soon I shall break up my online identities, in every sense of the phrase. InnerLambada shall die. In my place shall rise….. well now, that would be telling, wouldn’t it? 😉

Redux: How I actually migrated my hard-drive

As a follow up to my previous post, I’m briefly outlining what things went wrong. This shall be a much briefer entry, and isn’t menat to be a full guide.

My guide was good until Step 11.

Firstly I did everything I needed to with standard tools – An OSX installation USB, OSX Disk Utility, Windows Installer. I used OSX Disk Utility to clone across my OSX Partition, and attempted my Windows partition, which seemed to clone fine, but another issue cropped up with Windows…..

It turns out that Windows can be funny about moving HDs and locations on HDs. I got the infamously generic blinking cursor, and none of the standard suggestions seemed to work (if someone is looking for some SuperUser rep, just post a plausible answer that could have solved the issue). Eventually I just used BootCamp assistant to remove, and then recreate the partition, proceeding with the standard installer. I then just pulled the files I needed (mostly game installers) off my old hard drive.

Everything else works fine, and the system is much speedier now.

One word of earning for Microsoft Office for Mac users. Apparently it uses some kind of hard-drive based identifier when you register it, and now that’s changed so it wants my licence key again. Which is stuck back in Norfolk. *grumble*