Microsoft Exchange-to-Google Apps migration survival guide

Switching from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps may have many benefits, but the journey is definitely not the reward

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As you progress with the mail sync that may still be running, you'll start to decommission Exchange. It's important to realize that when you delete Exchange mailboxes, you'll delete the mail attribute for each user. This in turn will cause Google Apps Directory Sync to suspend or delete all those users. Even though Google Apps Directory Sync has a safeguard that supposedly stops synchronization if more than x percent of user accounts are modified, this feature doesn't appear to work, at least for suspensions.

So, if and when you delete the old mailboxes and finally pull Exchange out of Active Directory, you'll need to replace the mail attribute on all the user objects in order for them to properly function with Google Apps. You can use ADSI Edit to do this manually or write a script to do it. Whichever way you choose, this is a mandatory step and should be planned for accordingly.

There are plenty of things to like about Google Apps, but there are also some huge potholes in the way of a successful migration. For a company that prides itself on smooth, seamless software, the Google Apps Directory Sync tool is an absolute abomination. It's unreliable and prone to strange behavior that can have a massive impact on your organization at the drop of a hat. It is not to be trusted and should be carefully monitored.

Also, do not expect any reasonable level of support from Google. You'll find it takes days merely to get a support portal account and possibly weeks to get other administrators approved for the portal. Emails to your migration specialist will go unanswered, support questions will not be addressed in a timely manner, and you'll get responses to some queries that will include information not in existence anywhere else, such as valid Google Apps Directory Sync options that have no reference and yield zero results on a Google search.

It's surprising that Google Apps migrations are in such disarray. One hopes that Google will turn that situation around in the not-too-distant future. For now, it's a functional migration path but rife with unexpected and inexplicable problems. It's a task you may want to hire out to experienced contractors. If you plan to go it alone, gird yourself for a frustrating learning curve.

A Google Apps migration offers many compelling benefits, but the migration itself certainly isn't one of them.

This article, "Microsoft Exchange-to-Google Apps migration survival guide," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in applications and cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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