I’ve been using Gmail for a few years now, just having it send mail as firstname.lastname@example.org, and not using the actual @gmail.com address at all. Or so I thought. Most email clients displayed email from me the way I wanted, but Outlook showed it like this
From: email@example.com (on behalf of firstname.lastname@example.org)
I knew about this back in 2006, but I thought it had been “fixed.” I put the word fixed in quotes, because spoofing headers isn’t really a correct thing to do. The thing was that most email clients showed the spoofed address, but Outlook showed the “correct” one. Anyway, it bugged me, knowing that people might be seeing my Gmail address instead of my proper address.
Enter Google Apps. I had heard about this before, but never really investigated it. I looked into it last week, and switched over on Tuesday. It’s free, and it means my Outlook problem is solved. For those who don’t know about Google Apps, you change your MX records on your DNS server to set a Google machine as your mail server. After making this change Gmail no longer need to spoof your domain in outgoing emails, since they effectively are your domain. (Don’t worry; they don’t become your web host, just your mail server.) I changed my MX records Tuesday night and then began migrating email from my old Gmail account to my new one.
Migration is one area where the experience is not so great, and I’d actually be willing to pay a bit for a better way to migrate. You’d think that migrating from one Gmail account to another would be a painless, quick and easy affair. And you would be wrong. The only way to get your mail moved is to have the new account make enough POP3 calls against your old account, pulling 200 messages at a time. I started POPing last Tuesday night (09/16/2008) and as of this moment, it’s still running. Granted, I had over 29,000 emails, which was about 900 MB of space, but still! Google ought to be able to come up with a better way to do this. Oh well, it will finish one of these days.
One thing I’d like to point out is that you need to add one more record to your DNS in order to make your Google mail SPF-compliant. I discovered this when I sent a test email from my new Gmail account to my work account. We have an Exchange server at work, and while the email did come through, the subject line had [spf] appended to it. After some checking, I saw in the headers that our mail gateway had marked it as failing an SPF check. I did some googling and found this article that explains how to set things up specifically for GoDaddy, but the general concepts should work for wherever your DNS lives. I setup the new TXT record, ran the test recommended in the article and things are good now. I just sent a test email to my work account, and the gateway must now be happy since there was no [spf] appended to the subject. There might have been a recommendation on the Google Apps setup screens about the SPF stuff, but I don’t remember seeing it.
Anyway, so far I’m happy with my choice to move to Google Apps. Besides the migration issue, the only other complaint I have is that I can’t use my @joeygibson.com id with Google Reader. I still have to use a “real” Gmail account for that. That’s essentially a minor annoyance, but it would still be nice to just jettison the old @gmail.com account altogether.