Gmail for Business – 365 Alternative

Gmail for business, better than Office 365?

Since the launch in April 2004 Gmail has risen to be the market leader as a consumer email provider. The days when everything was Hotmail have well and truly gone, and with Yahoo struggling to reboot their business, Google have email well and truly bagged. As of Feb 2016 Gmail had a staggering billion active consumer users worldwide.

gmail by googleBack in August 2006 Google launched Google Apps for your domain, this paved the way to introducing businesses to the world of Google. After a few rebrands Google now offer their business class services under the G Suite brand.

The main services are Gmail, Sheets, Docs, Slides, Forms and Google Drive, but for this article I am going to concentrate on Gmail for business rather than the full G Suite.

Interesting facts

Well I think so!

Would you believe that the first version of Gmail, which was developed by Paul Buchheit, Factswas built in a single day? yep you heard me right. Reusing the source code from Google Groups gave Paul a head start, but still, what an achievement.

When Google first announced Gmail to the public, they didn’t have an infrastructure in place to offer users a reliable service. Gmail started by running on three hundred old Pentium III computers that nobody else in Google wanted. How things have changed.

Is Gmail Suitable for Business Class Email

Absolutely, 100% yes. Even though Gmail was born into a consumer market, G Suite ticks all the boxes when it comes to offering a reliable, robust, secure, world class email service.gmail for business

Too many businesses go for the default option of Microsoft 365 or Microsoft Exchange, without even exploring other possibilities. In my opinion Gmail isn’t a lesser option, I have been using Gmail since the Google Apps days (as it was named then). Even though I have explored other email solutions, I have never been able to find anything that can match that of Gmail.

Administrative Control

On an administrative level, setting up and managing G Suite for most companies will be a simple process. Like most of Google’s services, G Suite is intuitive and a pleasure to use. Don’t be fooled by the glossy finish, the admin module is very powerful, take a peek under the hood and you will find a whole bunch of admin controls.g suite admin

I am the administrator for a number of UK companies and it’s very rare that I need to ask for help from Google. But when I do run into difficulty, help is only a phone call away, thanks to the 24/7 phone support.

Being cloud based means you don’t need to install anything on your local network. Unless of course you want to use Google Cloud Directory Sync (GCDS) to sync Microsoft® Active Directory® or LDAP server with your G Suite account or

Multiple Domain Names

One of my favourite things about Gmail for business is being able to add multiple domain names to your account. Like many people and companies alike, I own more than one domain name and receive and send emails from multiple alias names.

Gmail took this on board and permit you to add 600 domains in total, that’s one primary domain, 20 domain aliases and 599 non primary domains. A full explanation on the domainsdifference is explained here https://support.google.com/a/answer/175747?hl=en – this is great news for large organisations that may own domain names for different brands within their organisation and also for smaller companies just wishing to add a couple of domain variants like @yourcompany.com and @yourcompany.co.uk.

One handy little trick is setting Gmail to always reply to an email from the email address it was originally sent. Meaning you don’t have to worry about replying from the wrong address.

Huge Amounts of Storage

With the basic G Suite plan coming with a whopping 30GB of space per user, and the business plan with unlimited storage, you’ll never have to worry about running out astorage space again. The storage is shared across Gmail, Drive etc but 30GB (which is upgradable) is more than enough for most.

Privacy

There has been a lot of negative reports in the press recently about email privacy concerns. But fear not my good friend, Gmail doesn’t snoop on your business emails to display advertisements nor do they display any annoying advertisements in front of you. Furthermore, G Suite administrators can fine tune additional security and privacy settings.

The Concept of Archiving and not Deleting

Gmail introduced a new concept to email, and that was not deleting emails but archiving them instead. The idea is that no email communication is ever lost. Gmail take away the concerns with storage limits, so deleting is something of the past.

Search

When it comes to search, Google owns the word and they don’t let the side down when it comes to searching your emails. The search facility is just perfect, it just seems to know searchwhat you’re looking for and displays the results. You can also use search operators to further filter what you are looking for.

Training & Support

Unlike the consumer version of Gmail which relies on public forums for support, G Suite for Business customers receive 24/7 email, chat and telephone support. 99.9% uptime SLA and zero scheduled downtime. There is also a ton of information available to end users and administrators alike. Google’s learning centre offers some really useful training guides.

Spam Filtering, Virus and Phishing Protection

Google acquired Postini in 2007 –  Postini offered some of the best e-mail, Web security, and archiving services on the planet, once purchased Google started integrating their experience into their own services. Gmail now has one of the most accurate spam filters there is, plus powerful antivirus and phishing detection software.

It’s very rare for me to get any junk in my inbox.spam

Admins can whitelist/blacklist domains and IP addresses, add keyword rules to further enhance the spam filtering. You can also adjust global settings to be more aggressive for more stringent filtering of bulk email.

Part 2 of this article will be posted very soon

My past posts have been a little too long so I wanted to write this one over a couple of parts. I am already working in part 2 where I will be exploring deeper into the realms of Gmail for business.

In the 2nd part to this post I will be exploring, Compliance, Microsoft Compatibility, Threaded Conversations, Migration, Labels not Folders, Groups for Shared Email, Custom Branding, Filters and Mobile & Apps

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Common Google G Suite Misconceptions

Google G Suite

Google G Suite is a set of Powerful Online Office Tools powered by Google with pricing starting from £3.30 per user per month.

Available G Suite Modules

Gmail Calendar Google+ Hangouts Meet
Docs Sheets Forms Slides
Sites Drive Cloud Search Admin
Vault Mobile G Suite Training

G Suite is fast becoming a real contender to the Microsoft’s Office 365 market, but still many people are lost in the Microsoft bubble. Worried that a move away from Office could be a risky one or that G Suite can’t offer the same corporate grade solution or support. There are some misconceptions about Google G Suite which I wanted to clear up.

Common Misconceptions

1 – “G Suite is only suitable for one man bands or small companies”

small businessUntrue, some Major UK companies have taken the jump and moved over to G Suite recently, these include Ocado, Spotify, Rentokil Initial, Veolia and ASICS…

2 – “We don’t want to send our business emails with Google or Gmail branding included

G Suite allows you to manage multiple domains within your Gmail account. People receiving emails from you won’t see any @gmail or other Google branding within the emails. All emails are sent from you@yourdomain.com

email

3 – “G Suite don’t offer real business support, they direct people to community run forums”

Also untrue, all paid G Suite accounts come with email, live chat and telephone support. Google work 24/7 and reply normally within an hour or two. As the administrator of your G Suite account you will also be provided with a whole host of resources to help manage your users. G Suite offers a 99.9% Service Level Agreement (SLA) for covered services, see https://gsuite.google.com/intl/en-GB/terms/sla.html

4 – “My business is regulated and I need to show I am compliant, G Suite doesn’t offer such a service does it?”

My guess is you haven’t heard of Google Vault?

google vaultVault if an archiving and eDiscovery Suite that lets you Manage, retain, search and export your organisation’s email and on-the-record chats. More details can be found here

5 – “We have to login to Gmail to manage our email, our users are all used to Microsoft Outlook”

Gmail.com is the web client that allows you and your company’s users manage their email via a browser. But you can still use local email clients like Outlook, Mac Mail and Thunderbird. There are also mobile apps for Apple iPhone and Android devices.

6 – “I’ll need to still keep Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint as G Suite isn’t compatible with Microsoft?”

We’ve found that many of our customers are able to eliminate their existing productivity suites and rely exclusively on G Suite to create different kinds of files, including text compatabilitydocuments, spreadsheets and presentations. G Suite is also compatible with files made in other programs, such as Microsoft Office.

7 – “Moving to G Suite will mean losing all my existing email communication, contacts and calendar data”

There are a few options, small migrations can be accomplished by using the G Suite Migration for Microsoft Outlook® https://tools.google.com/dlpage/outlookmigration or one of the methods listed on G Suite’s Simple import of mail, contacts, and calendars page https://support.google.com/a/answer/6364709

For Exchange there is the G Suite Migration for Microsoft® Exchange tool https://tools.google.com/dlpage/exchangemigration as other options for larger imports.See https://support.google.com/a/answer/6251069Available Migrations:

  • Microsoft Exchange 2003, 2007, and 2010
  • Microsoft Exchange 2013
  • Office 365™
  • IMAP servers such as Novell Groupwise®, Courier, Dovecot, and Zimbra
  • ISPs that support IMAP, such as GoDaddy®
  • Other G Suite or Gmail accounts
  • Personal storage table (PST) folders

8 – “Gmail doesn’t use folders or shared folders but labels, this sounds all very complicated”

In Gmail you can organize your emails by setting up labels. Labels work like folders, but you can add more than one label to a message. Labels help you find emails quickly and stay organised, you can also setup rules to automatically apply labels to incoming emails.

You can signup for a Google G Suite trial here and if you are interested in moving to G Suite then give me a shout and i’ll email you a discount code to enable you to receive 20% off your first years subscription charges.

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How I become a G Suite Super Fan

Microsoft out, Google in.

The Turning Point

Back in 2007 saw the release of the very first iPhone, PCs started to come shipped with Microsoft Vista and iMacs were still the new kid on the block (oh and let’s not forget first iphoneRihanna’s Umbrella song stayed in the charts for an incredible 10 weeks.)

Microsoft was still the default choice for most things and I hated it.

Then one lazy afternoon later that same year, I read an article about the increasing popularity of the iMac and as someone who likes the underdog it wasn’t long before I purchased my first Linux based machine.

Within a week I realised just how much I loved the iMac and at the same time how much I disliked Microsoft. Using Apple’s macOS felt like a homecoming to me, everything just made sense. It worked how it should and didn’t splurge out error after error and fall over halfway through writing an unsaved letter. I swore then that I wouldn’t never venture back into the problem ridden world of Microsoft.

windows-vista

Every time I was forced to use a PC at a client’s premises, or help one of my Children on their home laptops, it added a little more to the Microsoft hate pit. Over the coming years that original dislike of Microsoft grew and festered inside of me.

I wasn’t the only person disheartened by watching others struggle with simple tasks on their Windows based PC’s. Magazines and online forums were full of people moaning about crashing PC’s, how complicated things were and how Microsoft was of little or no help. How I was glad to be in the Apple club.

The Downside to the iMac move

There was one downside to owning an iMac and that was the limited availability of software. Don’t get me wrong, things had come on massively since the iMac launch but compared to Windows software, you were in no way spoilt for choice.

I did have a copy of Apple’s iWork bundle, this comprised of Pages, Keynote and Numbers. These were OK but only that, just OK. Even though called iWork, in my humble opinion they were more aimed at the consumer than at business users. Since movingiwork to Apple I had refused to install Microsoft Office or for that matter, any Microsoft title. I am a stubborn kinder of a guy and wasn’t going to be deterred from owning a Mac. I wanted to explore other options that weren’t Microsoft so I set myself a challenge and that challenge was to erase Microsoft out of my life completely.

I know it sounds a little drastic but a challenge is a challenge and I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a better alternative for me out there.

The False Start

I had a personal Gmail account, which like many others I had to wait for that all important and prized invitation. (Gmail started with a limited beta rollout, this involved giving accounts to a thousand outsiders and allowing them to invite a couple of friends apiece, and growing slowly from there.)

gmailAs much as I liked using Gmail (especially the user interface, labels and search) there were some niggles that I couldn’t get over. The main culprit being conversation view which was enabled by default and couldn’t be disabled.

Being from the old school, I was used to single view emails and just hated conversation view. There were also issues with unrelated conversations being linked together which caused me a massive headache, so I parked my Gmail account and used my Apple @me.com address instead.

Google Relents on the Conversation View Argument

I wasn’t alone with the conversation view argument and after many years of petitions and dedicated websites of hate, Google relented and decided to give their users the ability to switch conversation view off.

You can read their official post here https://gmail.googleblog.com/2010/09/turn-off-gmails-conversation-view.html

This was big news on the web and as soon as I discovered the change, my sights were firmly fixed back on Google Apps Premier Edition.

My Move to Google Begins

The Google Apps suite came with Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Sites and Google Talk, basically everything I needed to run my business. It google apps premier editionwasn’t a hard decision for me to migrate straight over to Google Apps and without a second thought I did exactly that.

Google are like Apple’s and the latest Android and iPhones, things just work. Using Cloud based software was fantastic for me as it allowed me to work from anywhere in the world without the need of having to use my own computer, very handy when working on site at a clients or on holiday.

Compatibility wasn’t an issue as Google Docs, Sheets and Slides lets you import their Microsoft counterparts documents in a breeze. Google also compatabilitygive you the ability to export any document as Excel, Word or Powerpoint compatible files.

Gmail was my favourite part of Google for Work. I loved the fact I could add multiple domains to my account and send and receive emails from multiple alias names across multiple domains. As I ran about 6 websites at the time, having more than one domain for email was absolutely essential. Search was impossible to beat and to this day still is, finding lost emails was never going to be a tiresome issue again.

Never having to worry about backups or software updates signed the deal for me, I was converted.

Present Day

i_love_googleTo this very day, amid a few rebrands I have stayed loyal to Google and have strayed only the once. I am now an avid user of Google G Suite. and as well as being an authorised referrer I am also working towards being a certified G Suite Partner.

For professional reasons I have followed Microsoft’s Office 365, and have tested it on a few occasions. I will admit that they have come on a long way but ….. Office 365 is no way as user friendly as G Suite, 365 costs more (nearly double on same subscriptions) and G Suite support can not be beat.

As of January 2017, G Suite has 3 million paying businesses, and 70 million G Suite for Education users. I am very pleased that my children’s school uses Google Classroom and for them, Google is now the norm and Microsoft the underdog, who would have thought?

You can signup for a Google G Suite trial here and if you are interested in moving to G Suite then give me a shout and i’ll email you a discount code to enable you to receive 20% off your first years subscription charges.

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How to Set up abuse@ and postmaster@ in Google G Suite

Do I really need to setup abuse@ and postmaster@ addresses?

In a nutshell, yes, email best practice stipulates that you should setup abuse@ and postmaster@ email addresses on your domain.

  • abuse@ should be implemented so that individuals can easily send abuse information or complain about spam to a domain holder. A number of anti-spam systems will automatically use the @abuse to forward complaints.
  • postmaster@ should be implemented to receive queries and reports.

@postmaster is the administrator of a mail server. Nearly every domain should have the e-mail address postmaster@ so any errors in e-mail processing can be directed. Error e-mails automatically generated by mail servers’ MTAs usually appear to have been sent to the postmaster address.

How do I set these email addresses up?

Most email providers make it fairly easy to setup these two addresses. You can set them up as dedicated POP3/IMAP mail boxes, but if you pay on a per user bases this route could incur extra charges. The second and most common option is to set the addresses up as alias names, also known as email forwarders. This option sets the @abuse and @postmaster to forward to an existing mailbox(s).

You can normally setup email forwarders free of charge but I would recommend checking first, most of the big players like 123-reg.co.uk and Heart Internet offer this as standard.

Google G Suite doesn’t make it as simple

Google doesn’t have much trust in their customers so they have a reserved list of names that can’t be added as simple alias names to your associated domains.

Try and add abuse@ or postmaster@ and your get a friendly error message.

google alias

Google Quote:

How are reports of abuse, spam, and technical problems handled?

For your convenience, the Google Team monitors all mail sent to the addresses abuse@yourdomain.com and postmaster@yourdomain.com to ensure that we can properly address all reports of spam, abuse, and technical issues. Since abuse and postmaster are reserved aliases, you can’t use them as usernames or nicknames.

If you want particular users in your organization to receive mail sent to abuse@yourdomain.com and postmaster@yourdomain.com, you can create groups named abuse and postmaster. Users that are part of these groups will receive mail sent to those addresses. The Google Team will still receive the mail as well.

Learn more about how to create a group.

Because of their special status, you can only create the abuse and postmaster groups using the Google Admin console. You can’t create the groups using Google Groups.

Link to the above article https://support.google.com/a/answer/33389?hl=en

I have mixed feelings about this practice. On one hand there are some privacy concerns that need some further thought. But on the other hand, Google are only taking this step to protect their network and email delivery for their other clients. I’ll leave it down to you to come to your own conclusions.

So based on the above information, the only way to receive a copy of emails sent to these two addresses is to setup a Google Group within your G Suite account.

A Step by Step Guide – Setting up a Google Group

Google Groups can be used like a shared mail box. Email is sent to the group and then distributed to members within the group and the group can have one of more members.

A Google Group can be setup to basically work similar to a Microsoft distribution list or shared folder. Once setup, all emails sent to postmaster@ and abuse@ will be forwarded to each members Gmail inbox. The below process should be repeated for both abuse@ and postmaster@.

Step 1 – Login to your Google Administrator Account

https://admin.google.com/

Select the Domains option from the main screen (if you don’t see this option then it will be tucked away under the More Options tab at the bottom of the screen.

google admin 2

Step 2 – Create A New Group

Simply click on the yellow plus sign which is located bottom right of the screen.

crate group

Once clicked you will be presented with a pop-up box like the one below. Complete all the fields making sure to select the correct domain and to keep the default access level as Public. Setting us public allows this group to receive emails from external sources.

At this stage you can select for all users within your domain to be automatically added to the group or you can wait and add users manually later. Once complete click on the create option.

create new group

If everything went according to plan you will now see the following page.

group setup

Step 3 – Time for a Tea Break

tea breakIt’s always good to have a short break (I know I need one) so go grab yourself a cup tea (or for that matter, any beverage that takes your fancy) and come back in a few minutes to finish reading this rather long and dull post. (sorry but I do try and stop myself droning on)

Step 4 – Add User(s)

Hopefully you’re now refreshed and ready to move on.

If you didn’t select add all users in step 2 then you will now have to manually add the users to this group. The easiest way is to use the add users to group option top right of the page.

add group users

The next pop-up asks to to enter a users email address, as you start typing Google will auto suggest users.

user details

You will notice an option on the right hand side that allows you to change the users permission between Owner and Member.

Google gives a very detailed explanation for both users types here https://support.google.com/a/answer/167094?hl=en But the basics are that a Owner can add more users, manage group permissions and even delete the group. A Member simply receives copies of the groups communication and can view the group at any time.

Repeat step 4 for each user you wish to add.

Step 5 – Other Options

You will also notice two other options – Roles and Permissions and Aliases. Unless you have a particular reason to do so, I wouldn’t recommend changing anything in the Roles section. The Alias settings are only needed if you want to add multiple email aliases to come to the same group. When using Google Groups for this type of setup it would be very rare to use Alias name.

That’s You Finished

finished

Congratulations, you now have working abuse@ and postmaster@ email addresses. Any email sent to these addresses will be forwarded to the users listed in the group settings. Google will still get their copies so everyone is happy.

I’d finally recommend you get your users to setup an email rule to deal with these types of emails. Depending on your company and email traffic volume you might not want all these messages clogging up your inbox. I’ll try and get a blog post up in the next few days explaining how best to handle these emails.

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Google G Suite Admin Shows Error 1000

We are unable to process your request at this time. Please try later. (Error #1000)

As I have recently acquired a new domain name I decided I would go ahead and change my primary domain on my Google G Suite account. I had done this once before without any issues but this time around things weren’t that simple.

The Dreaded Error 1000

 

error 1000

The Process of Changing your Primary Domain

The process should be a simple one, you login to https://admin.google.com/ and navigate to domains. google admin domains

Then select Add/Remove Domains

add remove domains

Then next to the domain you want to make your primary domain, select MAKE PRIMARY.

make primary

Once selected you will receive a warning pop-up like below:

change domain

You then confirm you want to proceed by clicking CHANGE PRIMARY DOMAIN and you should then be done, but wait…. what’s this error message 1000?

error 1000 small

Calling on Google for Help

I contacted Google via chat and very quickly received a reply stating that this was a known temporary issue and that I should wait 24/48 hours and try again, I put my trust in their suggestion and waited, 72 hours in fact, then tried again.

Nope, still getting the same error, so back to Google and this time by email, a full 24 hours goes by until I receive a reply stating that my case had been transferred to their admin team and I will get a reply ASAP.

The very same evening I receive a phone call on my mobile from an international number, I don’t normally answer these as most of the time they are overseas call centres trying to sell me something, but this time I decided to pick up and was greeted by a friendly American chap from Google.

Partner Program

G Shuite partner programme

After a little bit of small talk Diego jumps straight in and mentions the fact I had applied for the Google G Suite Reseller Program last year and that I had some live referrals in the system. My new best buddy then said he had spent a few hours investigating the error 1000 on my account and that the problem was caused because I had applied to be a reseller and that once you have applied Google doesn’t allow you to change your primary domain. It’s something to do with fraud prevention.

According to Diego my options were limited, I could either withdraw my application and lose my current referrals, change the domain and then apply again, or wait until I had made the target 100 referrals, be accepted into the program and make the change then.

So there you have it

Due to the hassle I abandoned the domain change idea and suggested to Google that instead of the unhelpful error 1000 they may wish to consider showing a message that simply says “As you have applied to be a Google Partner you can not change your primary domain”

That message would have saved me tons of time, I had searched Google for hours trying to find what was causing the error and found nothing useful, I would never have guessed it was being caused by my wish to Partner with Google.

I wanted to share my experience in the hope it may save someone else going through the same problems as me.

Feel free to comment below to let me know your experiences.