Migrating away from a Google-hosted custom email address

Last updated on 2022-02-13 Tagged under  # network

I have a couple email addresses under my own domains that Google hosts for free under their "G Suite legacy free edition". As of May 1st, these types of accounts are moving to Google Workspaces, and on July 1st the free hosting option comes to an end.

There are a few alternatives to consider. Most obvious is to stay with Google and subscribe to a Workspace plan. Or I could choose an alternative email host. Or self-host.

Some registrars include a custom email address with the purchase of a domain. I use Gandi as my domain registrar, and they include with every domain purchase two free email addresses, each with 3GB of storage. If more storage is needed, the next step up is 50GB for $2/month.

I decided to migrate away from Google, and manage email through Gandi.

My current setup: A primary email address hosted by Gandi, and other domains registered with Gandi forward their mail to this address. I use Thunderbird as my email client.

This is how I did it ...

1. Download mail archive

Even if using web-based email, Thunderbird is an easy way to sync the contents of a Google-hosted email account with your own computer via IMAP.

In Thunderbird's menubar, go to Edit->Account Settings, click on Account Actions, and choose Add Mail Account. A tab opens to Set Up Your Existing Email Address. Fill in personal details, click Continue, and Thunderbird auto-fills in Google's IMAP server details. Accept as-is, or modify to suit your use case. Once confirmed, Thunderbird starts copying the email to local storage. You can view the progress in the bottom bar.

2. Create primary account

I've been a happy customer of Gandi for several years, and I setup one of the included email accounts with the purchase of this domain as my primary account. Instructions

3. Forwarding

Any domains that formerly directed email to Google's servers are re-configured to now forward email to the primary account. Instructions

Select DNS Records in the domain's dashboard and replace any MX and TXT records pointing to Google with new settings to use Gandi's servers ...

@	MX	10800	10 spool.mail.gandi.net.
@	MX	10800	50 fb.mail.gandi.net.
@	TXT	10800	"v=spf1 include:_mailcust.gandi.net ?all"

Select Email and choose Forwarding addresses to create a forward to the primary account.

4. Disable sync

Back in Thunderbird, return to Account Settings for the domain added in step 1. Under Server Settings, un-check Check for new messages at startup and Check for new messages every X minutes. Mail is no longer being delivered to Google's servers.

With the MX records now pointing to Gandi and forwarding enabled, send a test email to the formerly Google-hosted address, and confirm its delivered to the primary address. If the DNS records were just modified, it might take up to an hour for the changes to propagate to the global DNS servers.

5. Delete account on Google

Note: I haven't deleted anything yet on Google. I want to see how this new setup behaves over the next few weeks.

Once its confirmed that email formerly stored with Google is now stored locally (and backed up) and forwarding is working as it should, go ahead and delete the account on Google. Sometime between now and the deadline of July 1st when the free plans are eliminated.


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