I promised an update on Google Apps some time ago. This week, we finally flipped the e-mail for Saint Columba's over to Google Apps hosted mail. Combined with using Mythic's DNS servers (free with the domain registration and with a pretty nice web interface), that meant the church's online presence was fully disentangled from my servers for the first time in years.

While that's a good thing on a pragmatic, I-don't-have-time-to-run-this-any-more basis, it's been a bit of a rough ride. Here are some of the things I've learned.

  • Google apps 'groups' are a replacement for what you think of as e-mail aliases or forwarders. Make a group, set it to 'anyone on the internet can post', and add the addresses you want it to forward to. In my case, I found Google Apps e-mail users which were part of the group failed to get any messages sent to it. Then it suddenly started working after 24 hours. The frustration of not knowing why this is (or if it'll stop working again tomorrow) was probably the low point of the whole exercise.
  • Forwarding mail from a google account somewhere else requires somewhere else to give you a confirmation code before it'll work. Not entirely unreasonable, but frustrating when it's two accounts in the same Apps domain.
  • The out of office auto-responders on external GMail accounts don't work for mail forwarded via apps groups/aliases. There is no documentation of this, they just fail to send a reply (not really an Apps problem, more a migration from old GMail account to Apps problem).
  • Single-line or empty test messages with just a subject line will often get eaten/filtered to junk by Google Apps as spam. This makes testing rather 'fun'.
  • Google Apps e-mail supports two-stage authentication with your phone, which is handy, but domain administrators have to flip a setting to let users enable it. Whilst you're there, enable SSL everywhere (boo for this not being the default).
  • All parts of Google Apps have IPv6 enabled. Nice to know we can remain the only (?) church in Oxford with an IPv6 website and e-mail.

Now it's done and working, we'll be sticking with it, but I can't pretend it's been very good for my blood pressure getting there.