Google Apps - the new Linux Mail Server

Or how I learned to give up a bit of control, and let Google take over my mail and mailing lists.

For the last 10+ years I have run my own mail server, I’ve used a variety of platforms and servers including Win NT4, Win 2k, Debian and Gentoo using Mailtraq on Windows and Postfix/Qmail/Exim/Courier/Squirrelmail on Linux. Mailtraq was very easy to administer and I would highly recommend it, but I needed to move away from hosting a Windows machine at home and the only reasonably priced VM I could afford was a Linux host.

Administering any of Postfix/Qmail/Exim is fairly hard work. The tools are almost all console based (it’s Linux!) and the configuration often complicated and hard to debug. That said, these systems will run in low memory environments and deliver mail efficiently. The problem is keeping on top of a Linux system running these tools and making sure everything keeps running smoothly takes a fair amount of time - way more than administering Mailtraq ever took.

I was in the middle of advising a friend to use Google Apps the other day when it occurred to me that perhaps I should take my own advice. Managing my gentoo box has been eating up a lot of my time over the last year, I want to rebuild with something more manageable but migrating the full mail setup to a rebuilt box filled me with fear.

So I took the plunge and migrated to Google Apps in one night. The sign-up and configuration process was very easy, and the advice on what needed doing externally was clear and concise. Essentially I just needed to change the domain MX records for to point to Google mail servers and optionally add a record to give me a nice domain for webmail. For plenty of good information on techniques for migrating your mail to Google Apps see the excellent article by Scott Hanselman

Having done that I’m now in the process of migrating the mail services to a combination of the same google apps account, and the google groups lists service. The mailing lists have already been moved, this was simply a matter of transferring member lists which was easy to do. The rest of the mail will be moved tonight hopefully.

I’m already familiar with the gmail interface and using it for all my mail now is proving great so far, it’s a huge improvement over squirrelmail. Even if I don’t want to use the web interface, I can access my mail over IMAP or POP3 just like before.

For me, Google Apps is the new Linux Mail Server - why run your own when someone far more competent can run one for you!