Switching the company over to Google Apps last fall has been, for me at least, such a huge boon that I definitely have no regrets. It has, however, certainly introduced some “operational” impacts though. For instance, handling ex-employees and their mailboxes.
Now, in the MS Exchange era that we were previously in, this was a no- brainer: Leave the mail on the server. Anyone needs it, give ‘em access. I’m sure we can all quote assorted compliance policies on why email should be retained [for some defined period of time]. We can also probably think of reasons why the “leave it on the server” forever method isn’t really such a good idea anymore, but things have changed a lot in the last decade.
When using Google Apps and you’re now paying for each mailbox, that policy of abandonment has to be re-thought. Yeah, it is only $50/year/mailbox for the Premier account, but it seems silly to spend that without looking at options.
I’ve come up with two approaches so far:
- Export all the mail and then import it to a free hosted account
- Export all the mail and store it on a file server as text (.eml) documents
Option 1 is clearly a bit abusive of Google’s good graces, but you can easily get a free hosted account with a different domain. For instance, you might want to have one for contract and temp employees. The trick is making sure the export from the Enterprise account isn’t larger than what the free version can hold.
Well, the other trick is that the rules have recently changed and you can only have 20 users with the free accounts (although I’ve read that you can send an email and ask for additional…)
Option 2 means the onus is now on me to securely store all the old emails and ensure that they can be accessed or searched if necessary. Access has to be controlled, we don’t want the world browsing a former employee’s old email, right?
Arguably this is really a stalling topic before going to Option 1 – if I really want to do some serious searching, why not import the mail back into a free account and use the wonderful search facilities… but, I can also directly search the text files with a number of tools as well.
For both approaches, I’ve found the free Gmail Backup utility to be incredibly helpful. It works great for both the export and the import and does it all with IMAP and .eml text files.
I guess an Option 3 might be to investigate the Postini services. It looks rather interesting, but I’ve yet to talk to anyone using that, so if you have any experience please drop a comment or email. I think Premier comes with a limited version (details) so it looks like I’d have to spend some money for email retention above the default 90 days.
I’m generally pretty happy with my Option 2 route for now, but open to other ideas or best practices so please feel free to share. In this litigious world we work in, messing up email retention or compliance can sure be a disaster!