I’ve never been comfortable with Google’s business model.

Selling my information to advertising companies has never had me clamouring to use Google’s services. I know the information is stored anonymously, but there is enough there to potentially an individual on the back of only a few pieces of information.

It’s the stuff of George Orwell’s ‘1984’. Only even sneakier…

So, wherever possible, I choose to avoid Google’s services and products: it all feels a little bit creepy.

Google’s search is unavoidable though– Bing and Duck Duck Go just don’t stand up alongside Google’s powerful search engine. Aside from search, I use no other Google services (that I’m aware of!).

Until now…

Enter Gmail

This was clearly not something I took lightly but I made the decision to migrate my business email to Google’s Gmail service earlier this week.

I had been considering it for over a year for my own email. It has a number of benefits over standard IMAP email—though it works in a very similar fashion—the main ones being:

  • The search function is fantastic. This has a lot to do with the way Gmail organises email files that it stores. It’s a little bit technical, and one for another blog post, but, suffice to say, it makes searching your emails a breeze.
  • The idea of losing five years worth of emails is a little bit frightening to me. Whilst this was very unlikely where my emails where previously, it was a possibility. Google’s servers are incredibly robust, with backup after backup, so the chances of losing any data are as low as it is possible.
  • With my previous email hosting plan I could store a maximum of 2GB of emails. This may sound like plenty or room but I was constantly removing attachments and getting rid of older emails, yet still creeping ever closer to my 2GB limit. Deciding which emails to get rid of took time; removing attachments took time; finding somewhere else to store certain attached files took time. This time would be better spent somewhere else. Gmail comes with 30GB of storage space and this has regularly increased over time, so there’s little need to worry about reaching the limit.
  • My previous email hosting didn’t provide push notifications. Although I could happily live without these (as I prefer to check my email a couple of times a day to minimise distractions) having the option would be nice. This would be particularly useful when I am waiting for a particularly important email to arrive in my inbox.
  • Gmail’s spam filtering is second to none. I didn’t have too much bother previously but it was taking up some time, and my time is important!

Knowing all of this, it would still be a big job to move things across to Gmail’s servers from my own. Especially as I’d be flying blind. And Google’s documentation (as I can now confirm, having made the switch) is confusing at the best of times. So I sat tight.

Motivation

And finally it happened! A new client I’ve been working with was having problems with their email and it made perfect sense to recommend moving their mail to Gmail’s servers.

Not being one to use a client as a guinea pig, I felt this was my opportunity to get familiar with the set up process and began the daunting task of migrating my email to Gmail.

Benefits beyond the obvious

As if that first list of benefits wasn’t enough, I’ve come across some other great features that would be of great benefit to my clients. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • The web interface is very useable. Not a chore to use at all, as some web mail interfaces can be.
  • It’s easier to set up on a mail program like Outlook, Thunderbird or Apple’s Mail than an IMAP account.
  • There are a lot more options for mail apps that support Gmail on iPhone and iPad (I can’t speak for Android) than there are for normal IMAP, all of which are very nice indeed.
  • Auto-responders like ‘out of office’ messages are handled in very slick fashion.
  • Rules for incoming messages are very easy to set up.

There are also lots of other useful-looking features such as Chat, categories, Mail and plenty of experimental add-ons in the ‘Labs’ section.

Before you dive in

As with everything, I should mention that there are some downsides, beyond the privacy issue mentioned at the start of this article:

  • Gmail is a paid service (it’s good value though, as it comes alongside a bunch of pretty useful looking apps), but at less than a fiver a month it’s worth it for me. Set up can be a bit of a pain and, once it’s all ready to use, getting your emails in there is a bit of an arduous process. You can send and receive emails from more than one
  • There are some fundamental concepts that are different from what you’ll be used to as a non-gmail user. For example, there’s no such thing folders. Emails are ‘labelled’ instead, but visually they look just like folders. The confusion comes when an email has more than one label– you’ll see the same email in two folders. Takes a bit of getting used to and, as I said earlier, it’s a blog post in itself– watch this space!
  • Google use every opportunity they can to ram Google+ down your throat.

How about you

How do you feel about using Gmail for your business’s email? Are there any important pros or cons that I’ve missed? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below.