Moving off GMail

In early December I finally decided it was time to move my primary email out of google. There were a few reasons to do it, though the practical (reaching the limits on their filtering) largely outweighed the ideological.

Movable Email

If email is important to you, you should really register your own domain name, so you have a permanent address. I got dague.net back in 1999 to create a permanent home for my identity. This has meant over they years the backend for dague.net has changed at least 5 times, including me hosting it myself for a large number of years.

My Requirements

  • Can host email on my own domain - as I'd be moving dague.net
  • Web UI - because sometimes I want to access my email via Chromebook
  • Good Search - because there are times I fall back to full text search to find things
  • IMAP - because most of the time I'll be accessing via Thunderbird or Kaiten Mail
  • Good spam filtering
  • Good generic filtering on the server side - My daily mail volume is north of 1000 messages (40% spam), I need good filtering otherwise I drown

Fastmail.fm

I eventually landed on Fastmail.fm, who I've been watching for a lot of years. They are fairly priced ($40/yr), their company contributes back to the open source software they run their business on, and because they are actually an Australian company, you'll get disclosure if some agency is accessing your accounts. They also give you a 60 day free trial, so you can do a slow migration over, and see if it will meet your needs.

Migration

One I was sure I was going to do this, I created my fastmail.fm account, and then pulled and configured imapsync to sync my existing gmail content over. I have a couple of GB of email, which means an imap sync takes a good 24 hours at this point. Imapsync is rerunable, so run it once, wait until it finishes, then run it a second time, and pick up the changes. Once it seems like you've basically closed the gaps between the two accounts, you can change MX records, and start getting email at the new service provider.

For safety the first thing I do once this has happened is build a forward rule from the new provider to the old one. Then if something goes horribly wrong, all my email remains in both locations for a while. A month later I'm still running that forward, though will be disconnecting it soon.

So far so good

The webmail for fastmail is really solid, honestly I like it better than gmail's web ui, which has become incredibly cluttered over the years. This is just email, which is good. It also has a search facility which is on par with google's. It's also available as part of the IMAP protocol, which means real searching from Kaiten mail on Android. Switching from GMail App to Kaiten Mail on my phone was about 10 minutes. And it means I can actually customize things I get alerted to, which gmail broken at some point. Thunderbird transition was simple.

I had gotten used to Raportive on gmail that would give me people's pictures on their email. I found the Ldap Info Show extension on Thunderbird, which looks people up on various social networks, and gives you pictures they have public.

Lacking APIs

The one complaint I have with fastmail, is that it's lacking APIs to handle your data. For instance, my filtering rules are complex. 342 lines of sieve and counting at this point. This is managed via a web form, but copy / paste on every change is something I'm not really into. I solved this by writing a python mechanize sync script so I can manage the rules locally, version controlled, then sync them up afterwards.

Address book has some issues, and I've not built a work around. The sieve rules they give you whitelist your address book as spam sources, so it's something I'd like to keep in sync. However, without an API it's not really worth it.

Overall: Very Good

Overall I'm very happy with the move. My biggest complaints are around the API issue, which I hope they correct in the future.

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2 thoughts on “Moving off GMail”

  1. That's sad because there is actually a proper ManageSieve protocol to manipulate Sieve rules. They could open the service to let you do that without a Web interface.

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