Migrating from Gmail to FastMail: part 3

I promise that I will get around to explaining the gory details of my Gmail to FastMail migration (and also how I’m finding FastMail as a service), but one final post before then. This time I want to talk about ‘preparation’.

If you are thinking of taking FastMail for a test drive, you can of course do this as a 60 day free trial (no credit card needed as well[1]). If you do this, then you don’t need to do much preparation other than set Gmail to forward your email (and keep a copy in the inbox or Archive folder):

Something else to bear in mind is that Gmail applies spam filtering rules before email gets forwarded. I’ve had issues where Gmail routinely flags some emails as spam (even though I’ve set up filters to tell it not to[2]). This is where I’ve found the SaneNotSpam tool by SaneBox to be really useful.

Michael Crusoe gave me a useful tip on twitter about this. Simply make a filtering rule in Gmail to forward all spam email. I did something slightly different and made a rule to not move any email to the Spam folder[3].

If you set up forwarding like this then you can continue using Gmail as before, but everything will also end up in FastMail. To be able to send from your Gmail address within FastMail, you’ll need to set up a Gmail personality. FastMail also allows aliases, but these differ somewhat from personalities[4].

Go on a Gmail diet

My final preparation tip — for those who are considering a permanent migration to FastMail — would be to slim down your Gmail archive. The much-touted advantage of never needing to delete emails when using Gmail is great…except for when you want to switch providers.

Although FastMail has a decent IMAP migration tool, it can take many hours to migrate thousands of emails (and I’m assuming that most Gmail users have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of emails). When I first started thinking about leaving Gmail (over a year ago now), I realized that I should probably start slimming down my Gmail archive[5].

It wasn’t until I completed the migration to FastMail that I realized that Gmail’s Archive folder also contains all of your sent mail. Initially I thought that the FastMail migration tool had made an error because I was missing about 6,000 emails. Turns out these were all of my sent messages, which FastMail — like other email providers — only keeps in the Sent messages folder.

Coming next

In part 4 I will explain a bit more about how the actual migration went for me, and what other things I needed to do in order to use my custom domain with FastMail.

  1. I wish more services would let you try them without having to hand over credit card details  ↩

  2. In particular, emails from Amazon often end up in my Gmail spam folder.  ↩

  3. Though this is only catching spam email that is directly addressed to me. I’m still seeing some spam email where I’m presumably bcc recipient. But I can live with this.  ↩

  4. I now have a personality in FastMail for each account that I want to be able to send email from.  ↩

  5. Over the course of the last year, I’ve shed about 3,000 emails from my archive. This might seem like a lot, but my starting point was about 18,000 emails so I’m not sure how much time this saved me during the actual migration.  ↩