Switching to Gmail for work email?
February 6, 2009 5:02 PM   Subscribe

Have you used Gmail to handle work email? Were there any pitfalls?

My previous places of business used Exchange servers, so at the office I'd use Outlook and then use the Exchange Web interface for home email. This was all well and good.

My current employer does not use Exchange, and its Web client is circa 1996 atrocious. While we can use Outlook at work, I've never liked the search functions, and without Exchange handling Calendars and Tasks, there's no *need* to use Outlook. As a result, I use Thunderbird with IMAP at work and at home.

I'm starting to dislike Thunderbird, for various reasons. It does wacky things with email forwards, for example. I've been thinking to just ditch it all and grab the work email to Gmail using POP3, and use Gmail as The One Interface to Rule Them All.

What are the common pitfalls I'm not seeing?
posted by Cool Papa Bell to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The biggest one is that HR will almost certainly fire you if they catch you doing it. Forwarding all of your work emails out of the corporate domain is a pretty serious breach.
posted by tkolar at 5:09 PM on February 6, 2009

I use gmail to aggregate two academic accounts and one business account. The POP3 access puts the email from all three accounts into one inbox (which is helpful when some communication has involved more than one email account). I much prefer the search function to any other email client I've used.

The one problem I've had, and it may be just a theory that gmail was the problem, is that one very important email I sent did not go to the recipient.

I logged into my academic account to follow up and they'd never received the message I sent from gmail. I can only guess that since the email headers showed it coming from gmail (free email, of course, though the reply-to was one of the non-gmail addresses) it had been flagged as spam at the destination. That is a possible risk.
posted by gspm at 5:15 PM on February 6, 2009

From my experiences with using gmail for work:

My last employer, a newspaper, asked me and many other employees to stop using gmail for business. The reason given for this was that it could complicate things if, for some reason, someone went to court seeking to obtain my e-mail. Like a libel case, for instance. If the e-mail was on the company server, they argued, it would be a lot easier for the company to protect.

During the years I worked there, I wrote stories about two separate local companies suing google for evidence of breaches of nondisclosure agreements or the spreading of rumor through e-mail. Both were unsuccessful.

My bosses also said it looked unprofessional. I'll cop to judging people who use @aol.com addresses as unsophisticated, so I sort of understood.

However, I don't work there anymore, and at my current university job my boss uses gmail, and has her POP3 e-mail forwarded to it. I am increasingly doing the same thing. Crap I love gmail.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 5:19 PM on February 6, 2009

tkolar has a very, very good point.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 5:21 PM on February 6, 2009

Let me be specific. I'm talking about just accessing the POP3 account, using Gmail as a client. All the mail would remain on work servers. Moreover, Gmail allows you to send and receive as if it's coming from the work account, so recipients would not see "@gmail.com" at any time.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:23 PM on February 6, 2009

I've been using gmail to grab my work email for a few months now. I have a few complaints:
1. Sometimes I forget to select my work email as the 'from' address for emails I compose (replying is automatic and no problem)
2. Sometimes time sensitive emails sit for an extra 20-40 mins until google retrieves them. (I've heard that you can use auto-mailers to 'train' gmail to check your accounts more often, but I have not tested this)
3. I keep gmail open all the time in a separate browser (a portable firefox instance separate from my daily use instance), so proper mailto: handling is out of the question without adding another program to my systray (if you don't maintain separate profiles or installs for various uses, this isn't an issue, FF3 handles mailto links to gmail well)

Overall, if only for the search speed, it's a net win, so I'm going to keep using it, but either of these might be dealbreakers depending on your situation.
posted by ThePants at 5:27 PM on February 6, 2009

so recipients would not see "@gmail.com" at any time.

unless they're using outlook or a couple other programs where they would see "sent from cpb@gmail.com on behalf of cpb@work.com".
posted by misanthropicsarah at 5:32 PM on February 6, 2009

Occasionally forgetting to select my work email as the source address (ThePants' #1 problem above) is the only glitch I've encountered in about 8 months of doing exactly what you are contemplating. I prefer gmail's search and storage/labeling functions to those of my workplace email (including its newish web-based mail client).
posted by Rain Man at 5:39 PM on February 6, 2009

As mentioned, the biggest pitfall is that there is probably some company policy against it for very good legal reasons. Double check with HR or your tech support people first, and expect to not be allowed to.

However if you are allowed: Another pitfall is mixing up your mail accounts. Don't forward the mail to your personal account or you'll send something sometime from the wrong email address and that can lead to the Bad Things that tkolar warned of. If you also use Gmail for personal email then set up two completely different accounts and choose different skin/themes for them so you can identify them easily.

And make sure you use SSL encryption when connecting to GMail (just put and "s" in the http:// like so: https://gmail.com so all of your communication is encrypted. Don't need someone hijacking your work mail.

On preview: All the mail would remain on work servers.

Nope. While you're not removing it from company servers, Gmail is making a copy.

Oh, and some spam catchers are more likley to trash email coming from gmail now that spamers have figured out how to automaticaly make accounts there. Other spam catchers will ding an email that is sent from a different domain than the address. (ie: A mail addressed from CPB@SomeCompany.com send from mail.gmail.com)
posted by Ookseer at 5:44 PM on February 6, 2009

I'm talking about just accessing the POP3 account, using Gmail as a client. All the mail would remain on work servers.

That's not how POP works. Those messages will be copied to Google's servers.

so recipients would not see "@gmail.com" at any time.

Unfortunately, if you use Gmail to send mail, Google adds a "Return-Path:" header exposing your gmail.com address even if you tell it to change your "From" address. Any recipient can see it.
posted by nicwolff at 5:47 PM on February 6, 2009

Nope. While you're not removing it from company servers, Gmail is making a copy.

Right, I knew that, just misspoke, sorry. I was answering concerns that work email would be lost somehow and utterly irretrievable by my company.

Moreover, while the HR-based concern about allowing Gmail to store a copy is a valid one (and something I hadn't thought of, thank you), it's not going to be relevant.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:58 PM on February 6, 2009

I use Gmail for business and recently a number of people have reported finding my email in their spam folders.
posted by LarryC at 5:59 PM on February 6, 2009

I use a Gmail account to pop my Exchange mail into Gmail, then use IMAP in Thunderbird with Gmail. I send all my mail through the company SMTP server. It works great, and the IT guy at work is OK with it. Gmail can be a little slow about retrieving mail, which I see as a feature as it's one less distraction sometimes.
posted by COD at 6:03 PM on February 6, 2009

I'm talking about just accessing the POP3 account, using Gmail as a client. All the mail would remain on work servers. Moreover, Gmail allows you to send and receive as if it's coming from the work account, so recipients would not see "@gmail.com" at any time.

No, you're taking a copy off the work servers and onto your personal GMail account. That's the same argument as copying work software or other company information to your own personal account. I don't know many companies that would NOT fire you for this.

Also, recipients can most certainly see gmail.com if they look closely enough in the headers. Just because it's not the "from" does not mean it is not in there. All e-mail servers leave their fingerprints in the headers. It's essential to how mail works that they do so.
posted by rokusan at 6:25 PM on February 6, 2009

I also hate the search function in Outlook, but using Xobni to search has helped a lot. Might want to give that a shot since it's a lot easier than what you're proposing.
posted by crinklebat at 8:44 PM on February 6, 2009

Okay, let's cut through the clutter a bit here.

Assuming you're keen to how POP works, such that fetching a message transfers it to the hive, the biggest pitfall is that, while you can technically "send" as the POP user, it typically shows up as "on behalf of" for end users, which can confuse the hell out of them.

This is a YMMV thing, as different email readers parse the way Google "sends" from an unowned POP account, but we switched to Apps because of it. Most just parse as "From", but it's something to be aware of.

Apps for your domain's been a godsend for us, but I'm guessing it's not particularly viable considering.
posted by disillusioned at 9:01 PM on February 6, 2009

It's not allowed at my work due to the breach of security. Not only are you putting company mail on public servers somewhere, I'm not sure I've seen anywhere a guarantee that "deleted" mail is well and truly gone.
posted by losvedir at 11:59 AM on February 7, 2009

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