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Migrating Emails From Server To Server With IMAP (Questions/Answers)

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Published On: July 22, 2018 by Blake Schwank

What’s The Simplest Way To Migrate Emails From To A New Server?

Just because you’re moving to a new server doesn’t mean you have to lose all your stored emails. But what’s the best way to handle the migration process?

Everyone knows that email is here to stay. As one of the most popular forms of communication worldwide, you know you’ll never have to switch from email to a new way to keep in touch.

However, that doesn’t mean that the hardware supporting your email doesn’t have to be replaced from time to time. But when it comes to moving your email from your old server to a new one, how can you be sure that you won’t lose anything in the process? Even more important, how can you be sure it’s a simple process, to begin with?

How Do You Migrate Your Email From One Server To Another?

While there’s certainly more than one way to skin a cat, perhaps the most popular, direct and simple way to move your email from one server to the next is by using Internet Message Access Protocol, or IMAP.

What Is IMAP?

IMAP is one of two ways that your email client (Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail, etc.) interacts with the email server. Some clients use POP3, which essentially just downloads your emails from the server, puts them in your inbox, and wipes the server afterward.

On the other hand, you have IMAP, which synchronizes the state of the server and your inbox. The key difference is that instead of deleting your messages from the server once they have made it to your inbox, IMAP leaves them in the server until you delete them from your inbox. By its nature, IMAP provides a sort of backup copy of your messages, which makes it more popular for business purposes.

How Can You Use IMAP To Migrate Emails Between Servers?

As mentioned above, one of the key features of IMAP is that it maintains the server and the email client copies of your messages. How does this apply to migration? It means you can transfer email from one server to another using matching IMAP emails accounts in the client of your choice, which will avoid formatting, permission, and configuration problems that can occur when you try to do the process manually.

In order to properly carry out an IMAP-based email migration, you’ll need to make sure you meet a few requirements:

  • Both the old server and the destination server must support the IMAP email protocol. As common as IMAP is these days, you’ll definitely want to double check that your servers are compatible before starting the process.
  • You’ll need to know the password for the email account that you will be migrating to the new server. If it’s your account, then obviously you will know the password. However, if you’re carrying this out for your staff, be sure to get their login information ahead of time.
  • Lastly, you’ll need a new email client that’s compatible with IMAP. Again, IMAP is popular enough that most clients will support it – Outlook, Gmail, Apple Mail and Thunderbird and other common clients will work fine.

What Are The Steps To Migrating Email From Server To Server Using IMAP?

Once you’ve ensured your environment meets the requirements, then it’s time to begin the simple process of using IMAP to migrate your emails.

Here’s how it works in 5 steps:

  1. Create a new email account on the destination server that’s identical to the account from your old server. Be sure to use the exact same spelling, capitalization, symbols, etc.
  2. When configuring your new account, make sure that you give it the same password as the old account on the old server. While this isn’t necessarily in keeping with security best practices (and common sense, for that matter), it’s vital that both email accounts are the same for the migration process. Once it’s complete, you can update your password to ensure your new account is secure.
  3. In your email client of choice, create two new email accounts that meet the following requirements:
    1. They are for the same email address
    2. They have the exact same password
  • They are configured and connected via IMAP
  1. The incoming server, possibly also listed as the IMAP server, will be different each account, given that you will be switching servers. Be sure to use your IP address for your new server, as well as you access domain or IP address for your old server instead of a domain name if at all possible. If you don’t, you may encounter DNS conflicts that will interrupt the process.
  2. Once both of the above accounts are online, you then open up the inbox for the account that connects to your old server. Simply drag and drop the messages from the old inbox to the destination inbox on the new server (an easy way to do this is folder by folder, instead of message by message).

You’re all done! Keep in mind that if you need to migrate a lot of emails (as the case will be with a professional email account), then you’ll need to give the process a few minutes to properly sync up. Once complete, your emails will all be on your new account, and you can close down or simply leave the old one.

Like this article? Check out Managed Services Pricing (Questions/Answers), What The Heck Is PoE? or Stopping Cyber Threats In Small Business (Training/Education) to learn more.

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