A strategy for migrating mail accounts

Possibly the most tortuous endeavour available to any tech project, migrating mail accounts without some kind of automation (cPanel-to-cPanel, for example) is one of those necessary evils that comes around once in a while and requires a suitable strategy to help you avoid any loss of service and/or emails for you and your clients.

This is specific to generic IMAP accounts, not Exchange/ActiveSync or POP (why is anyone still using POP?).

  1. Create email account/s on new server
  2. Create A record (DNS) for new server (e.g. mail2.domain.com)
  3. Create new MX records for new server (e.g. * to mail2.domain.com)
  4. Set priority 10 for the new server and 20 for the old, just in case the new setup fails
  5. Allow some time for DNS to propagate
  6. Connect to both servers separately (mail/mail2) and copy or import emails across
  7. Update A record for original mail server subdomain (e.g. mail.domain.com) to the new server IP

By having this setup, you are allowing a fallback in case the new server configuration doesn’t work properly — you are also allowing yourself plenty of time to backup/download the mail from the old server and importing it into the new one.

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