Migrating Stand Alone G Suite Account Into Multi-Domain G Suite Instance.31 March 2020
Photo: Unsplash - Benjamin Dada
This week I migrated a G Suite account from being a stand-alone instance into a multi-domain account. Given that the account was just email, calendar and drive I was expecting it to be easier than it was. The documentation was OK if you find what you are looking for but I didn’t find a single cohesive guide. So, here it is.
I had a G Suite account that was tied to one domain, let’s call it source.com. I had a second G Suite account that had been set up to manage multiple domains (a much-ignored feature from what I can see online). We’ll call this domain target.com. In order to reduce costs, I wanted to migrate and manage the source.com users and associated data from within target.com .
First, the good news. Google makes it easy to transfer the data between two G Suite accounts. Now, the not so good news. You will need two spare domains to complete this process. Oh, and Google does not provide a way to transfer Drive files from what I can see. Finally, you will need time to prepare and a lot of patience.
The preparation is the most time-consuming part of this process. Having verified the steps with a Google Support guru I am assured this is the most fail-safe way.
So here goes:
- First you will need to disassociate the users in source.com from the domain. If you have a secondary domain tied to your source.com account then you can move to the next step. If not then you will need to navigate to the Domain section of your account. There you will need to add the spare domain you can use to free up source.com. I used source.co.uk. To complete this, click the Domains menu item in the top level G Suite menu and follow the onscreen instructions.
- The next step is to Rename all your users so that instead of them being email@example.com they will become firstname.lastname@example.org (or whatever spare domain you have used). You will do this by going into each user and clicking the Rename User option on the left, just under the user’s details.
- The last task as you are going through your user list and renaming them is to reset their passwords. You will need to do this as during the migration you will need to know each users password. You can do this in the same user screen as above using the Reset Password option.
Now you have updated all the users and the domain in source.com you will need to add the second spare domain to target.com. I used target.co.uk and the process is the same as above. Login to target.com and click the Domains menu item on the opt level menu. Follow the onscreen instructions.
One final task to complete is to make sure that source.com is no longer the primary domain in the original account. Log into source.com and navigate to the Domain section and make the spare domain that you have set up the primary domain.
At this stage, you should have your users in source.com updated to source.co.uk and have reset their passwords. You will have also set up the spare domain on target.com.
To set up the migration service that G Suite provides click the Data Migration menu option in the G Suite home menu.
- On the next screen select “Set Up Data Migration”.
- Under Migration Source, select G Suite and click Start.
- In the next screen set the configuration settings as you want.
The next screen is where you set up the user mapping and kick off the user’s migration.
Click Add User and you will see the following screen:
In Source Email field add the account name in source.com which should now be email@example.com (or whatever domain you used). In the G Suite Email field add the user name and use the spare domain you set up in target.com. And finally, set the password and use one that you know as you will need it to migrate the Drive data later. You can click start and the migration process will kick off for that user. Now you just need to repeat n times the number of users you have.
One you are at this point you just have to wait. Coffee time!
Transferring The Domain
Once the Data migration service is complete you can now transfer source.com to target.com for management. The process is easy:
- Log into the original account and navigate to the Domain section and click remove next to the source.com domain.
- Log into target.com and navigate to the Domain section and add and verify the source.com domain.
Applying The Original Domain In You Multi-Domain Account
Now that the source.com domain has transferred over to target.com you can update the users added as part of the migration to use the source.com domain. The process is the same used above in the first section:
- We need to rename the users from the spare domain we used to migrate back to source.com. You will do this by going into each user and clicking the Rename User option on the left, just under the user’s details. You will then select the source.com domain and save the changes.
At this point all G Suite email, Calendar and Contact data should be migrated.
** DO NOT DELETE THE ORIGINAL ACCOUNT YET **
Transferring G Suite Drive Files
The Data Migration service offered by G Suite does not handle Drive files, as I mentioned above. The easiest way I could find to transfer files for minimal cost was to use Insync which is a Google Drive client that supports Windows, Linux and Mac OS. I have used Insync for years as a Linux client and it works really well.
To set up the Drive migration you will need to log into both the original source.com and the new target.com accounts as the user, trigger a sync to a local machine and then manually copy the files from the source.com directory on the local machine to the target.com directory and let it sync up.
Finalising The Migration
At this stage all data should be migrated between the two accounts for each user and the final step is to reset all of the new user account passwords under target.com. You can then allow you users to log in and verify the migrations success.
Once all users have verified that there are no issues you can then delete the original source.com G Suite account.
This is a pretty manual process which works fine for a small number of users. I migrated fifteen. There are programs out there that will automate the process for you at a cost. For my client the costs were prohibitive but the benefit was massive.
Managing multiple Domains via G Suite doesn’t seem to be that well written about on the web. For agencies and consultants I suspect it is an ideal way to segregate your accounts for clients and provides a useful way to set up permissions using Organisational Units and Groups. I will try and write more about these subjects soon.