From Skiff Mail to Zoho Mail

We will be closing down Skiff’s product suite after a 6-month sunset period.Skiff Team

Since the announcement of the end of Skiff Mail earlier this year I have tried to find an alternative, but not to avail. I surfed forums and searched the net, but could not find anything new compared to my last search for a free email service provider. So, I decided to use my second pick (see Replacing GandiMail with a new email service). It is worth mentioning, however, that Zoho Mail was not a bad choice; it was just not as great 1 as Skiff! And, fortunately, I had two contenders, otherwise I don’t know what I would have done. Indeed, Skiff and Zoho were the only two providers that came with the two mandatory features I was looking for, namely a custom domain address and (unlimited 2) aliases, for free.

Preparing for the migration

Having recently gone through the process (from GandiMail to Skiff), I had a better idea of what to do. Still, I wanted to be safe… Moreover, this time I wanted to migrate my emails (from Skiff) or at least the content of my Inbox; something I didn’t do when I moved from GandiMail to Skiff.

Exporting from Skiff

We encourage you to export your data and migrate custom domains within the next 6 months. We’ve prepared this guide to make that process as easy as possible.Skiff Team

In the so-called Major Skiff update email, Skiff mentioned a guide to help with the process. However, their “Migrating your data” page (i.e., guide) was quite rudimentary:

How can I export emails?

Navigate to https://app.skiff.com/mail/inbox?settingTab=export

Click “Export”

Confirm the download location and start the export process

Note: Your mailbox will download as an MBOX file. If you prefer to download a selection of emails, you can bulk select and click the “download” icon, which will download a ZIP of EML files.

Importing to Zoho

Zoho Mail offers a hassle-free data migration process for organizations who have their email hosted with other cloud-based service providers or on-premise email infrastructure to Zoho Mail. Based on the organization’s requirements, administrators can transfer their existing data to Zoho Mail using one of the available migration types.Zoho Mail

They have a full “Migration to Zoho Mail” page, explaining the Steps to complete before Migration or other Migration Best Practices. They even list several migration types to choose from; yet, there was no mention of any MBOX file!

First problem and solution

Trying to figure out what I should do next, I discovered that Support for MBOX was requested 10 years ago by the Zoho Community. The answer back then was As of now, we do not have any plans to implement the required option. Given the insisting community, they replied later As of now we do not have option to perform MBOX specific migration, however we do have plans to provide this in future based on gathered requests and other priorities. Please bear with us till then. Four years later, however, when people were still inquiring about this functionality,…

Not happy to inform that we don’t have a direct way of importing mbox file into Zoho Mail still. We had a plan but due to some practical difficulties available with this feature it was put on hold.Nelson A

There is a convoluted workaround (involving the conversion of the MBOX files to EML files via the Thunderbird mail client), as well as third-party software to convert MBOX files into EML files, but given the necessity to install extra tools, add-ons, and/or software, I decided to go for EML files instead (see Note from Skiff’s guide above).

Exporting from Skiff – reloaded

Within Skiff Mail (for desktop), I navigated to Settings > Export where you can Export all your data from Skiff. There, I could see two options:

  • Emails. Export all your emails in MBOX or EML format
  • Contacts. Export all your contacts in VCF format.

I chose the former and clicked on Export. However, despite the aforementioned statement, there was no option to choose the EML format and Skiff exported an MBOX file.

Fortunately, I found an article – How to migrate your data from Skiff to Proton – with detailed steps for how to export your emails from Skiff as EML files. From my Inbox, I bulk-selected all my emails (by clicking the checkbox in the top left), right-clicked on the selected emails, and chose Export in the contextual menu. This time, my emails (each as an ELM file) were downloaded as a ZIF archive.

Getting my business email at Zoho Mail

By Zoho Mail

So, I just had to follow the steps; the video, which was posted 2 years ago, was relatively accurate (despite a few differences).

Creating my Zoho account

As explained in the video, I navigated to Zoho’s pricing page, scrolled down to the Forever Free Plan, and clicked on SIGN UP NOW. Then, I provided my name, an email address (I could have given a phone number instead), and my password. I agreed to their Terms of Service and Privacy Policy (but not to receive marketing communication from Zoho and Zoho’s regional partners for future product updates, services and events) and clicked SIGN UP.

Once my email address had been verified, I was directed to an Email Setup page (with all the steps listed on the left panel).

Welcome to Zoho Mail!

Adding my domain name

First, I was invited to “Add a domain you already own to continue your account setup.” I provided my domain name and my organization name (aka my name). I also had to specify the type of organization; I chose Other Orgs & Services because none of the options were a good match. I clicked on Add, dreading some issues…

Congratulations! Your domain ‘COGITACTIVE.COM’ added successfully

Domain verification

Here, I have to comment on how smooth this step was with Zoho Mail as compared to Skiff. Granted, I had the video tutorial to follow; still, the whole process is way better than what I had to go through with Skiff (see Replacing GandiMail with a new email service to have an idea of how confusing it was).

After clicking on Proceed to domain verification, I was offered 3 methods to do so:

  • Add a TXT record in the DNS (Recommended)
  • Add a CNAM record in the DNS
  • Upload HTML file in the website

I chose the recommended method and followed the 4-step instructions that were provided there.

First, I logged in to my hosting provider account. Yes, you read this correctly, hosting provider and not registrar. Beware, you should go to your domain’s DNS provider. However, to point my domain name to my website, I have replaced the nameservers of my registrar, namely Gandi, with those of my hosting provider, namely SiteGround, so all my DNS editing should be done in the latter (see Pointing my domain name to my website).

There, I went to Site Tools > DNS Zone Editor > Create new record, selected the TXT tab, and chose Add your own TXT records. I copied/pasted the TXT value (unique to my domain) provided by Zoho, left the Name field empty, and changed the TTL to 1 hour for faster propagation (than the 24-hour default). Step two, done!

The third step should have taken from 30 minutes to 1 day according to the instructions. It consists of waiting for the changes to propagate. I didn’t have to wait that long; in a few minutes, I could move to the fourth and last step.

Finally, as instructed, I went back to the Zoho page and clicked on the Verify TXT Record button to complete the domain verification process.

You have now verified your domain ownership

Creating my domain-based email address

Next, I just had to provide a username for my email address (i.e., what email address I wanted) and, after clicking on Create, I was done!

Adding aliases

Now, I should have set up users 3, but being part of a one-man staff organization (see The Who and the When), I was already done (with that step).

Anyway, I decided to implement all my aliases at that point; hoping I would not reach any limit/problem. Still at the Setup Users step (as indicated on the left panel), I clicked on my name (on the right panel), moved to the Mailbox Settings tab, and then to the Email Aliases section.

Click on a user’s name to view detailed information about the particular user or to change any user-specific settings.

I added my aliases one by one (+ Add button) and for each alias created I received a confirmatory email. Again, the whole process was straightforward and, what is more, I had no limitation issue!

I also skipped the following step – Setup Groups – a useful feature that I have however no use of (given my one-man staff configuration).

DNS Mapping

At that point, all my emails were still arriving at Skiff (including the aforementioned alias-confirmation emails). If you have read my Pointing my domain name to my website article, this is no surprise to you; otherwise, I would advise you to go through it.

Once you verify your domain and create users, you will be able to send emails from domain-based accounts. However, you will not be able to receive emails until you configure the MX records for your domain.

This consisted of adding three MX records and two additional TXT records. All the info (including the priority for the MX records) was provided in a neat table with some sort of error symbol (white exclamation mark in a red circle) in the last column called “Status”. All the values, but one (see blow), were there, and after a few copies/pastes from this page to Site Tools > DNS Zone Editor > Create new record in Siteground, I was done.

“Again, super easy thanks to Zoho well done setup instructions.”

The tricky part I am referring to is the SPF record (one of the two TXT records). You might remember (from my last experience) that you can have only one TXT record beginning with v=spf1 and when I wanted to add the one from Skiff I had an error message. To make a long story short, I could not find the one from Gandi (to delete it and add the one from Skiff) because Siteground had merged the Gandi SPF value with its own. What I did, therefore, was to replace the Gandi part with the Skiff part, keeping the rest of the SPF record as such.

This time, I didn’t have to guess what I should do because when I clicked on View SPF value in the aforementioned table, I saw a popup window with the following warning, and what is more two alternative solutions to the problem.

Multiple SPF records

On checking your DNS records, we see that there is an existing SPF record for your domain. Multiple SPF records are invalid according to the Sender Policy Framework.

Replace the existing TXT record with below SPF value

[OBFUSCATED]

OR

Replace the existing TXT record with below merged value

[OBFUSCATED]

I first tried the second option (merged), but it didn’t work. Bummer! Then I tried to merge the values myself (as I did back then for Skiff; see above), but not to avail. So, I ended up using the first option. In keeping with housekeeping, I removed all the other Skiff records (MX, CNAME, and TXT) and I received immediately an email from Skiff – still in Skiff, surprisingly – about this issue.

With the aforementioned error symbols (in the Status column) now green, when I clicked on the button to verify the new DNS records I received this happy message:

All the records have been verified successfully

Email migration

Unfortunately, despite the many options listed, I could not figure out which one to use. I could not opt for their One-click migration, also known as App-based Migration, because it is currently supported only by Google Workspace and Microsoft 365. Similarly, the IMAP/POP migration was not an option because neither my Skiff nor my free Zoho accounts support these protocols. The last option was to use Zoho’s Exchange Migration Wizard. However, the latter was referred to as Microsoft Exchange in the list; for this reason I discarded this option as well.

I decided to skip that step – for now – and moved on with the setting up process. Indeed, in another Zoho article – Import / Export Emails – it was stated, In Zoho Mail, you can import/ export emails (migrate into or migrate from), with every single email in the standard EML format, zipped together into .ZIP archives. I decided to go for this approach (later).

Exchange Migration

Maybe I overlooked the Exchange Migration option. In the Zoho article “Migration to Zoho Mail”, it is indeed explained that If your previous email service was run by an in-house/ on-premise Exchange Server (without POP/IMAP support) or the user’s emails are available as offline PSTor EML files, then administrators can use Zoho’s Exchange Migration Wizard to migrate the emails from Exchange Server to the respective user accounts in Zoho Mail. They even provide a recapitulating table of all the Options available for migration using the Zoho Exchange Migration wizard.

MigrationDescription
EML Migration• Use this when the data is available in ZIP or EML file format.
• Migration can either be done by a user or an admin.
• All mailbox data (Mail/Contacts/Calendar/Tasks/Notes) can be migrated.

They also have a full article dedicated to EML Migration using their wizard. My bad! Now, if this involved downloading the Exchange migration tool as suggested in both articles, I am okay with my oversight.

Mobile app

Due to the lack of support for IMAP/POP, I decided to use the App – as I did back then with Skiff. There are, however, two main differences. As opposed to Skiff, which offered a Private, End-to-End Encrypted Mail, the Zoho encryption and security features might not be as tight (see Replacing GandiMail with a new email service). Therefore I was a little reluctant to use their calendar in addition to their email services. On the other hand, as opposed to Skiff for which I had to install two separate apps – one for my emails and one for their calendar – Zoho Calendar is available on the Zoho Mail mobile app. So, I might use it anyway.

Zoho Mail App allows you to send/receive emails and also access your Zoho Calendar. Through this app, you can view events on your calendar, add/edit them when required, and also manage basic settings like enabling/disabling CRM calendar and notifications for email reminders. The app is available for download both on iOS and Android.Zoho

Importing my Inbox emails

If you have your emails as EML files, you can use the EML import. If the emails are stored locally on your system, you can import them using this method, and access them from your Zoho Mail account.Zoho

I went to Settings > Import/ Export Emails, chose “Import from EML”, and browsed my ZIP archive. Then, I had to choose between two options (see below) – to be honest, I experimented with both and deleted the folder that was not as anticipated – I clicked on Import. Done!

If you choose the Import under the chosen folder option, all the emails in your file will get imported to the selected folder, irrespective of the email structure in your .ZIP file.

If you pick Import directly to your account, the folder structure will get replicated in your mailbox.

Houston, we have a problem

As always, when creating a new email account/address, I send myself an email to and from this new mailbox. I did receive the email sent via Zoho, but could not receive anything (from there)! Weird. I was in a hurry, so I had to leave this unresolved, hoping that when I got back, I would have received my test emails…

Instead, I received – in my other email account – error messages! I didn’t pay attention, at first, to their content – just being frustrated by the error! I tried again and again. I even checked my Skiff account, which doesn’t make any sense. Before looking at the error eventually…

“Error with Gandi? What does Gandi have to do with this?”

This is when I realized the problem – and the solution. When I set up my Skiff email, I left the MX Records of Gandi in place; just to make sure everything was working fine (before removing them; see Replacing GandiMail with a new email service). This was possible given the high priority – 0 – attributed to the MX records of Skiff compared to those of Gandi – 10 and 50.

Yep, I forgot to come back to finish my housekeeping back then and I didn’t delete Gandi MX records. Guess what, both Zoho and Gandi have their lowest priority set to 10. The emails were routed to Gandi (instead of Zoho) where there is no mailbox to receive them anymore. Problem solved!


1 At the time of my decision, the feature that tips the scale was the access to IMAP / SMTP protocols. It was removed from Zoho’s free plan a couple of years earlier, whereas this feature was supposed to be added sometime this year to Skiff Email. Besides that, they were pretty tied (from my point of view); if you put aside the End-to-End Encryption, of course. ^
2 This was actually an unresolved issue about Zoho; it was not clear if the 30-alias feature applies to the free plan as well. Besides, 30 is a finite number – i.e., not unlimited – but it is quite reasonable. ^
3 I can have up to 5 users for free; an option I considered when I had to move my two mailboxes from Gandimail. But I ended up with Skiff and only one mailbox. ^

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