Moving away from Google Workspaces
Finding alternatives to Google Workspace / GSuite
Last updated on 5 June 2022. Created on 3 June 2022.
If you are one of the lucky ones that received an email with this subject line "[Action Required] Upgrade your G Suite legacy free edition subscriptions to Google Workspace by June 27, 2022", you already know what I'm talking about. You might also be a person who has a good friend that, a long time ago, has set you up with a G Suite account. This allowed you to use Gmail and other services with your custom domain. So instead of having email@example.com, your address could have been firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some time ago, Google decided to pull the plug on this. Initially, they announced that everybody must pay up or lose access to everything. Then they adjusted the tone a bit and offered an easier way out. You can move to a free version, but it will not include a custom domain (among other things).
So, you might find yourself in one of these situations:
- you manage multiple accounts for the whole family: you have emails, calendars, photos, maybe even apps bought and videos uploaded to YouTube;
- you have one or more accounts; mainly using them for email;
If you are in the second group, you are in luck as you have many options available. If you are in the first group, I feel for you. Your data is basically taken hostage at this point (or so it feels).
What are my options?
- First option is to learn from this lesson. Never trust one company with too much of anything.
- Second option: if you have too much at stake and too little time at the moment, my suggestion would be to make the upgrade, take the first year offer and use this time to make proper plans. 2.1 It seems that there's also the option to move to a non-commercial type of account. This should remove most of the stress, but plans must still be made.
- If you are mostly concerned about the email part, there's some good news, there are options available. And we will discuss them now.
Cheap email option - Zoho
Zoho Email Plans start from free and the first premium options are around $1/month/user. Using less than 5 GB of storage for your email? The free option is best for you. If not, the paid sounds great.
You can go one step further, and replace almost every other service from Google with Zoho (calendars, collaborative documents and so on). But what did we just say about having everything in one basket?
Strong privacy-focused email option - Tutanota or Proton
The second option is Tutanota. This service is focused on the email side of things, with a dash of Calendar and the inevitable Contacts. No Drive or VPN options like Proton does. It is also strongly focused on privacy and encryption. I really like the fact that you can choose any of their plans and then increase the space available to you as an add-on. Makes it more flexible for your needs.
I've used both services (the free edition) for years now, and I haven't had any issues.
It is known that having your own email server is a bit tricky. I think you always run the risk of having your IP banned and all your emails will reach the Spam folder. Or worse, if you don't know what you are doing, lose email and data. So, this option is not for the faint-hearted. I haven't completed my research here, but I know there are some options available to anyone for free. With a bit of tinkering, you could end up with quite a good solution.
However, if you don't already have a VPS rented out for some other services, then paying $5 per month for a server + dealing with setting things up + running the above-mentioned risks... I'm not sure if it is worth it. The main advantage here is that you own your data. Period. And this comes with a lot of responsibility, too.
If you managed to configure your email server properly and your emails don't end up in the spam folders, then you are good to go. Usually, you don't need to keep configuring anything after that point. Keep using it and making sure it is fairly updated.
If this proves to be too big of a challenge, there's a middle ground. Set up your email server to receive emails (which is much easier) then use a remote relay to send them. You can use a service such as Amazon SES.
Outside the box thinking - Aliases
What about some other, non-traditional options? Well, if you are using multiple email addresses to receive info, I can recommend using forwardemail. If you also need to send email from those addresses, then perhaps a better option would be to go with simplelogin. You can also self-install "simplelogin" if you would like to go with the DIY option.
What route will you take?
I think this is a topic that is still worth exploring. The number of options seems high, however, depending on your use case you might be limited to 1 or 2.
I am more than happy to take my time to choose something better for myself. And this starts with having no ads, having encryption and not letting other companies use my data to their benefit.
We still have a long way to go in terms of complete alternatives to the Google ecosystem. The App Store is one of them. But Google Photos also currently lacks a strong competitor. Not to mention YouTube. So let's start with our conversations (email), the people we come in contact with (contacts), how we spend our time (calendar).