When Google launched “Google Apps for Domains” in 2006, it was an exciting development from the not-yet hegemonic search engine. Under a rotating set of names (Google Apps for Work, GSuite, and Google Workspace) Google has developed over the years a robust suite of applications, including Gmail, Google Docs, and more.
But since then, Google’s ad revenue model has received more scrutiny, its dominance of the search engine market has attracted scrutiny, and its at times draconian or non-existent customer service has caused frustration. Not only that, but recently Google announced it would close free Google Workspace legacy accounts, pulling the rug out from under many of their software suite’s earliest adopters.
The good news is, there are alternatives out there. And even if you’re satisfied with Google, it’s still worth checking out the options and knowing how to move away from Google if you have to.
Why move away from Google?
But first, let’s talk about why you might want to move away from Google in the first place.
As a matter of principle
Maybe you started using Google back in the early days, when “Do no evil,” was not just a slogan, but a mandate, and the search giant had not yet turned to monetizing every last bit of data they could squeeze out of you. Now, disenchanted with the search giant’s effective monopoly, you’ve made the decision to break free as a matter of principle. If that’s the case, you’ll probably be happy with any of Google’s many competitors for the Google applications that you use, but depending on the exact principle you’re upholding by leaving Google, you might want to consider some of the other reasons for leaving Google below.
Own your own data
One aspect of Google’s monopolistic tendencies are that when you use Google’s data storage and collaborative tools, you don’t really own your data. That was highlighted recently when Google first announced it was closing the free version of Google Workspaces without giving users an option to migrate to the (free) consumer-grade services. That’s bad enough for any personal data you may have stored in the cloud and even worse if you purchased any media or other data through Google’s store. If you want to own your own data, there’s no better way than self-hosted data storage options. But you don’t have to run a server out of your basement. You can use a web or cloud server and still own your data (though be sure to make backups!).
You might also be looking for more privacy. This goes hand-in-hand with owning your own data, and self-hosted options also give you the greatest level of privacy. But you should also consider the level of security offered, if this is your reason for leaving Google behind.
Protection from policy changes
While Google did change their stance after user outrage over having to pay up or lose their data, that didn’t mean that everything that was once free has been returned to being free. In particular, free custom domain email is no longer an option at Google, and there are plenty of reasons why Google’s free option might not be right for your business as it grows. The bottom line is, even if you continue to use Google, either by paying for services like custom email, or switching to free versions, you’re at the whim of Google’s policy changes. And due to their monopoly power, those changes are more distanced from everyday user experience than elsewhere.
Upgrade to custom email
Lastly, as mentioned, free custom domain email is now a thing of a past using Google, but it’s still possible to get free custom email for your domain name outside of Google. But more on that below.
There are many advantages to a custom email address. Not only is a custom email address more memorable and distinctive, it makes you more professional, improves your credibility, and helps you build your brand.
Alternatives to Google
The first step, though, is assessing exactly what Google services you’re actually using, and finding alternatives to them. You might take some of these for granted, but there are alternatives to all of them, some of which might actually work better for you.
Document, spreadsheet, etc. editing
Google Docs is Google’s answer to Microsoft Office Suite, but with the added benefit of facilitating collaborative work.
If you use Google Docs without regard to the collaborative aspect, some of the alternatives to Microsoft Office might be good options for you, such as OpenOffice, LibreOffice, and Calligra Suite.
But collaborative editing is not unique to Google Docs either. What’s more, Google Docs is not available as a self-hosted option, meaning that you cannot use Google Docs <i>and</i> control your own data.
Here are a few alternatives to Google Docs where you can edit shared documents in your browser that you can host yourself. These options are all also open source, meaning that a community exists around each of these to help you out if you need it, or, if you’re a developer yourself, that you can participate in and contribute to, if there are features you’d like to see developed or improved. Try getting that from Google:
Etherpad is a basic text editing application that may not have quite the same feature set as Google Docs, but as the advantage of more clearly displaying which text was written by whom, which makes collaboration and versioning much more visible and enabling multiple people to work on the same documen at the same time.
One advantage of Collabora is that you can both host it on file sharing platforms like NextCloud or ownCloud, or you can use it as a standalone server-based service, though the first option starts at $18 per user per year.
Collabora is notable for its comment workflow, which gives you more flexibility in how to resolve and mark individual comments.
CryptPad gets its name from the fact that whatever you store on CryptPad is encrypted by default, which makes it a great option if one of the reasons you’re leaving Google is because of privacy concerns.
NextCloud is actually a file sharing platform (more on that later), but one on which you can host a number of collaborative apps (including some of the ones listed here). There is also a wide range of collaborative tools available from NextCloud, including collaborative document editing in the style of Google Docs.
Google Drive provides data storage solutions that enable you to store files up to 15 GB and up to 2 TB using Google One, Google’s premium file storage solution.
There are several good alternatives for data storage outside of Google, but we’ll highlight just a few here.
As mentioned above, NextCloud is a self-hosted file sharing platform that you can install on a web hosting or cloud hosting instance. Not only can you store files, but you can easily share them with NextCloud’s File Drop feature, or you can quickly and easily generate a link with various levels of permissions to share a file with a friend, family member, or colleague.
OwnCloud and NextCloud are cousins, descended from the same project. While they share a similar provinence, they’re a little bit different in how they’ve implemented certain features like sharing files with others.
For a non-open source option that offers an alternative more similar to Google Drive in that it’s not a self-hosted option, you could try DropBox. Depending on your exact reasons for leaving Google, though, DropBox may not offer as many advantages as NextCloud or OwnCloud, since DropBox is a major player in filesharing. Still, it’s not Google, and while you won’t enjoy the benefits of a self-hosted file sharing option with DropBox, it may still meet your needs better than Google.
Google Meet is Google’s virtual meeting application. With Google Meet, you can host virtual meetings for work, school, or social events.
There are several alternatives to Google Meet, including direct competitors and self-hosted options.
For a self-hosted option, you can use Jitsi. Jitsi is an open-source videoconferencing application that you can install on your own Linux server.
Originally designed primarily for distance learning, BigBlueButton gives users a “Big Blue Button” to press that launches a new video conference for work, school, or whatever. You can use BigBlueButton online or download BigBlueButton from their website to install on your own server.
At this point, Zoom is synonymous with virtual meetings, moreso than Google Meet. If you’re just looking to get away from Google, Zoom is the market leader and definitely provides a comparable service (really, it’s Google Meet that provides a comparable service to Zoom), but the advantages of switching to Zoom from Google Meet mostly end there, outside of some differences in the functioning and features of each.
Gmail is one of the most commonly used Google apps, whether as a custom domain email service, where your email address is @ your domain own domain (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org). Perhaps even more common than that, but not as professional nor as distinctive is Gmail’s free email service.
There are free and more privacy-centric alternatives to both kinds of email service.
ProtonMail has been long hailed as the privacy-friendly alternative to a standard Gmail account not attached to a domain name. ProtonMail offers end-to-end encrypted email and self-destructing emails, providing a high level of security and privacy. ProtonMail has several tiers, starting with a free plan, and then three different tiers of paid plans.
Like Gmail, the free plan doesn’t allow custom domain emails, but you do have the option to receive emails at your “short” address @pm.me in addition to @protonmail.com.
With the “Plus” price tier, you can add custom domain email, use more data storage (ProtonMail provides 500 MB of storage for free), and you can send and receive email from your short, @pm.me address, and the other two tiers add more capacity in terms of number of domains, data storage, and other features.
GandiMail is Gandi’s free email service. GandiMail is exclusively available as a custom domain email service, so you’ll need to have a domain name registered at Gandi to take advantage of this option.
When your domain name is registered at Gandi, you get 2 free custom email addresses with 3 GB of storage each, and you can add more addresses for an extra cost.
You can access your GandiMail email addresses using IMAP/POP3/SMTP (these are the protocols used by email clients like Thunderbird, Outlook, and Apple Mail to sync with, download from, or send to an email account.
You also have the choice of two different webmail options: Roundcube or SOGo.
Roundcube is a webmail service available to GandiMail users. If you run your own email servers, you can also install Roundcube for your own use. Compared to SOGo, the interface is a little more old school, but not only does it get the job done, it offers a no-frills webmail option.
SOGo is the other webmail service available to GandiMail users. Like Roundcube, it’s also available to install for your own email service if you choose to run your own mail servers. It has more advanced features like a calendar, several printing options, and message tagging.
One last note about GandiMail is that with GandiMail, you have robust security settings at your fingertips. That enables you to protect access to your webmail accounts with two-factor authentication and turn off access via IMAP/POP3/SMTP, so that you can be sure your custom email accounts are secure.
Other custom domain email options
Depending on what else you do with your domain name and what hosting service you use, you may be entitled to another custom email address option. For example, Bluehost offers free email with web hosting that offers three webmail options for $35.40 per year, and HostGator offers unlimited email with web hosting for $31.68 per year (with access via Roundcube). If you need web hosting as well as email hosting, these may be good options for you for your email hosting.
Google Chrome alternatives
How to move away from Google
Now that you know some of your options for replacing Google services, especially options that are open-source and self-hosted, you can now start to move your services out of Google.
You may want to do this piece-by-piece. That is, start with one service, then after you’ve adjusted, move another. Or you might want to move everything all at once. Either way, the steps are going to be pretty much the same.
How to export your data from Google
The first step is to export your data from Google. Even if you’re just moving your emails, you’ll have to export that data as well.
How to buy a domain name
For any self-hosted or custom domain options to work for you, you’ll need a domain name. If you don’t already have one, that means you’ll need to buy a domain name. The proces of buying a domain name itself is pretty straightforward and simple, but you should also put some thought into what domain name you want to buy. There are many factors that go into your decision, including how to pick a memorable domain name that you can easily communicate to others.
When you’re ready to buy one, though, you can go to the registrar of your choice, search for the domain name, and click through the purchase process. At Gandi, you can search for your domain name from our homepage, gandi.net, using the search bar at the top of the page, or you can search for your domain name right here:
How to create custom email
If your plan is to create a custom domain email address (or multiple), you can do that with your new email account provider.
Create custom email at Gandi
If you decide to go with Gandi, you get two free custom email addresses with your domain name. To add an email address, you can just go to the “Email” tab from your domain’s dashboard, available by clicking your domain from the list of domains on the “Domains” tab in your account.
You can then access your email via webmail, using either Roundcube or SOGo, or in your own email client, using IMAP/POP3/SMTP.
At Gandi, you have the added benefit of two-factor authentication for your email accounts.
At another provider
If you decide to go with another provider, you can still link it to your Gandi domain name. However, you should set up your email account with your email provider first.
Once your account with your other email provider is set up, be sure to update your domain name’s MX records.
How to install self-hosted apps
If you want full control over your data and the full power to do what you want with your Google-alternative apps, self hosting is the way to go.
Rather than just signing up for a Google account that has access to the apps that Google has specifically developed for their users and infrastructure, with this option, you get your own hosting, install your own applications, and manage your own data.
How to import email from Gmail
The simplest way to import email from Gmail into a new account is by using an email client like Thunderbird to download your email using POP3 or IMAP. For this, you’ll need to connect your Thunderbird or email client to Google’s mail servers, store your email locally in your email client, and then upload them to your new email service using POP3 or IMAP.
Hosting options for moving away from Google
Luckily, you don’t have to run your own internet servers out of your basement to have this control over your data and apps. You can use a web hosting or cloud hosting service. Not only does this give you greater flexibility and control than Google services, it also puts you in the driver’s seat in terms of determining security and the amount of resources allocated to your apps.
• Cloud Hosting
For several of the self-hosted apps listed above as alternatives to Google apps, you’ll need your own hosting infrastructure on which you would install an operating system like Linux.
You have several options for cloud hosting, including GandiCloud VPS.
If you’re running these applications for a business or you have strong admin skills, GandiCloud VPS gives you the flexibility you need to install apps.
• Web hosting
Apps like NextCloud and OwnCloud, though, are easier to install with more of the basics taken care of. Web hosting enables you to have an instance where you can install applications in a given, pre-installed programming language and use pre-installed database software.
Gandi’s web hosting option, Simple Hosting, also lets you scale up depending on the amount of resources you need, and is completely separated from other instances.
How to install NextCloud at Gandi
Installing NextCloud at Gandi couldn’t be easier.
You just need to add a Simple Hosting instance to your account, choose your domain name and NextCloud address, and finish the installation.
How to export your data from Google
The next step is to export your data from Google.
Exporting data from Google
Exporting your data from Google involves creating an archive file (zip or tgz) that is password protected on your Google drive. You choose which services you want to export and Google creates one or more downloadable links.
Then, be sure to store your archive file in a safe place.
Import Google data to NextCloud
If you’re using NextCloud, you can even import your data directly from Google.
For that, you’ll need to download and install an app for NextCloud and make sure OAuth is active on your Google account.
Migrating to other services
There are many reasons you might want to move away from Google, especially in light of some of the recent policy changes regarding Workspaces. Depending on your exact reasons for leaving, there are more or less attractive alternatives to some of Google’s most popular apps. In particular, those can be divided into online web services that, similar to Google, give you access to services via an online account, and self-hosted options like NextCloud and/or apps that can be installed on your own infrastructure, or using instances of your own infrastructure on cloud hosting or web hosting services.
These options are attractive for the fact that they allow you to control your own data and maintain the protection of your data. Migrating to these services can be quite easy, whether for email, file sharing, or other services. With these services, it all starts with your domain name.Tagged in CloudNom de domaineSecuritySimple HostingWebmail