Free Google Mail is going away. What are my options?

Google is ending it’s free email service with GSuite including GMail with custom domains.

What is your strategy going forward?

If you want to continue, it will cost you at least $12/user a month. If you have a small company with 10 people, that’s $1440 every year for email @yourdomain. Sure, you also get Google Docs and collaboration and file storage, but it’s enough for small business to reconsider. And if you don’t use their applications, it’s a hefty fee.

So what are your options?

Pay for Google Workspace

$6 / $12 / $18 — per user, per month.

This will include Google docs, sheets, etc and collaboration tools. The benefits of doing this is that normal workflow will not be disrupted. But it is expensive, and it would reward bad behavior.

I take this as a wake up call and an incentive to get off of Google — which is too powerful, and needs to remind itself continually to not be evil — or at least try to convince us that it is.

Switch to Microsoft 365

$5 / $12.50 / $20 — per user, per month.

This also includes Microsoft Office — including the desktop versions at the higher level.

If you are Microsoft shop already, this is definitely a reasonable choice. Outlook (offline) or the rebranded Hotmail webmail app are both a better UI experience than Gmail.

However, the cloud services, collaboration, and integration of Google Drive, docs, sheets, and forms makes a compelling case if you use those tools.

Use an alternative cloud service like Zoho

$1 / $4 / $6 or $7? — per user per month.

Zoho has cheap email but the workspace plan for $6/month also includes office applications. The quality is lower than Google or Microsoft though.

Zoho is a good option for a distributed workforce for teams that also use their business CRM and support tools, but at $37/month per employee can get pretty expensive. It’s a bit clunky however, and Zoho has had recent public data breaches.

Overall, I’d say that if you’re already using Zoho apps, its a workable email solution, but you’re better off with Google or Microsoft for just Email, Documents, or Collaboration.

Break free from the cloud

Another option is to skip an all in one cloud solution and use a free desktop office suite (LibreOffice) for documents. You can also pay for Microsoft Office.

There are many webmail clients, but you can also download email to an app (like Outlook or Thunderbird) on your desktop or mobile device. Like everyone used to do.

That still needs a solution for sending and receiving email. Gmail is still an option — if you only have and email address. But for professional or personal email with your own domain — you’ll need another solution.

Forward email from your domain provider to a free or cheap service.

You can forward email to a free service like Gmail, or to any another email account. This is a viable, quick solution for individuals with a custom domain and one or more email aliases.

Use a low cost hosted email service.

You can set up email @yourdomain and have it forward to another service (like Gmail) or download to your own app.

There are a lot of webmail applications, but most of their interfaces are limited. And so are their storage options. So I would recommend setting up POP3 and downloading your email to use with a your own client. This can be tricky for non-technical users.

Use a traditional email server.

This last option is going to take some technical expertise or hiring someone to do it. Traditional email services have languished in the era of free Google email, but that era is coming to an end — quickly. I suspect many small businesses will need to take back ownership of their email and that traditional email services and profession email managed service providers will be making a comeback.

Currently, Google has the best spam filtering (by far). Microsoft is ok, but few webmail services can compare. There are commercial and open source spam filtering and antivirus tools, but they also require expert configuration and management. That is another area I expect to see more innovation.

I’m investigating all of these options, but in the long run, hope to take ownership of my email and help others to avoid being stranded in such a predicament again. The value of a good email administrator has definitely gone up.

Here is my own strategy:

  1. Pay for the first year of Google Workspace for my own small business accounts.
  2. Migrate (or remove) non-essential email (alternate domains, aliases) to the main account to reduce per-user fees.
  3. Forward / Redirect email from other domains to primary email accounts using Namecheap and GoDaddy free wildcard email forwarding.
  4. Evaluate Zoho mail for another small business where CRM and Support collaboration tools are needed.
  5. Backup all Google mail and documents to cloud (and local) storage.
  6. Investigate traditional email service provider for long term solution after year 1. Evaluating Fastmail or Protonmail for one small business.
  7. Use desktop and mobile email clients that use POP3 to download and IMAP for server storage — I think email protocols need a major overhaul.
  8. Use Microsoft Office (where licenses are already in use) and Libre Office (where full compatibility with Microsoft is not necessary).
  9. Make a goal of owning my own data (email and documents) with local and cloud backups.
  10. This includes evaluating other “free” cloud business services that may go away or become more expensive like Google email
  11. Support open source software and independent, decentralized protocols.

I’d like to hear your strategy for migrating off of Google Gmail & GSuite and would be happy to discuss them with you.

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