Why monopolised services are not a good idea, tips on minimising your reliance on Google’s monopoly
If you use any of Google’s services (almost unavoidable at this point), and haven’t been living under a rock for the past 2 hours, you may have noticed some severe service disruptions for most, if not all of Google. Like many others I rely on Google for a few things – yes from a privacy perspective it’s not a good idea, however there are benefits such as convenience and security when using Google services such as SSO (Single-Sign On).
Convenience comes at a cost as we all witnessed today with massive outages – if Google goes down there is a ‘butterfly effect’ that radiates through many, many other services. During the outage I was logged out of all SSO-enabled accounts and even though it didn’t last long (in the grand scheme of things), this highlighted to me the problems that occur from monopolisation. I believe this extends to anything at risk of becoming, or already is monopolised. Too much power concentrated in one area is not good for anyone other than the entity holding the power. People will no doubt make inferences and assumptions about the meaning of this sentiment – just know this is a generalisation and is not meant to invoke political arguments (which seems inevitable in the current climate).
To put things in perspective, if you look at Down Detector, the number of reported Google incidents peaked at more than 57,000! That is only the reported. We can safely assume the global impact of Google’s outages is substantially more than the reported. How many people rely on Google’s services for their business? Up-time of cloud-based and online services are even more critical for everyone, especially as COVID-19 is still a credible threat to societies globally.
There are many ways in which people can migrate away from their reliance on Google. Let’s dig in!
First, we’ll tackle email, as this is how Google hooked people from its inception back in the early 2000s. Yes, Google was a search engine first and foremost, however, simply using Google to search for anything didn’t require an account (which I predict it will in future, they seem to be moving in that direction).
My top picks are as follows:
• Free option available that includes (at time of writing):
◦ One user
◦ 1 GB storage
◦ Tutanota domains only
◦ Limited search
◦ One calendar
◦ They are in the business of privacy and security
◦ All Tutanota to Tutanota emails are encrypted by default
• Their paid plan is great also, for €12 a year you get:
◦ 10 GB storage
◦ Custom domains
◦ Unlimited search
◦ Multiple calendars
◦ 5 aliases
◦ Inbox rules
◦ Support via email
◦ Share calendars
◦ Calendar invites
For €1 a month I think it’s a fantastic deal. I have personally been using Tutanota for many years. They are also not based in the US, which is a plus for people concerned about how the US handles data.
Next is Protonmail:
• Free option includes:
◦ 1 user
◦ 500MB storage
◦ 1 email address
◦ 150 messages per day limit
◦ 3 folders / labels
◦ Limited support
• Also secure!
• Protonmail Plus accounts cost €5 / month (€48 / year) and include:
◦ 1 user
◦ 5GB storage
◦ 5 email addresses
◦ 1000 messages per day
◦ 200 folders / labels
◦ Normal support
◦ Email filters
Protonmail are more expensive than Tutanota, though I have a limited in-depth knowledge of all the Protonmail features so I can’t say definitively whether it is worth 5x as much as Tutanota. It would honestly be hard to justify but I will research further.
Lastly, there is mailbox.org. I also use mailbox.org, though I am hesitant to fully recommend them simply based on their handling of 2FA (Two-factor authentication). If you don’t mind not using (or using their broken and awkward implementation) 2FA mailbox.org is a good option for the price - €1 per month.
Next up we have cloud storage. I think Google Drive is very enticing for a lot of people, and it’s “free”. Google Drive alternatives listed here might not be for everyone as some require some technical knowledge and equipment. Let’s start with the easiest (though not the cheapest) options and work down. I think one of the biggest selling points for most people is convenience, it is so easy to share documents and just about any files using Google Drive – this I have found is the biggest roadblock when collaborating with other people. Trust is also a factor, people perceive Google to be more “trustworthy” than Bob or Sally’s Nextcloud instance, but I digress…
If money is not too much of a barrier for you and you have some technical knowledge, I would have to suggest a home NAS such as a Synology. I have a small 2-bay Synology NAS and in terms of usage and convenience they are great. The Synology 2 Bay NAS DiskStation DS220+ (Diskless) - this box for example is $US299 (not including the hard drives) psst it’s an affiliate link. They allow for:
• File backups
• File syncing
• Media server
• A bunch of other stuff!
I’ve had my Synology for a couple of years and it hasn’t had any issues. One of the best things about them in my opinion is that you don’t have to expose your public IP to access it over the Internet.
QNAP is another great option. I have not personally used QNAP but I have been seriously considering it. Similar to Synology, QNAP provide home NAS solutions for backing up your important files as well as syncing across various devices. They also provide file collaborating similar to Google Drive and the ability to serve media such as through Plex. I like to think of NAS devices as the ‘consoles’ of the server world. Where game consoles allow people to play games with little to no fuss, QNAP and Synology allow people to have complete server architecture in their homes with little to no fuss.
The most comparible QNAP NAS to the above Synology would be the TS-251D-2G psst another affiliate link, thanks! QNAP are essentially Synology’s lesser known sibling, though that doesn’t mean they’re any less capable!
For the more technical among us, my next recommendation will transform your spare computer into a fully capable server / NAS (without the learning curve of a bare-metal server).
Unraid is awesome. Priced according to your storage needs, Unraid is installed onto a USB drive and runs in RAM. Unraid can do anything a more traditional NAS can do and more. You are only limited by the capability of your own hardware. The pricing structure is as follows:
◦ Up to 6 storage devices
◦ Up to 12 storage devices
◦ Unlimited storage devices
This guide covers the most basic ways to “de-Google” your life by migrating to alternative Email and Cloud Storage solutions to Google.