Google Workspace alternatives for families

Posted 2022-01-20

With Google finally pulling the plug on the free ‘Google Apps for Your Domain’ accounts, I thought it really is time to look for alternatives for the (arguably) bog-standard email use-case that is my family.

We've been using a setup like this for the past fifteen years:

  • Five people are part of the “organization”: two parents, three kids
  • Let's concentrate on email. While we do use calendars, contacts, and cloud storage, these services are easily available in our iCloud and Microsoft 365 subscriptions, too
  • The parents currently need 6-7 GB email storage each, the kids still less then one
  • There are eight different domain names set up in the organization
  • Two accounts use aliases, one has 10 different email addresses in use
  • There is one group alias (one email address which can be used externally to have mail show up in the inbox of my wife and myself)
  • For web access, we're using 2FA—usually with TOTP or Yubikeys as second factor
  • For any other access (smartphone, desktop client), we're using OAuth2 or manually created single-use, per-device passwords (“App passwords”)

My current table of contestants looks like this:

Google Workspace Fastmail Protonmail Zoho Mail Tutanota
Plan Business Starter 3×Basic, 2×Standard Visionary Standard Mail Lite (3×5 GB, 2×10) Custom
Price per year €312 ~€200 €288 €180 €66 €252
Hosted in ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ USA Switzerland Germany EU possible Germany
№ users 1.8 bln ? >50 mln ? >15 mln “millions”
Established 2004 1999 2014 2014 2008 2011
Storage/User 30 GB 2/30 GB 20 GB total 10 GB 5/10 GB 100 GB total
Aliases/User 30 ~135 ~10 50 20 total
Forwarding to external accounts ✔️ ✔️ ✔️(src) ? ?
Group aliases ✔️ ✔️ ? with custom forwarding rule ? ?
№ custom domains 600 100 10 unlimited? unlimited? unlimited
Max. attachment size 25/50 MB ~50 MB 25 MB 100 MB 250 MB 25 MB
2FA methods U2F, TOTP, SMS, App TOTP, U2F, SMS only TOTP(!) probably TOTP, U2F (the tutorial is a bit quirky) TOTP, U2F, SMS TOPT, U2F
App passwords ✔️ ✔️(src) (src) ✔️(src)
Google import tool not necessary ✔️ ✔️ (src) ✔️(src)

All these services assume that you register your domains somewhere else and have complete control over the DNS settings.

Services that I did not include in the list:

  • Apple iCloud+
    Apple currently only supports three different email address per domain and a maximum of five domains. This is pretty sad, as we're already paying for an iCloud subscription.
  • Microsoft 365 Family
    Again, so sad, as we are already paying for this. Alas, there's no real support for custom domains in the family offering. As I don't think “Family” (€99/yr) and “Business Basic” (€300/yr) can be mixed, the next possible offering from Microsoft would be “Business Standard” at €750/yr which is way too expensive to take into account, IMHO.
  • Posteo
    No support for custom domains. :(

After creating this table, I'm not so sure about how easy it would be to find a decent alternative. Feature set and pricing is way closer to Google Workspace, than I expected. If it comes to a switch, so far Fastmail seems like the best option: It is future-proof, as individual accounts can be upgraded when necessary. I'm pretty shocked about the security aspects of ProtonMail, maybe I'm missing something?

All politics aside: Should we move away from Google, there are some more things to think about that:

  • Cost of migration
  • Loss of access to services like Google Meet, etc.
  • What will happen to the one paid Google Photos account?
  • What will happen to the one Android user, who uses their Google account as main “Android account”?
  • What will happen to the YouTube accounts in use?

I'll create some trial accounts to get a feel for the alternatives and will update this post.

Edit, 2022-01-21:

Edit, 2022-01-24: