Sure, we know how Google and Facebook are tracking every move we make on the internet. Many privacy conscious internet users and business people use tools that prevent this data collection. Fortunately, there is an app for that. But what if Google completely prevents you accessing your account when traveling? When you urgently need a business document? You have to quit Google altogether.
It is surprisingly difficult to stop using Google services, and find replacements for them. Gmail, Drive, Plus, Docs and other Google services have gradually crept in to our daily work and life. That’s a big mistake to let it happen. I know, because now I am paying the price for it. The price is the time it takes to find reliable alternatives, transfer the data, and change working habits so that the new service is fully and securely utilized.
The fundamental problem with Google services (Gmail, Plus, Docs, backup service One I am not going to even try) is that they don’t understand that people travel. I have to break the news to Google: people travel for fun (holidays, vacations, family celebrations), for work, and some may have to escape war or disaster in their home countries.
Google just doesn’t get it. No. Google services insist I am a hacker who has managed to discover my user id and password because I am logging in from another geographical location today from where I was yesterday. The cloud services refuse me from accessing my own account on the road. Google Support doesn’t help – it is a free service, after all.
Below is a screen shot where Google claims it is unusual activity when I trying to login to my account. They locked my account because I was traveling. That’s it. Keep your account, Google. I am not wasting my time on this anymore.
Two years ago, I made the decision to move my work, business, and life away from Google. No, it didn’t take years to migrate (more like two days), but I am still getting messages from some of my dormant Google accounts (like the screen shot above).
Today, I can look back at the past two years and say that the migration was definitely worth it. All services I need for business and non-business work without idiotic interruptions that accuse me of being a criminal. In addition, I don’t have to worry too much about Google collecting my business and personal data, since I am not using any of its services.
What can a traveling small business owner, freelancer, remote worker, or digital nomad, who doesn’t have tools provided by the corporate IT department do without Google or other free services?
Here is what I have done:
- I pay for an email account from a reliable ISP (web hosting provider). Many ISPs give a large inbox up to 5 GB for the price of a domain name. Annual cost around 10-15 USD/Euros.
- Some hosted email services come with a calendar, some ISPs charge extra for it. I did not go that route, but installed a small calendar script on one of our company’s web servers. It works anywhere, anytime without problems.
- Google Plus social media channel may be important for someone, but it isn’t for me. Bye, bye Google+. Twitter and Medium work well on the road.
- I am still looking for an online photo album service that is guaranteed to work if I login today from Portsmouth and tomorrow from Kilkenny (it won’t be Google Photos, Flickr, Facebook, but a dedicated photo service).
- No more travel video clips to YouTube. Vimeo works well, and looks nice. Let’s see in the future what I do when I reach the Vimeo account limit.
- In addition to backing up data to an external drive, I have subscribed to a cloud backup service. For a few euros a month, I have online backup with support. The all important business documents are accessible anywhere without having to worry what Google is doing with them.
- I have replaced Google Analytics with a statistics/analytics package that runs inside WordPress (since all web sites I have built during recent years are running on WordPress).
If someone has managed to continuosly and reliably access Google or other free services via a VPN from multiple countries, I would like hear about it. I didn’t even try it, because I was so fed up. From privacy, tracking and data collection perspective, I am happy I quit Google completely.
Online security is not easy. For a service provider, it means constantly balancing between ease of use and security. Some companies do it right, some don’t – even after years of practice.