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The End of G Suite Legacy Free Edition. Alternatives?

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The writing has been on the wall for some time and the official news finally came out last month. G Suite Legacy Free Edition is ending on May 1, 2022 and Google wants all the users to migrate to the paid Google Workspace service. Apparently the news has rubbed some personal/home users the wrong way and they have been pretty vocal about their feelings on that.

Google seems to have thrown in some sort of a peace gesture, but really there's no doubt whatever Google will potentially offer will not be the same as the free G Suite. It'll probably be some hybrid, quasi service with a @gmail.com email and enough built-in pain to encourage the switch to the paid service.

I myself have been a long time user of the free G Suite account and the news of its demise was a bit hard to take. Still, I always knew that the free service was not going to last forever so I never got too deep with it. I mostly used its various services for testing purposes but never built anything substantial around the free legacy G Suite. The one exception was using its email service, sort of a Gmail counterpart but with one's custom domains. I actually posted about the circumstances that recently lead me to migrate to G Suite email and how I configured it with a number of email addresses and domains, such as [email protected], forwarding them to my personal Gmail inbox.

The setup had been working flawlessly but now, Less than two years later, the ride was over and I had a choice to make. I narrowed my choices to three:

• Submit to Google by upgrading to a paid Workspace plan. With my two users, I was looking at $12/mo + taxes. Was that really worth the cost for essentially an email forwarding service?

• Move to another provider such as Zoho. Their $1/mo Mail Lite plan seemed a bit restrictive but probably good enough for me.

• As luck would have it, a few months ago Cloudflare had introduced a new service called Email Routing. It essentially does what I was using G Suite for, but only easier to set up.

The choice for me was obvious, Cloudflare. My domains were already there using a number of its services including site acceleration, firewalling, and SSL termination. The only catch, Email Routing was, and still is, in beta so one has to request access and then be patient for a few weeks to be granted access.

I quickly jumped on that for all my domains and after a few weeks I had access to the service.

Setting up DNS records for the domains, the email addresses, and forwarding instructions were simple enough. Setting up email aliases was a tedious job though with lots of clicking and typing to add my long list of aliases. There was no batch upload facility nor an API to automate the process, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. I'm sure Cloudflare will add those features in time.

The one important item missing from this scenario is the ability to send emails using those custom addresses. With G Suite I could log into its Gmail platform and send emails under those custom addresses. Cloudflare's Email Routing is a forwarding service for inbound emails. There are no facilities to send out emails from that service.

I hardly send any emails under my domains addresses so it's not a deal breaker, but one simple workaround for now would be using a protected basic Web emailing form to send out messages via a configured relay service (*see below) such as SendGrid. In fact SendGrid does offer a free plan with a limited number of daily email relays.

So far Cloudflare's Email Routing has been performing admirably. All incoming emails are forwarded to my personal Gmail inbox as before. The email headers are kept intact with SPF and DKIM continuing to function as they should be.

It's hard to predict what Google may potentially offer the low end users of the free legacy G Suite. Hopefully it'll be something decent enough to placate them.

As for me, I have now jumped over that ostensible olive branch and if my legacy G Suite account is ultimately terminated, so be it.

* I had forgotten that most email services such as Gmail allow relay via third party services. For example with SendGrid one can obtain an API key. Then specifying "apikey" as the login name, the API key as password and "smtp.sendgrid.net" as the server in Gmail settings page, one can set up email aliases with custom domains for outbound email. That means using the same familiar Gmail interface to compose and send emails under other user names and domain names, very handy. An Update.

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