Ethical G Suite alternatives

Let’s start out by saying that I am not going to demonise Google. Are they a perfect corporate citizen? No, far from it, but they are also not quite as evil as some people would have you believe.

We could discuss many Google achievements or philanthropic efforts, the way that their advances in search, mapping, internet standards, etc. have shaped the web you use today, or the way that Gmail revolutionised email back in 2004. On the other hand we could also talk about a long list of concerns about censorship, tax avoidance, alleged employee mistreatment, antitrust, and a questionable stance on AI ethics.

But we are not going to delve too deeply into any of that, this post is just about your choices when it comes to hosting your company email, and you have a truly massive number of them. We would like to try and make your life easier with a few suggestions, starting with why you shouldn’t use G Suite (the business version of Gmail).

The thing about Gmail

A lot of people will already have their mail hosted with G Suite and it might seem that it’s a very decent choice in many ways. You know that you can trust it to always be up, it has great spam protection, and you know your mail is going to have good deliverability. You may or may not know that Gmail and G Suite are also green hosted, which is all great. In fact if you search for something like ‘Why you should be using G Suite’ you will find thousands and thousands of answers, and they are valid, it’s a good mail and calendaring product.

It does have just a couple of issues though. The first one is the pricing, while it might seem cheap when you have one user, the price rapidly adds up when you start adding a bigger number of users/mailboxes.

The second problem is an ethical one, and this is the real reason why we don’t feel happy recommending it to our hosting clients; Google’s attitude to information privacy.

Around 1.5 billion people use some form of Gmail globally, which is a massive number and Google harvests data from each of them. This isn’t done slyly or insidiously, it’s publicly stated by the company who freely state that:

“our automated systems analyse your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customised search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.”

Let’s just clarify exactly what that means, that in order to be able to offer you targeted advertising, Google’s systems actually read the content of your emails before they send them from your account or deliver them to you, and can re-read them at any time while they remain stored in your Gmail account.

Combine that with the fact that your Android device pings Google’s servers regularly throughout the day so they always know your location, and even that ambient light sensors report when you go to bed at night, plus their monitoring of your search history and it’s a massive amount of quite personal information that Google reserves the right to retain and analyse at will.

The good news is that there are a lot of very good alternatives. Here are three that we are happy to recommend. I’m not going to write an essay about any of them but I’d be willing to suggest any of these to my friends and family as well as to our clients:


Fastmail have four ‘core values’, which are hard to argue with: that you are the customer not the product, that your data belongs to you, that they are good stewards of your data, and that they are good internet citizens.

They are also slightly cheaper than G Suite, have a really nice admin and webmail interface, and contribute to some great open source projects. The only thing that they are lacking is being sustainably hosted.


Mailbox are sustainably hosted in Germany and have a long list of the ways that they ensure eco-friendliness throughout their business.

They offer secure, anonymous and ad free mail, calendaring, cloud storage, etc. with a nice web and mobile client for a lower price than G Suite or Fastmail.

S4 Mail – Yes, that’s us!

We treat mail hosting the same way we treat any other kind of hosting. Our dedicated mail servers are hosted sustainably in Helsinki with backups stored sustainably in Amsterdam.

It’s secure, private, is built on tried and tested open source technology, and comes with IMAP and Roundcube webmail. We make sure that things like SPF, DKIM and DANE are all taken care of and we have a high deliverability rate which we constantly monitor.

All of our basic hosting plans come with mail hosting included for free, and if your hosting needs are more complex then we can build a mail system that works for you, just let us know what you need!

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