Taking back control on your data. What a hot subject. But in a time where 1 out of 4 bytes in the Internet pipes is from a Google server, what options do you really have?
Important: Their is no need to delete your Google/Facebook/Apple account, their products are awesome. I won't encourage you to do this and won't be that nerdy paranoid friend about these companies. I just wanted to see if it was viable to have a "normal" Internet usage without being their customer (or their product ;) ). It is also good to know why their products are free, and what are the motivations and business models behind every project, even the open source alternatives.
I do not have any account on social networks, but I used Google and iCloud (because I own an iPhone) extensively.
The services I used:
- GMail, as a proxy for my existing email address to benefit their UI and spam filters
- Google Drive
- Google Photos (16 000 photos from the family)
- iCloud calendars
- iCloud contacts
- iCloud Drive, to backup Whatsapp chats
Step 1: [Email] Delete Gmail
This one was pretty easy. Since I don't use Gmail as my main email address, I just made sure no-one was emailing me directly to the gmail address.
I went to this place on the Google Account section to delete the Gmail product right away.
I needed to set up my personal and pro email addresses individually on my phone and my computer. Again, easy.
Step 2: [Storage] Replace Google Drive, Google Photos and iCloud Drive
After comparing the two, I went with NextCloud but both are pretty similar. So I have set up a Nextcloud instance in a subdomain of stan.sh to store my files, photos and backup. I am extremely happy with it and the UI is less bloated than Google Drive online. I can also sync my photos on my smartphone with the nextcloud app. It is really convenient.
Step 3: [Sync] Replace iCloud calendars and contacts
To sync my calendars and contacts across devices, I settled for Baïkal, a CalDAV and CardDav server based on sabre/dav. It comes with a visual administration interface and it was easy to set up.
I simply set up Baïkal on a subdomain of stan.sh. I know I could have also used NextCloud to manage my calendars and contacts but I like to not put all my eggs in the same basket.
After all those simple steps, nothing has changed in my every-day usage. So I'm tempted to say it is easy to live without Google or iCloud online. But this would be very wrong. I just proved I don't need an account of these platforms for my usage, but I occasionally use Google Maps, Google Search, visit content hosted by Google servers, update my apps on the Apple AppStore... You can't run away. But their is no need to, when you know that each of these services has an Open Source alternative or even a private competitor.
Again, my usage of the web is not yours, and you might use other services from Google/Apple/Facebook, etc that I don't use that may feel vital to you. For example if your main email is a gmail address, it might be complicated to migrate one day...
I don't have a Google account and iCloud anymore. And still no account on any social network. I don't do that to feel safe, or less watched. I would be stupid to believe so.
I did that mainly for three things:
- Not being virtually dependent of a major company about my data
- Stop this relationship with these companies where you use something for free in exchange of fueling them your data
- Using the Internet sanely, by removing my addictions to some services and their notifications (mainly the social networks)
All the services I choosed are open source and can run everywhere. They are coded in PHP and MySQL so I'm in known territory if there is need for a fix.
- 45€/month on a private server provided by Hetzner where I host the open source services listed above.
- 10€ ~ 20€/year for a domain name if you want to use a custom email address and have pretty URLs for your services instead of your home IP.
What I will probably do: Buy and plug a home server at home with two disks for replication and data safety. Certainly an Intel Nuc.
If you have any good tips on this subject, shoot me an email at stan[at]larroque.net