Last year I did a lot of physical letting go, paring back and decluttering at home, before our move to Derbyshire. It marked the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Lately, as I sat here, waiting for our new house to be completed, I got the urge to rationalise some of my online space.
I did some clearing out back in Chorley. I organised the collection of some old phones, laptops, hard drives, and external disk drives, for them to be taken away and the data destroyed. Much of it had belonged to my Dad and I backed up everything I could on to my 2TB of Google Drive space. It was a job I’d been meaning to do since he died in 2016 but it kept being relegated to a back burner until the house move was imminent.
Again, it felt cathartic to have got the job done. I discovered some videos that I hadn’t seen in a while, some of my Dad’s photography and moments from our family history.
My digital life was fairly ordered by the time we arrived in Derbyshire. But I like to change things up sometimes. I’m a geek and I can’t resist trying new technology solutions. I’d been contemplating an alternative to Gmail for a few weeks, partly for the novelty of something different, and partly for potential privacy issues.
I looked at a variety of options. I already have a ProtonMail account. It’s great and very privacy conscious but it meant I would still need to use a whole batch of other services for storage, notes and to do lists. Also, their packages only allow for a small number of custom domains and I have quite a few! (I did say I was a geek!).
I considered using iCloud. After all, I am a Mac girl. But it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.
Others I checked out were FastMail, Zoho Mail, Kolab Now, Hushmail, Runbox, Mailfence, Tutanota, Posteo, Startmail, Mailbox.org. The list goes on.
I had the 2TB of storage in Google Drive so migrating my files elsewhere was a consideration and, if I could keep everything under one umbrella that would be a huge benefit.
I really needed:
- email for multiple domain names
- cloud storage – I’d purged a lot already and could manage with 1TB rather than 2TB, if necessary
Optional nice to haves included:
- to do app
- an alternative to Bear
After looking at a whole host of possibilities I decided on Outlook. Since leaving the corporate world where Outlook is the default setting, and always on a quest to pursue an unconventional route, I’d never given it any thought. But, it seemed to be the best solution for what I wanted.
The initial decision wasn’t driven by any cost factors but the savings started to stack up.
I paid £59.99 for Microsoft 365 Personal for one year.
I was paying £7.99 to Google for my expanded storage on Google Drive. An annual sum of £95.88.
When I can (internet permitting), I’m going to migrate my Bear notes to OneNote. Much as I love the Bear app and interface, I don’t use it as extensively as I might, and I can do everything I need in OneNote.
Bear costs £1.49 a month, £17.88 a year. I could have chosen an annual subscription but sometimes I prefer not to be committed for a year.
I also have a ClickUp subscription. I love ClickUp too. It’s brilliant but, again, possibly more than I really need. I just like geeking out with technology. This cost £46.99 last August. I’m going to continue using it until 12 months has elapsed but gradually migrate to a combination of Weekly Plan in Microsoft Project Moca, Outlook Calendar and Microsoft To Do.
We also had a GSuite account for Chris’ Blind Woodturner emails. This costs £55.20 a year. I set it up originally because mail wasn’t arriving consistently and I wanted a quick solution. This week, I delved deeper and solved the issue on my server.
Setting up Outlook was quick and easy. I linked up my Gmail account and migrated all my emails across. I then disconnected my other email domain name accounts from Gmail and added them into Outlook. I checked everything at each stage (I used the webmail screen on my web host to monitor incoming emails and confirm everything was being delivered).
I then did the same with Chris’ GSuite and, once complete, I cancelled that subscription.
I started moving folders from Google Drive on to OneDrive. I still have a few to go (mostly photos and videos) but have limited internet here so I’ve extended the subscription by a month but the bulk of my data is now on OneDrive.
Merging various email accounts has enabled me to tidy up some of my folders in Outlook. There were overlaps for Chris from the early days when his emails came through one of my accounts. I merged folders, deleted emails and neatened everything up.
I also imported my calendars and contacts.
I’m going to keep my GMail account for a while, maybe indefinitely, but at least until I’ve double checked everything has transferred across, and I’ve not missed anything. It’s never good to be too hasty in these situations!
I’ve exported my Bear notes but, because of the limited internet here, I haven’t been able to synchronise them to OneNote. I may need to experiment a little, too, to find the best format for exporting.
I’d also had to increase my iCloud capacity to store all my photos. One happy discovery was that I could upload these to OneDrive so I could also cancel my iCloud subscription.
Too corporate or unconventional enough?
I haven’t downloaded the app yet onto my Mac. I might. In the meantime, the web version is looking OK, especially as I’ve colour coordinated everything in pink! I’m usually happy if I can put my own mark on my screen.
Obviously different in many ways, Outlook offers many of the same type of functions that I found useful in Gmail.
I was a big fan of Multiple Inboxes in Gmail. Outlook has Favourites which I’ve configured to suit my needs.
I’m enjoying the more complete functionality in Outlook. There are lots of integrations and add ons, including one for ClickUp which I will be using for now. But, best of all, having all our emails in one place without having to move between two separate accounts is an absolute boon.
I have to confess, as well, that the more corporate look is working in my favour – it gives me a more business-like mindset!!
Current annual costs
This list details the subscriptions I’ve been paying for over the past 12 months.
Google Drive – £95.88
Bear – £17.88
ClickUp – £46.99
GSuite – £55.20
New annual cost
I’ve reduced my costs to one payment.
Microsoft 365 Personal – £59.99
Although it wasn’t my intention, I’m pleased that I’ve saved myself a good sum by making the switch. I still have all the functionality I need with Microsoft 365 Personal. I’ve focused a little on what I need rather than what I want but I’m very happy with how things are looking so far!
Migrating some large files from Google Drive took a while, partly because I was hitting the memory limits on my Mac. I had to synchronise folders one by one to get around that. Altogether it took a while to bring over the last few folders but I was happy to be patient. It is a bit of a faff as you have to work with both Google and OnDrive backup and sync. I double checked a lot to make sure that everything was working properly. The only issue I have found so far is that a few Google Sheet documents no longer work but none of them were critical.
I started using Microsoft To Do but found that tasks didn’t also appear in my Calendar. I use an app called Butleroy which brings together various other apps under one umbrella so I can see everything in one place. I decided that I would miss the functionality of ClickUp so am going to retain that although I may just stick with the free version longer term.
OneNote operates differently to Bear or Evernote and needs a slightly different approach and organisation but it will work for what I need.
I’ve imported my Google Calendar and created a calendar called Outlook which synchronises with my Outlook Calendar. I love Google for its integrations but often the default Calendar is Google-based. I needed a workaround to add those events to my Outlook Calendar.
Convoluted? Maybe. I need to run a couple of things alongside each other for a while until any little glitches are ironed out and to ensure I haven’t left anything behind.
Overall, I’m really happy with the setup and the cost savings are a definite benefit.