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My worst tech decision: A G Suite account for personal use
I’m not a gambling man, but over the years, I’ve come to realize that buying into any Google service is a game of Russian Roulette. The Google graveyard will attest to the number of Google services killed off over the years, but many other services remain needlessly impeded. Case in point — Google Workspace, or G Suite as it was previously known, for personal use.
I’m sure some of you will suggest that I shouldn’t have used Google Workspace as a personal account to begin with. However, back when I signed up, Google actively marketed Google Apps and G Suite accounts to individual users and families who wanted their own personal domains. Even today, it is simply not possible to have a regular Gmail account with a custom domain attached to it. As someone without access to a first name plus last name Gmail account, I opted for the next best solution — a custom domain. Little did I know that it would come back to bite me repeatedly over the years.
Google actively marketed Google Apps and G Suite accounts to individual users and families with their own domains.
My Google Workspace account page indicates that I set up my account sometime around 2009. Suffice it to say, it’s been a thirteen-year-long love-hate relationship. Like any relationship that goes through its ups and downs, my honeymoon period with G Suite lasted for a few years when my primary use case revolved around emails. Although Gmail for G Suite often got features later than the free Gmail service, these were embellishments at best and didn’t really bother me. The real troubles started when Google started rolling out its broader portfolio of products.
It was the summer of 2017 when Google introduced Google Pay in India. Dubbed Tez at launch, it was a part of the early crop of digital payments apps that were built to capitalize on India’s unified payments interface. I was eager to try the app, simply because I didn’t trust the alternatives with my financial data. However, my digital payments journey came to a screeching halt soon enough. Nope, the app didn’t support G Suite accounts.
I figured that these issues might be due to Tez being an India-exclusive app. Fast forward to 2018, and Google rolled Tez into Google Pay. That should have solved the issue, right? That’s a no, again. In November 2020, the official Google Pay Twitter account confirmed that support for G Suite accounts would be added in the coming months. It’s now halfway through 2022, and using a Google Workspace or G Suite account with Google Pay is still impossible. The issues, however, go well beyond Google Pay.
We're halfway through 2022, and using a Google Workspace or G Suite account with Google Pay is still impossible.
When Google introduced the first-generation Google Home speaker in India in 2018, I was first in line to pick one up to expand my growing smart home needs. Setting up the speaker was straightforward, but I quickly discovered that it didn’t support calendars for G Suite accounts. Considering quick access to calendars and reminders was one of my top requirements, the purchase was a complete bust for me. Ironically, the competing Echo Dot from Amazon had no trouble tapping into my G Suite-based calendar. How’s that for supporting your own products?
But as it turns out, my troubles with Google’s smart home ecosystem didn’t quite end there. Even today, there is no way to invite family members to your Google Home account if you’ve created said account using a Google Workspace profile. I’ve searched long and wide within the admin panel to see if there’s a security setting that I might have missed, but Google simply doesn’t allow it.
An increasing number of apps won't even let you sign in with a Google Workspace or G Suite account.
It gets worse if you are looking at investing in the Nest ecosystem. I recently picked up a Nest Camera to see how it compared to my Ubiquiti security cameras. For days I unsuccessfully kept trying to add the camera to my Google Home app till it struck me that it could be a G Suite limitation. Sure as hell, switching over to a regular Gmail account got me going. I understand Google wanting to lock access for the enhanced security and privacy promised by a business account, but the fact that there is no option at all to toggle it boggles my mind. It’s also infuriating that Google doesn’t indicate a lack of support for Workspace accounts anywhere on the packaging or in the app.
My list of issues runs longer still, including services like Google One which is simply not available to Google Workspace users. Similarly, family sharing for Google Drive storage, YouTube Premium, or YouTube Music is inaccessible for Google Workspace users. I’m not in a supported region, but Stadia is yet another service that is not supported with these accounts.
I’m well aware that there is a way to export data from Google Workspace and manually import some of it into a regular Gmail account. That said, the process is so long-winded and cumbersome that it looks like Google went out of its way to deter easy migrations. Honestly, I wouldn’t be too surprised if that was the case.
Hardware and services are interchangeable, but my online identity isn't.
As a paying customer, it makes absolutely no sense for Google to lock me out of an entire ecosystem of products and services just because I got tied into a beta service. Tech purchases like phones and tablets are disposable, my online identity isn’t, and it just isn’t feasible for me to switch over to a regular Gmail account at this point. Most legacy users have had the custom email address as a part of their online identity for the better part of a decade. Since Gmail doesn’t allow custom domains, your only real option is to migrate a decade or more of communications to a different email provider.
And that’s before we talk about all the associated services like Google Drive, Google Docs, or even Google Photos. Or all of your purchased apps, books, and movies. Or the myriad services you might have signed up for with your Google login.
Look, locking down on external features to maintain user privacy in a business space is commendable. However, if I can go through the hassle of setting up a custom domain to use with Google Workspace, I am totally capable of understanding the risks associated with toggling these features in the admin panel. Conversely, Google could also offer a basic plan for Gmail users who want to deploy a custom domain.
Do you regret using a G Suite account for personal and family use?
I rarely regret buying into specific ecosystems, but despite my G Suite account being one of the key pillars of my online existence, it is hands down one of the worst tech decisions that I’ve made.