Businesses looking to use the free, basic edition of Google Apps can no longer count on a free ride: they’ll now need to sign up for the premium version, Google Apps for Business, at $50 per user, per year.
The good news is that existing users are not impacted by the change. And if your business is already running Google Apps for Business, there’s no difference for you; pricing is unchanged. And individuals will still be able to use Google Apps services such as Gmail and Google Drive with a free personal Google account.
In a blog posting last week. Clay Bavor, director of product management for Google Apps, said Google Apps has grown to the point where the user experience cannot be maintained within a free service that addresses the needs of both individuals and businesses.
“When we launched the premium business version we kept our free, basic version as well. Both businesses and individuals signed up for this version, but time has shown that in practice, the experience isn’t quite right for either group,” said Bavor. “Businesses quickly outgrow the basic version and want things like 24/7 customer support and larger inboxes. Similarly, consumers often have to wait to get new features while we make them business-ready.”
Small businesses will primarily be impacted, as Google Apps had previously been free in the basic edition for businesses with fewer than 10 users. As mentioned, if you’re already using Google Apps with fewer than 10 users you’re fine, but new customers will need to pay for the premium service.
There are other options out there, but there are no free rides any longer. According to an article in The Verge Microsoft is the nearest competitor and it’s more expensive, asking $72 per year for its office 365 Small Business service. You may get by with the basic services of Windows Live Domains, and Zoho and Salesforce also have options. Your choice will depend on what level of functionality you need – is a domain, e-mail and office apps enough, or do you require collaboration and sharing tools as well.