By Craig Buckler

Google Scraps Free Apps for Business

By Craig Buckler

The free edition of Google Apps for Business was scrapped on December 6, 2012. Google’s announcement was made on that day so, if you wanted a free business GMail account, you’re too late.

According to the official blog:

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. 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.


With this in mind, we’ve decided to make things very straightforward.

We can therefore surmise:

  1. Businesses found it difficult to upgrade to the premium edition. Those big red “Upgrade Now” buttons obviously weren’t big or red enough.
  2. Making “things very straightforward” == you’re paying for it, mate.

Free accounts permitted up to ten email accounts, had a storage limit of 10GB, showed adverts, and had no uptime guarantee or customer support. The premium edition removes those restrictions for $5 per month or $50 per year for every user account required.

Of course, you can still create free individual GMail accounts and route email through your company’s server. Unfortunately, that’s more time consuming and difficult to set up.

Perhaps the decision was inevitable but it’s a shame. I’ve used free Google Apps accounts for smaller clients and, while there’s still a 30-day premium trial option, it allowed them to assess the system at their own pace. It was often more than enough for sole traders or those with simpler IT requirements.

Admittedly, $50 isn’t particularly expensive but it’s not as attractive as free. Google has been the biggest advocate of free services so their change in policy is slightly alarming.

Free Google Apps accounts have been retained for schools and universities. Anyone with an existing account or who started a trial prior to December 6 can also remain on the free system. But for how much longer…

For more information about the service change, refer to the Google Apps Documentation and Support page.

  • I had a headache before reading this article… Now I have an even bigger headache. Thanks for letting us know.

  • Ben

    I’ll point out a 2 problems I have from that article/Google lol: 1) “Businesses quickly outgrow the basic version and want things like 24/7 customer support”. I’ve only ever used Google Apps mail for small businesses. What large, massive corporation would use Google access their confidential information by using gmail? I work at a medium sized business, and we have 1-2 accounts that are, after 3 years, outgrowing their capacity. We just drag old emails to an ‘on my mac’ folder on our mac to clear them from the inbox and go from there. But never ONCE have I required any kind of customer support. Why the hell would anyone need customer support for gmail? It_Always_Works.

    2) “Businesses found it difficult to upgrade to the premium edition. Those big red “Upgrade Now” buttons obviously weren’t big or red enough.” Or we just didn’t feel the need to pay Google for email. If we had to spend $250/mo just for larger inbox, then we’d just go with our own mail setup on one of our many webservers.

    Lastly, I’m curious to know – can you still start a “Free trial” of a business account, and then downgrade in the control panel? I did this as little as two weeks ago and it worked. Have they since removed it?

    • As I understand it, anyone who started a free trial prior to December 6 can opt for a free account. Those who started after that date have 30 days and must then pay or leave the service.

  • Dave

    Nothing is free for ever I suppose, however!!

    Google have introduced this without little thought for the end users. For many small businesses all they ever required was an email account with significant storage, the apps and other plugins are never used.

    At a time when the business landscape is pretty tough this decision may be a little short sighted. It may well increase cost for the SME’s when they are all trying to keep costs under control. Google like Microsoft are major brands which even people with little knowledge of the web or computers can relate to in some way. Do they really need th revenue or is that they have achieved enough paying clients that the others can take a hike??

    Suggestions now for alternatives will no doubt now arise. Google at some time in the future will I suspect remove all free accounts, although that is not suggested at the moment.

  • Zaf

    Why not keep it for the group it was right for? Whosoever falls in the group ‘quickly outgrow the basic version…’ would know to upgrade and those that don’t (like my clients) would simply stay. I’ve always put my small business clients on Google Apps instead of using the free email accounts that come with their domain registrar. This move by Google will have no effect except going back to the old way.

  • Tim

    This is a seriously sad day…This was my go to for providing great email reliability/service for all my small freelance jobs. Most only need 1-2 accounts and will never even sniff the 7GB limit or whatever it was. These are small businesses that are just looking for a web presence and a more professional looking email using their domain. That’s it…It’s back to the drawing board for any new clients because they aren’t going to spring for the 50$ /yr/user.

    Either I missed it or they didn’t give much of a heads up so people didn’t go out and sign up a ton of domains as the free accounts are grandfathered for now.

    I know i would have setup a few more domains I had in the works if I had known.

  • Paul

    I always knew “free” from Google was to good to be true. I was right! And what didn’t anyone understand about Google being the internet policeman that is only interested in your almighty dollar for them at the expense of all else, particularly a free and fair internet?
    We all now need to support other search engines more vigorously before Google owns the internet full stop. We are watching Mr Google! We can be very unforgiving, just like you. A very smart man told me once, to “never forget where I came from” I would like to pass that mantra onto Google if they have any conscience at all,they will take it on board. Before it is to late for them. The clock is ticking.

  • I have an email account on my domain, but I just set it up to forward to my regular Gmail account, and I’m also able to send from that account. So I haven’t ever needed Google Apps.

    • That does work well for small sole traders, but the business service permits multiple employees to be defined without needing to configure accounts in two places.

  • EastCoast

    Microsoft have a free alternative: domains.live.com

  • Alex.Barylski

    I can’t stand when business does this…give something away for free…build a user base than charge for it…shady practice if you ask me. Gmail was nice to give to small business clients.

    • Anon

      Alex, the existing user base is still receiving the services for free, this is only for new customers.

  • Ray Pittman

    As Douglas Adams once said, “TANSTAAFL” (there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch). I went to Google Apps a couple of years ago and I did eventually upgrade, more for the space than the support. I’ve also set up several small customers on it.

    I went to set it up for a new client and, lo and behold, it ain’t free no more! Disappointing. I had the customer convinced to go until they learned it would cost them $350 per year.

    I agree that this is “shady” practice, but how many of us actually do things for free? They provide a lot of equipment, network, and programming to get this one thing to work. So, they gave us a “free” lunch. But, TANSTAAFL…

  • I just set one up on Dec. 3 using the 1) free trial; 2) downgrade to free service option. This too was a standby for my side business with clients that range in the 1-6 email account range. The move for me was to offload email hosting from my colocated server because of how much better 100 Google anti-spam developers can do than 1-2 on my end in addition to the drop in bandwidth, disk space and still utilizing their own domain name for email. Small business and non-profits will be reluctant to pay $25/mo extra for five accounts in addition to their lower web hosting fee.

    It’s back to the drawing board for me in researching different alternatives like domains.live.com as previously said or whatever else crops up.

  • Is $50 per year, per user really over-priced for Google’s amazing spam filtering and access to an apps suite that rivals Microsoft Office?

    I still think it’s a bargain. I am going to continue to recommend Google business Gmail for my clients, especially when you consider the alternatives, like Microsoft Exchange server or the mail services provided by hosting providers.

  • Will

    I found an article that says there is still a free single user account for Google Apps

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