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Google Scraps Free Apps for Business

By Craig Buckler

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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.

Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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