Google Apps for Business No Longer Free For Small Firms – Why?

By Alexandra Burlacu | Dec 07, 2012 09:42 PM EST

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Small businesses' free ride on Google Apps is now over, as the company has decided to stop offering the suite free of cost.

Google is tapping previously free services for new revenue sources, and as part of this move the company will start charging small businesses as well for use of its Google Apps productivity suite.

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While previously only businesses with more than 50 employees were charged for the suite of productivity apps, Google will now charge smaller firms as well, even those with 10 or fewer employees. These small firms will have to pay $50 a year, the same rate as the large businesses, for access to Google's Web-based tools - e-mail, word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation graphics tools.

In a Dec. 6 blog post, the company explained that the move is designed to allow Google to focus on the quality of the business user's experience.

"When we launched the premium business version we kept our free, basic version as well," Clay Bavor, director of product management for Google Apps, explained in the company blog post.

"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."

The paid suite of productivity tools also comes with round-the-clock telephone support, a 25GB inbox, as well as the search giant's uptime guarantee.

According to the Wall Street Journal, subscriptions to Google Apps and its separate mapping service for businesses and governments accounted for roughly $1 billion last year, and Google said that more than 40 million people use the free and paid versions of the suite.

"Please note this change has no impact on our existing customers, including those using the free version. And as before, Google Apps for Education will be available as a free service for schools and universities. Also, as the first cloud productivity suite with FISMA certification, we'll continue to offer Google Apps for Government for $50 per user, per year," Google further noted in the post.

"With focus we'll be able to do even more for our business customers. We're excited about the opportunity to push Google Apps further so our customers can do what matters most to them-whether that's scooping ice cream, changing the face of healthcare or contributing to lifelong learning."

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