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Time to Pay Up: Google Apps No Longer a Free Service for New Businesses

With such a miniscule job market in these harsh economic times, many people are combating their unemployment rut by founding their own businesses and becoming their own boss. As such, these bold entrepreneurs rely heavily on the small business services offered by companies such as Google. For years, businesses have taken advantage of the basic service packages over premium versions as a cost-cutting measure, but due to the expansive growth of these small businesses and their needs, Google is eliminating their Google Apps basic package entirely, with the premium becoming the standard — annual payments and all. This is one detrimental move sure to leave prospective customers searching for more cost-effective solutions.

The only good news to this otherwise shattering development is that small businesses currently using the basic version of Google Apps will be exempt from this change in service options, although new businesses will be forced to sign up for the premium option and the accompanying $50 charge per user, per year. To defend what can easily be taken as an unpopular decision, the official Google Enterprise Blog posted an explanation:

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.

This announcement of a mandatory premium package comes after Google’s constant changing of the number of users that could use the previously free service, with the recent cap having been shaved down to 10. All of this may have an impact on customer relations, especially when it means the competition can sweep in and offer service packages at more reasonable prices. Competitors such as Microsoft’s Office 365 Small Business service and the free Windows Live Domains — sans the bells and whistles of the former — are just two of the services that could get the edge over Google when it comes to penny-pinching small businesses.

Google Apps will remain a free service for individual, non-business users, as well as universities and schools, but that still doesn’t do anything to remedy the dissatisfaction over sweeping changes made in small business management.

(Google Enterprise Blog via The Verge, image via methodshop.com)

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