Small companies could use the free version, but it has been retired
The free version of Google Apps has been killed off, after it had been significantly scaled back a year ago. Google is pushing to maximize revenue from its enterprise suite and is targeting small businesses to do that, the biggest users of the free tier that has been retired.Google explains that companies using the free version quickly grow to expect support and other business-oriented features, something reserved to paying customers. So, you see, it's for the good of those businesses that Google is asking them to pay.
"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," Google explained.
"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," it added.
It's not much of an explanation, but it's all that Google could come up with. Existing users will not be affected, this is only for new users signing up.
So if you've got a free version of Google Apps already set up, Google won't ask you to pay, for now at least. Initially, anyone could set up an Apps account and have up to 50 users without paying.
They didn't get any phone support or extended storage space though. Last year, the limit was lowered to a maximum of 10 users. Now, there's no more free option, customers have to pay $50 per user per year.
More than five million businesses use Google Apps at this point, though many of them rely on the free version. Google Apps has more than 40 million users across the free, business, school and government versions.