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Google Axes Free Google Apps For Businesses 141

Posted by Soulskill
from the bringing-home-the-bacon dept.
New submitter Macfox writes "In a move to focus on serving small business better, Google has axed the popular free edition of Google Apps for businesses. From Dec 6th, it will not be possible to sign up for the free edition. In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Google's senior vice president in charge of Google Apps said Google wants to provide small businesses that use the free version of the software with dedicated customer support — something only paying customers currently get. 'We're not serving them well,' he said of the free users." Google's blog post notes that "this change has no impact on our existing customers, including those using the free version."
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Google Axes Free Google Apps For Businesses

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2012 @10:35AM (#42214763)

    We are now charging you more...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, how awful of them to charge some money to host very powerful email servers with antispam, as well as integration with just about every Google service out there. How awful.

    • by GauteL (29207) on Friday December 07, 2012 @10:58AM (#42214953)

      I just don't understand why they have to blatantly lie like that. There is nothing wrong which changing your pricing strategies to improve your income. Google even retained the free service for existing users, so it can hardly be seen as a bait and switch

      If they had said; "we believe the service is good value at $$ and providing the free service doesn't provide us with enough revenue", I would have completely understood it. Weasel speak was utterly unnecessary in this case and makes me wonder if some people are just so accustomed to lying that they can't avoid it.

      • by squiggleslash (241428) on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:15AM (#42215103) Homepage Journal

        It's hardly lying. You might just about get away with calling it spinning, but even so.

        It would have been lying if Google had said "To better serve you, we're removing the following features of the free Google Apps", or "To better serve you, we're now restricting free apps accounts to three users". But saying "To better serve you, we're eliminating a free service so that we can get the revenues necessary to support the product properly", that's entirely fair.

        Disclaimer: I'm sortadisappointed by this, I'm a free GA user myself and planned to use it for other projects/domains. Glad I get to keep what I have, but still.

        • by GauteL (29207)

          With all due respect it seems your tolerance levels for corporate weasel speak may have become somewhat inflated. It is up to the users, not Google, to decide whether they "weren't properly served". When Google decided to introduce dedicated customer support to all new customers at the expense of $$ they decided this for the users and guess what, they chose the option which made Google more money.

          And given that you were planning to expand your use of free GA, you make it clear that you were actually well se

          • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Friday December 07, 2012 @12:05PM (#42215851)

            Google did this to increase their profits for the benefit of their share holders and employees. There is nothing wrong with it, but they should have called the spade a spade.

            Or maybe they did it because their Apps For Business was getting a bad rep from the folks using the free version being unable to get real-human support, getting a bad taste in their mouth over that, making the supported, ad-free, upscale version a harder sell.

            In both cases the bottom line is revenue, but in only one case are they lying.

            I haven't seen the data. Neither have you; it's all a matter of which preexisting bias we'd prefer to confirm.

            • by nobodie (1555367)

              But as a teacher about to move my classes onto GA next semester I am interested to know what extra services they will provide and whether I should get my department to pony up for the business level with support. This would be good for us since the support part has been a real problem for the vast majority of technophobe faculty, or if no exactly phobic then merely confused (sorry, no anecdotes, out of respect for my colleagues).

      • by mattiaza (2567891) on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:25AM (#42215237)
        I don't think it's a blatant lie. I think it's more to do with expectation management. Many people still expect customer support for free services, and get upset if their calls or emails are ignored - which is much more expensive than running the web service itself. There was a Slashdot discussion about a similar problem at an Open Source company last month: http://ask.slashdot.org/story/12/11/26/2345214/ask-slashdot-troubling-trend-for-open-source-company [slashdot.org] No matter how many disclaimers you put on your website or how many times you repeat the "support costs extra", many free users are still upset at you, and will complain about it on the internet.
      • by SpzToid (869795)

        This is called being 'grandfathered'. Consider yourself lucky when it happens to you. Bottom-line is if you signed up to the favorable terms on-time, you're in. Otherwise, you're out.

        I think I just heard Nelson say "ha ha!"

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandfather_clause [wikipedia.org]

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AN3gSjHsr1o [youtube.com]

        Now unless you want to get yourself soaking wet, step away from that last remaining dry patch of grass, please.

      • 50 dollars is not bad just wish they offered web hosting as well
      • I just don't understand why they have to blatantly lie like that.

        Why do you think its a lie?

        Weasel speak was utterly unnecessary in this case and makes me wonder if some people are just so accustomed to lying that they can't avoid it.

        There official blog posts lays out the reasons why they think that the free tier was a bad fit both for most individuals and for most businesses. You may disagree with those reasons, but for them to be a "lie" means that Google doesn't believe them, and you've provided no

    • More accurately would be "To better serve you, we aren't accept new users that are a net cost of resources." The people that this is to serve better are current users, and the change affects new users (who will no longer be able to sign up for the free tier.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2012 @10:38AM (#42214797)

    you aren't the product, you're the customer. A brave new world for Google!

    • by SirGarlon (845873)
      Do the paid Google Apps have advertising? (If so, you can be both!)
    • by davecb (6526)
      Alas, they may just be phasing it out. I tried the for-pay service for a customer of mine and found it lacked tables, which was what the customer wanted it for. and, of course, I couldn't offer money, because I already had. Not what I'd do with an offering I was planning to keep...
  • by Kingkaid (2751527) on Friday December 07, 2012 @10:39AM (#42214803)
    Google's blog post notes that "this change has no impact on our existing customers, including those using the free version."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2012 @10:58AM (#42214949)

    I used to run all my own email etc. on a server in my house, but a year or so ago I moved it all onto a 'google apps for business' account. Since then, my kids and wife have all started using google stuff much more often and it's hugely useful for us to be able to collect all that under accounts tied to the family google apps domain.

    Google should do something family-related in this area, they could cut out 95% of the features of apps for business, but the most useful stuff is creating sites, sharing docs and drive between members and most importantly for me to be able to manage the accounts of all of us. There are alternatives, but this is a nice setup which works well.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They could also lower the price (not that $50/user/year is much) but they could continue to grow their subscriber base, make some money AND keep people happy.

    • by m.ducharme (1082683) on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:58AM (#42215751)

      I would pay money for this.

      • by Nerdfest (867930)

        You can pay money for this. The problem is that currently it's a bit too much money for a lot of people. The value is very good for what you get, but the price is still high considering that most families don't *need* it. I family pricing plan would be a great idea.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          For a small business it's a godsend.

          50$/person/year and you can forget about the hassle of running a mail/calendar/file server.

          To beat this I'd have to spend less than 1 hour per person per year managing internal servers.

          Of course, keeping your own copies of everything as a backup is just common sense.

      • by eggnet (75425)

        That's good because you'll have to now.

      • Well, it was free up until today, and now you can pay $50 per year per person for it. It's only marketed to businesses, but they don't check to make sure you're a business when you sign up, anyone can use it.
    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Indeed. The only functions I use are Gmail, Calendar, and Drive.

      Mostly because I don't want to deal with the annoyances of running my own mail server and spam filters.

      • by heypete (60671)

        Mostly because I don't want to deal with the annoyances of running my own mail server and spam filters.

        This. I can pay $10-$15/month for a decent VPS at a reputable host and run my own mail server, but the spam situation is intolerable. If the VPS goes down for whatever reason, I get no mail. Google has damn good spam filters and they handle all the issues related to disaster recovery, failover, etc.

        $50/user/year is a bargain for businesses but it a bit steep for personal users. I've used their free service since shortly after it came out (what, in 2006 or something? I don't remember, it's been so long.) whe

    • by aclarke (307017)
      I completely agree. I own three domains based on mine or my wife's name, plus one more that I started for a business that went nowhere. Just between those, my small family would be paying $50/year for at least 11 accounts, probably more if I took a closer look. This means that instead of paying $0 which I do now, I'd be paying at least $550 per year. That's a LOT for what's essentially personal convenience and some testing accounts for work, not to mention the other family members who would have to star
    • by tobiasly (524456)

      I used to run all my own email etc. on a server in my house, but a year or so ago I moved it all onto a 'google apps for business' account.

      A year ago?? Good Lord man, how did you put up with it for so long? I ran my own SMTP server until about 10 years ago but between constant break-in attempts, keeping on top of the latest spam-filtering techniques, outgoing mail not getting delivered because of the # of hosts that just silently drop email from residential IPs... it just wasn't worth it.

      Specifically to your post though, with the rate at which they're integrating Google+ and Circles into all their web apps, I imagine that's their solution for

    • by rrp (537287)
      I run it for my family as well. All I really care about is google accepting email for my domain and delivering it to the appropriate inbox while weeding out spam. Even if they made it so users had to have a normal gmail account and you can just set it up to deliver email from your domain to that specific gmail account, that'd be fine (I know one could set up and run their own server and have it forward to people's accounts, but I'm talking about having something more integrated than that but less "busines
  • by dodgerfan (994874) on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:00AM (#42214967)
    I have been a free Google Apps user for years and I've never had any issues with it. The lack of support hasn't ever bothered me. I've helped several other people sign up for the free version as well and no support has ever been needed for them either. This is just a case where the free version was good enough and was keeping people for signing up for the paid version. It's always about the money. They have been thinking about killing this service for while now. When I originally signed up, I had access to 100 address. Soon after the limit had been dropped to 50 and then to 10 accounts. I think when the service launched, there was no limit on accounts.
    • You don't lose access to accounts. You keep the number allowed when you signed up for the service. I have two domains on Google Apps: one I signed up when I was allowed 50 users, and one domain after they dropped the limit to 10 users. I can still use up to 50 accounts on the first domain.
      • by dodgerfan (994874)
        Balbus000, Sorry, I did not intend to imply that access to accounts was lost or removed, but that Google has systematically been making the service less attractive and more restrictive in order to drive customers to the paid version. Thanks.
    • by lonecrow (931585)
      I agree with everything you said, however....I work with a variety of non-profits and I always set them up with Google Apps. For the most part this works out but in every case there have been some staff that insist that they get MS Office. Some times I am able to show them how to do what they are attempting with Google Docs, but there have also been many times where the apps are just not feature rich enough. (mostly the spreadsheet).

      So if by charging Google can accelerate improvements to the apps, then
  • What about families? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:05AM (#42215003)

    Google's senior vice president in charge of Google Apps said Google wants to provide small businesses that use the free version of the software with dedicated customer support - something only paying customers currently get.

    What I'm not entirely clear about is what happens to the middle ground of people who own their own domain and want to be able to have email address for each member of their family linked to the various Google services.

    If they are now trying to push those people onto the business tier then a family of 4 with 2 grand-parents each side is going to cost $400 a year - which is way too expensive to properly consider.

    (I'm thankful I set my family up several years ago before they reduced the number of users from 50 to 10)

    • They will likely point out that you can use any address for a Google Account, not that it helps with Gmail.

    • by robmv (855035)

      Exactly. If they want people to pay for the service start with something like a flat payment for up to 10 users, say 100$ and any additional user should pay 50$, or something like that.

    • by Dishevel (1105119)

      If they are now trying to push those people onto the business tier then a family of 4 with 2 grand-parents each side is going to cost $400 a year - which is way too expensive to properly consider.

      Well that depends.
      $400.00 a year for Email for 8 people with aliases for everyone.
      Document sharing, Collaboration between the whole family. Fully integrated with all kinds of useful tools.
      Add to that groups and sites if used well is a huge benefit to families.
      Then you add to that the calendering and lack of ads and I think that if you can afford it that a good case can be made for its worth.

      • by Mr_Silver (213637)

        Well that depends. $400.00 a year for Email for 8 people with aliases for everyone.
        Document sharing, Collaboration between the whole family.
        Fully integrated with all kinds of useful tools.
        Add to that groups and sites if used well is a huge benefit to families.
        Then you add to that the calendering and lack of ads and I think that if you can afford it that a good case can be made for its worth.

        When you put it like that, it doesn't sound so bad - until you realise that if you can live without 25MB, no adver

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          Exactly!

          Give us the Gmail app for cheap, leave the rest as an expensive package.

          It's not like a few extra records in their mailserver configs to allow mail in/out of our domain name is a terrible drain on their resources. It's the only difference between standard gmail and the one via apps.

          Hell, we're the ones who have to set up the MX records properly! They don't even have to do that!

          • by Geeky (90998)

            That's all I use it for, and as I've been on there for years I won't have to pay... yet.

            If I did, I'd still use it. It works and I'm happy with it. I would, however, start making use of the other features like drive, simply on the grounds that since I'm paying for it anyway, why not? Which in turn would use more of their resources than - as you say - a couple of extra MX records on top of a standard gmail account.

    • Small non-profit volunteer groups outside the U.S. are also losing with this. Registered U.S. non-profits can use the full apps free, but the free version was extremely well suited to small groups outside of America. Between exchange rates, being the kind of people who are time rich/ money poor but wanting to volunteer (retired and students), and that all such groups need are a few email addresses and some web space, there is now way such groups would justify the full business edition. It might be different
  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:12AM (#42215069) Homepage
    It's based on a business technique that's as old as the hills: Give away free stuff to crush the competition until people become dependent on your free stuff, then you put on the squeeze. Google is just a private company trying to make money, not freaking Santa Clause
    • by asavage (548758)
      You seemed to miss the part about keeping it free for existing users.
    • by tobiasly (524456)

      It's based on a business technique that's as old as the hills: Give away free stuff to crush the competition until people become dependent on your free stuff, then you put on the squeeze. Google is just a private company trying to make money, not freaking Santa Clause

      You put on the squeeze by... letting them keep using it for free? No one is being "squeezed" here; people who aren't using it already aren't dependent on it either.

  • by Morris Thorpe (762715) on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:13AM (#42215075)

    I was able to register for a single-user free account this morning by doing this.

    http://www.labnol.org/internet/google-apps-free/26926/ [labnol.org]

    How to Get the Free Edition of Google Apps

    Alternatively, here’s a quick and simple workaround that will still let you sign-up for the free edition of Google Apps even though Google has officially retired the free edition – all you need is a free Gmail or Google account.

            Go to appengine.google.com, sign-in with your Google Account and create a new Application. You may fill in any dummy date and click the “Create Application” button.
            Open the “Dashboard” and on the next screen, click the link that says “Application Settings.”
            Scroll down a little (refer to the video tutorial) and choose “Add Domain” to associate a domain with your App Engine application.
            That’s it. Now you should see a special link* to sign-up for the free edition of Google Apps. You may either use your existing domain or buy one through Google Apps.

    [*] You have to access this link through App Engine as Google Apps checks the HTTP Referrer information before serving up the sign-up page for the free edition of Google Apps.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I just did this with a domain I registered a couple weeks ago. I had been meaning to set this new domain up with the free google apps but hadn't gotten around to it yet. Unfortunately, after verifying my domain with them, I see a message at the top of the screen in the dashboard that says, "Free 30 day Google Apps for Business trial", with a link to "Upgrade Now".

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Ok, I think I misunderstood what I was reading: I just checked my other domain on Google Apps that I've had for years, and I see the same message. So I guess it's just an advertisement for the next level of service, not countdown until your account is closed.

  • So if somebody wanted to do this themselves is there a way to self host this kind of Integrated Stack??

    I like the concept of EyeOS but that seems to be a Dead Project

  • Personal use? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:13AM (#42215087)
    The page currently has a cryptic entry [google.com] "Google Applications for Personal Use" without any "learn more" which the business and educational versions have. Since many individuals use google apps for their email for a personal domain (for example with WordPress) I hope that a free perosnal version will be available.
    • by robmv (855035)

      They call personal use your @gmail.com account, not personal domains

      • by Chrisq (894406)

        They call personal use your @gmail.com account, not personal domains

        After some searches I think you are right - but I hope you are not! We all know the way this will go "current users are not effected" is followed implicitly with "... yet".

        • by robmv (855035)

          I think they will have a lot of problems if they try to kill the current Free edition users service. So many things are tied to the Google Account, your Android purchases, your published videos on Youtube, (they add a warning on YouTube about the tie with your domain). Unless they provide an account migration from a Google Apps domain to the free service, they will be hit by a lot of adversity

          Note: They did a migration from standard accounts to Google Apps a few years back, but it was very problematic and n

  • 'We're not serving them well,' he said of the free users.
    Well, now they won't be able to serve them at all.
    • Exactly. I run several hobbyist sites for gaming and such. I don't run ads, I don't charge for it, it's just for fun for games I play. The free version of Google Apps was absolutely perfect for us as a free alternative to paying for hosting our own e-mail services. Plus, everyone was pretty much familiar with the Gmail interface. I've set up several gaming "guilds" with basic sites and e-mail addresses.

      Back when you could have up to 50 or so accounts, this was absolutely perfect. When they reduced it

    • 'We're not serving them well,' he said of the free users. Well, now they won't be able to serve them at all.

      If you read the blog post, rather than the WSJ article, they go into more depth. They explain both how they feel individuals are generally poorly served by the free tier (which delays their access to consumer-oriented offerings, as Google Apps only gets things when Google thinks they are ready for business customers) and are better served by individual accounts, and why they feel business users are

  • How soon for Gmail or other services to follow this route?

    Really it's the correct path: give something away free to get clients, then start charging when competitors are mostly dead. No real surprise.

    • Yes. Except Gmail is not even the largest email provider - much less the only "alive" one - so this case doesn't fit that prediction at all.

      • Sure, not today. But...sooner or later, likely.

        Speaking as a keeper of my own email of course. :)

    • It's more like they stop "selling" a free version... they didn't cut off their existing free users (yet)...
  • I have a really small biz and just use the Apps email as I like the web interface instead of the local pop client thing.. Even though thats all I use, it is critically important to my tiny web biz.. I really cant afford to wake up to no biz email which might not be whats happening today..but looks like the direction its headed. I guess I will be doing some MX updating and either use the roundcube/squirrel that my webhost provides or break out the local email client.. it was good while it lasted..
    • I've been thinking it would be cool to have a "personal" app cloud.. where you can pay say $5/month for an account, and then you can "install" a number of apps, the equivalent to the iGoogle page (retiring next year), or a nice webmail app for multiple clients (thunderbird for the cloud) with the option to install third party apps, and even sync your data to dropbox/skydrive/google-drive etc. Would like it more if the apps could be open-sourced in an echo-system where you're paying for you block of runtime
  • Corporate Speak (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781)
    Ookay, this sounds like corporate speak. Translation: This is costing us more money than we are earning through ad-based revenue so we have to transition to a non-free model. This has absolutely zilch to do with providing adequate customer support.
    • Ookay, this sounds like corporate speak. Translation: This is costing us more money than we are earning through ad-based revenue so we have to transition to a non-free model.

      Since even the free tier of Google Apps wasn't an advertising-supported product, that's not hard to do.

      It was designed as a non-time-limited starter option for business users, but it attracted a lot of consumer users who would then complain on the support forums -- not just the Google Apps support forums but those for each new consume

  • Well, I didn't see this coming, but now that it's happened I'll be looking at possible replacements. I love the gmail interface, and it's the only thing I'm interested in (don't care about docs, etc). I imagine there will be some competitors come and break Google's stronghold on web email now though, particularly in managing your own domain for free
  • by jest3r (458429) on Friday December 07, 2012 @12:05PM (#42215845)

    As a web designer I have always recommended customers use Google Apps for their Email instead of the web host, CPanel or whatever.

    Lots of benefits.
    - Apps interface way better than whatever most typical hosts offer.
    - If the host goes offline your email still works.
    - Great mobile support.
    - List goes on.

    However most small businesses spend maybe $10-$15 / month on web hosting (Dreamhost, GoDaddy, most Cpanel hosts etc..).
    And they might have 5-10 email accounts which you can always setup free at the host.

    So $50/year per email account on Google Apps is suddenly WAY OUT OF THE BALLPARK. A small busness with 10 email accounts would be paying Google $500 / year for Email .. and only $120 / year for Web Hosting which always includes Email (albeit not as good).

    It should be ~ $50 / year for a Google Apps account that supports 10 users ... that is market bearable for a small business who's pricing expectations are set by the shared hosting company.

  • Perhaps the author of the summary to exercise a bit more "journalistic integrity"....

  • I'm curious how this will affect businesses that are currently using postini. Since google is moving postini functionality into google apps, does this mean a business will now have to sign up for google apps to continue using any postini features?

    It seems that google has been fairly quiet about exactly what the postini shutdown means for business, and I've only found vague talk of how a business is supposed to transition to google to continue the service. Especially businesses that do not use gmail, but use

  • Just like drug dealers.

    Seeing the words "Google" and "customer support" in the same sentence is amusing.

  • I think that this move will not bring the intended effect on Google's bottom line. The core user that is affected by this change is the enthusiast, setting up a custom domain for email for their family, opensource project, etc. This enthusiast user was advocating the Google services. I count myself as one such user whose recommendations has led at least 3 new small business customers for Google. Also their decisions to use Android over the competing platforms.

    Now Google loses all of that. And since it is hi

    • by jest3r (458429)

      Agreed.
      I've recommended Google Apps to countless users. Some of them even eventually upgraded to paying. Most now use Chrome and all the other Google ecosystem stuff.

      Now that you have to pay up front I will no longer recommend Google Apps. Because it's so expensive comparatively speaking it's not an easy sell.
      You have 10 email accounts and now have to pay $250+ / year.

      Should be a bundle plan ... 10 users for $50 / year. I'd consider continuing to recommend that.

  • Sure the mail is relatively reliable the the control tools fairly simple to use. A lot of hassles are taken out of my hands definitely.

    However when there is an actual genuine issue, getting them to look at it, it's not a quick fix. It took a 50-> 100 reply thread, nearly a year before they finally fixed up the 'last logged in' display time in the console so you could actually identify when users were using the system or not. It was set to a US based time if I recall, despite Googles other services s

  • Small teams, very small business and community projects will be greatly screwed over by this. Many can't really afford or has enough money to spare for this. I am part of 2 business that uses google apps. If the free version hadn't existed, neither of them would ever have moved on to the paid one. Sad move by google.

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