Small business owners hoping to move to Google Apps for calendars, documents, spreadsheets and a corporate email address will now be required to cough up some cash for the search giant’s enterprise suite.
Starting today, Google will charge $50 per year for each individual enterprise user of its web software tools, according to a company blog post. Previously, small businesses could choose between the option of a free version of the business software and a premium version, which includes 24/7 phone support, a 25 GB inbox and 99.9% guarantee of no downtime.
The change will not affect existing free users of Google Apps for Business.
Google product management director Clay Bavor said the change would help consolidate the two product versions into one, streamlined version, adding that businesses often outgrew the basic version.
“When we launched the premium business version we kept our free, basic version as well,” Bavor wrote. “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.”
But ending the free version of Google Apps for Business could turn heads at a number of new cash-strapped, self-funded small businesses. For example, a 15-person small business would need to set aside $750 a year for the web software services.
The move marks a shift from free to pay offerings for Google enterprise products since the creation of Google Apps.
In 2006, Google introduced Google Apps for Your Domain, a free version of custom domain Gmail in addition to Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Page Creator. The company added the $50 per year, per user option of its Google Apps for Business package in 2007. Until last April, Google Apps for Business was free for small businesses up to 10 users.