updated 09:56 am EST, Fri December 7, 2012
Existing free users of Apps for Business remain unaffected
Google has withdrawn the free version of its Apps for Business to new registrations. Originally offered as free to organizations with less than 200 users, Google has reduced the user count periodically over time to the most recent 10-user limit, and now forces individuals to use the personal Google Account or face paying for the single "for Businesses" option.
The yearly charge of $50 per user includes 24-hour phone support, a 99.9-percent uptime guarantee, no scheduled downtime, and a 25GB inbox. Existing users of the free service can continue to do so without interruption, as can those of the free Google Apps for Education. Google Apps for Government will remain at the same $50 per user price, according to a company blog post.
The removal of the free tier could lead new companies to set up their office using other cloud-based platforms. Microsoft already offers Windows Live Domains at no charge for organizations of up to 500 users, with 7GB of SkyDrive, webmail and basic Office web apps up for use, though a paid $72-per-user version of Office 365 Small Business can also be used for more demanding users. A premium option at $150 per user per year also including access to offline versions of the office suite.