If you've been on the fence about switching your small business over to the free "small team" version of Google Apps, Google just made the decision for you. Before, groups under 10 people in size could sign up for a basic version of Google Apps gratis, but today, the company announced that the free tier has been discontinued. In fact, it's already been scrubbed from the Google Apps website.
"Businesses quickly outgrow the basic version and want things like 24/7 customer support and larger inboxes," Google Apps director Clay Bavor wrote on the Google Enterprise blog. Any business that wants to sign up for Google Apps now has to pay $50 per user per year, regardless of the company's size.
The overwhelming majority of the 40 million-plus Google Apps users are part of smaller teams that use the service for free, the Wall Street Journal reports. The decision to dump the free tier probably has more to do with generating revenue for Google than forcibly delivering a better customer experience, but Bavor said that businesses which already use the free version of Google Apps will continue to be able to do so.
Individuals with free Google Apps accounts can continue to use them as well, though Bavor suggests that signing up for a personal Google Account and using the individual web services might make better sense for everyday users. "Consumers often have to wait to get new features while we make them business-ready (for Google Apps)," he wrote.
Google has been moving to monetize its previously free business-oriented services. The company recently started charging businesses which want to be included in Google Shopping results, and popular apps that tap the Google Maps API more than 25,000 times daily must now pay for the privilege, as well.