Google Apps, the organization-level offering of branded, integrated groupware that includes Gmail and Google Docs, comes in several flavors. Many businesses (millions, in fact) use the free version, which, while lacking some of the advanced features of the paid, educational, and non-profit versions, is an incredibly powerful suite of cloud-based applications that can provide everything a small business needs to communicate and collaborate. As of May 10th, though, "small businesses" are getting a lot smaller by Google's definition.
My domain runs on the free edition of Google Apps and it's served me very well. I only use a few of the 50 accounts included with the free Google Apps for active users and I use several others for testing purposes (I do, after all, write about Google). Today, however, I received an email from the Google Apps Team noting that in the future, Google Apps (as the free edition is now called) would be limited to 10 users:
We recently announced upcoming changes to the maximum number of users for Google Apps. We want to let you know that, as a current customer, the changes will not affect you.
As of May 10, any organization that signs up for a new account will be required to use the paid Google Apps for Business product in order to create more than 10 users. We honor our commitment to all existing customers and will allow you to add more than 10 users to your account for 6geeks.net at no additional charge, based on the limit in place when you joined us.
The Google Apps Team
Well good for me, but all of the Google Apps pages still show the limit at 50 free users. As the email noted, the new limits don't go into place for another week and a half, but a note to potential sign-ups seems a reasonable courtesy. Since it's not really in Google's best financial interest to inspire any fence-sitters running businesses of 49 employees to hurry up and and get on board with the free edition of Google Apps, I'll do it for them.
If you are running a small business with 11-50 employees and have been thinking about adopting Google Apps so you can have free, powerful groupware for all of your employees, do it now.Or at least do it before May 10th. It's a great deal (you know, free) and will potentially save you $2500 a year (if you have 50 users, you'll have to sign up for a Google Apps for Business account at the cost of $50/user/year. While this isn't a huge amount of money, it can be the difference between improving communications and collaboration with a great suite of online software and sticking with all of those Hotmail and Yahoo! accounts that you're using now. For a small business, $2500 can be a deal breaker.
Not that Google Apps for Business is a bad deal. It isn't; it adds service level agreements and uptime guarantees, as well as Google Video and many other features. But the free version of Google Apps gets most small businesses the turnkey solution they need. For free.
So sign up now! Get all 50 of those free accounts!