Google stopped offering the free version of its software-as-a-service productivity suite, which it says is used by over four million businesses, on Thursday.
In post on its official blog, the California-based company said it is has reduced the number of signup options for businesses from two to one, keeping the premium version.
New customers will now be required to pay $50 per user per year to use Google Apps for Businesses, regardless of the size of the company.
This suite, which allows companies to work collaboratively on documents, share files and setup company email accounts, will give them access to a raft of premium features, including 24-hour, a 25GB, and a “99.9% uptime guarantee with no scheduled downtime,” Google said.
The company said individuals wanting to use its web apps like Gmail and Google drive should create a free personal Google Account.
“Google Apps started with the simple idea that gmail could help businesses and schools work better together without the hassles of managing software and servers,” wrote Google Apps director of product management Clay Bavor. “As we grew from a handful of customers to a few hundred, we expanded to offer premium business version of Google Apps.”
Bavor said Google was making the change because the old version's user experience, which is used by both businesses and individuals, “isn't quite right for either group”.
“Businesses quickly outgrow the basic version and want things like 24/7 customer support and larger inboxes,” wrote Bavor. “Similarly, consumers often have to wait to get new features while we make them business-ready.
The change won't affect Google's existing customers, including those using the free version, it said. As such, the company will continue to offer Google Apps for Education for free, while Google Apps for Government will continue to cost $50 per user, per year.
In October, Forbes reported that Google overtook Microsoft as the world'st second-largest public technology company in terms of market cap, which had a value of $249 billion, in comparison to Microsoft's $247 billion.