Google has killed the free version of Google Apps, which simply means that now you will have to pay for the service, which earlier had an option to use the service for free up to 10 users.
“When we launched the premium business version we kept our free, basic version as well. 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. Businesses quickly outgrow the basic version and want things like 24/7 customer support and larger inboxes. Similarly, consumers often have to wait to get new features while we make them business-ready.” [Google blogpost]
For bootstrapping entrepreneurs, Google Apps was the default service for configuring email/calendar etc services and while this is a huge blow to them, there is a workaround which enables you to signup for Google Apps for new domains, without actually paying for the service!
Assuming that you already have an existing Google Apps account, hop to Domain settings and click on ‘Domain names‘ tab to add another domain to the account.
Now all you need to do is *Add another domain* in your existing Google Apps account, verify the domain (via meta tag or file upload) and you are all set to use the new domain.
And if you are among the early adopters of Google Apps, you luckily have 50 free users to exhaust – i.e. even the new domain that you add can easily be used for free up to 50 users (in total including the primary domain). Around 2 years back, Google dropped the free user count from 50 to 10, so pat yourself for being an early adopter.
Important point to keep in mind is that the domain will be accessible from the parent Google Apps account and maybe, somebody somewhere is planning to start selling such services on ebay :)
Limitations of a non-primary account?
A lot! But not that significant.
For instance, you cannot set different policies or configuration settings for different domains – this is only controlled by primary domain.
Services like Google Docs also come with limitation for non-primary domains : For example, you cannot share Google Docs documents across domains using “Get the link to share” option. Similarly, you cannot restrict sharing to the users in a single domain (more details here).
In short, using non-primary domain has it’s own limitations but works very well if all you want to use is basic set of services and access control.
What if you are starting totally afresh?
Unfortunately, there is no work around my friend. You will have to pay for the service if you want to use Google Apps. Though there are a few alternatives (like Zoho), but Google definitely has surely lost a lot of future business from startups and hackers.
Maybe, it’s time for Zoho to do some guerrilla marketing?