It’s being widely reported today that the Google Apps Standard product is no longer offered as a free product. Released in 2006, Google Apps offered, for free, the ability to host mail, web, and other tightly integrated Google services up to 100 users. Over the years, the product has improved, while the number of free user allotment has decreased. This is generally bad news since the barriers to connecting and fully using a custom domain remain very daunting for small businesses. Google Apps offered a great starting point for the very small company in much the same way Gmail offers home users a great starting point for home email use.
And, indeed, a look at the product pricing page provides no option to get to the free “Standard” product. The $50 per user, per year pricing is more than reasonable for the product, but may make some businesses think twice when a free email address is “good enough” for them.My feeling is that Google wasn’t seeing the free product convert users to paid – possibly the main reason Google offered the “Standard” product in the first place. Right now, it doesn’t seem like a good, less than 50 users free option exists for small companies looking to get this kind of functionality.
Note: There also seems to be a workaround on Google Apps to get one account on a custom domain within Google Apps Engine. More about this workaround can be found here.
Update #1: One good alternative now for free email on a custom domain is with Microsoft at domains.live.com.