The free version of Google Apps for businesses that was offered to organizations with up to 10 employees is being killed off. The free tier was long touted as an advantage of Google’s online office suite over Microsoft’s productivity products, but in an announcement yesterday Google said the service wasn’t useful to enough people to justify its existence.

“When we launched the premium business version [of Google Apps] we kept our free, basic version as well,” Director of Product Management Clay Bavor wrote. “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.”

The upshot is businesses signing up for new Google Apps accounts will have just one option, which starts at $50 per user per year (or $5 per user per month). Google Apps includes Google’s key productivity services including Gmail, Calendar, Drive, and Docs, along with business-focused features like 24/7 customer support, a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee, and an IT administration console. There is also a data archiving service for businesses willing to pay a bit extra.

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via Ars Technica » Technology Lab