Google says it’s time for long-time small business users to pay

When Google told some small businesses in January that they would no longer be able to use personalized email and other applications in the workplace for free, it felt like a broken promise to Richard J. Dalton Jr., a longtime consumer who runs a training test-preparation company in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“They are basically arming us to switch to something paid for after we get hooked on this free service,” he said. Dalton, who first created a working Google email for his business, Your Score Booster, in 2008.

Google has said that longtime users of what it calls its legacy free G Suite edition, which includes email and apps like Documents and Calendar, should start paying a monthly fee, typically about $ 6 for each business email address. Businesses that do not voluntarily switch to a paid service by June 27 will be moves automatically to one. If they do not pay by Aug. 1, their accounts will be suspended.

Although the price of the paid service is more of a nuisance than a severe financial blow, small business owners affected by the change say they have been disappointed with the rough way Google has handled the process. They can’t help but feel that giant company with billions of dollars in profits is pushing the little boys – one of the first companies to use Google apps for work – for just a little money.

“It seemed unnecessarily trivial,” said Patrick Gant, owner of Think It Creative, a marketing consulting firm in Ottawa. “It’s hard to feel sorry for someone who has been receiving something for free for a long time and is now being told to pay for it. But a promise was made. This led me to decide to use Google against other alternatives. “

Google’s decision to charge organizations that have used its apps for free is another example of looking for ways to make more money from your existing business, similar to the way it sometimes puts four ads at the top of search results instead of three. blocks more ads in YouTube videos. In recent years, Google has been more aggressive in pushing to sell business software subscriptions and competing more directly with Microsoftwhose programs Word and Excel manage the market.

After a number of long-time consumers complained about the change in paid service, the initial deadline of May 1st was delayed. Google also said that people who use old accounts for personal rather than business reasons can continue to do so for free.

But some business owners have said that while considering whether to pay Google or abandon its services, they find it difficult to contact customer support. As the deadline approached, six small business owners who spoke to The New York Times criticized what they said was confusing and at times volatile reports of a change in service.

“I don’t mind you kicking us out,” said Samad Sajanlal, owner of Supreme Equipment Company, which provides software consulting and other technical services in McKinney, Texas. “But don’t give us an unrealistic deadline to go and find an alternative while you’re still deciding if you really want to kick us out in the first place.”

Google said the free edition does not include customer support, but provides users with many ways to contact the company to help with the transition.

Google launched Gmail in 2004 and business applications such as Documents and Tables two years later. The search giant was eager for startups and parent and pop stores to adopt its working software, so it offered the services for free and allowed companies to bring custom domains that match the names of their Gmail businesses.

While still testing the applications, even he said business owners that the products will remain free for life, although Google says that from the outset, the terms of service for its business software state that the company may suspend or discontinue offering in the future. Google suspended new free registrations in December 2012, but continued to maintain accounts of what became known as the legacy free edition of G Suite.

In 2020, G Suite was rebranded as Google Workspace. The majority of people – the company says it has more than three billion users – use the free version of Workspace. More than seven million organizations or individuals are paying for versions with additional tools and customer support, up from six million in 2020. The number of users still using the free legacy version years ago is in the thousands, said a source familiar with the matter. count. who requested anonymity because the person was not allowed to disclose these numbers publicly.

“We are here to help our customers with this transition, including large discounts on Google Workspace subscriptions,” said Katie Wattie, Google spokeswoman, in a statement. “Switching to a Google Workspace subscription can be done with a few clicks.”

Mr. Dalton, who is helping Canadian students enter American universities, said Google’s forced upgrade came at a bad time. The coronavirus pandemic is detrimental to his business, he said. Places regularly canceled tests, some universities suspended test requirements, and fewer students sought preparatory services.

From April 2020 to March 2021, business revenues fell by almost half. Sales fell another 20% the following year. Things have started to improve in recent months, but your Score Booster is still lagging behind before the pandemic.

“At the moment, I’m focused on rebuilding my business,” he said. Said Dalton. “The last thing I want to do is change a favor.” So he asked his 11 part-time employees to start using their personal work email addresses, and he upgraded the other two accounts to the cheapest version of Google Workspace.

Mr. Gantt’s business is a one-man shop, and he has been using Gmail for free since 2004. He said it was not about money. His problem was the quarrel. He had to decide whether to continue using Google or find another option.

Mr. Gantt is still considering moving to Microsoft Outlook, Apple iCloud or ProtonMail, or staying with Google. He will decide what to do at the end of the month. Microsoft will cost him C $ 100 a year. Apple will cost $ 50 and ProtonMail $ 160. Google will give it three months for free and then charge the same amount as Apple for one year. Google’s price will double next year.

Mr. Sajanlal, the only employee of his business, signed up for Gmail’s business service in 2009. Years later, he added his son-in-law, Mesam Givani, to his G Suite account when he started his own business. This company, Fast Payment Systems, is helping small businesses in the states, including Texas and New York, process credit card payments by 2020.

When Mr. Sajanlal told Mr. Jiwani that Google would start charging for each of their email addresses, Mr. Giovanni said, “Are you serious? Will they start grabbing us? “

Mr. Jiwani said it is storing transaction data for its 3,000 customers on Google Drive, so it has begun paying for the company’s services, although it is considering switching to software vendor Zoho. Mr. Sajanlal retired from Google in March, setting up his business emails on a server hosted by Nextcloud.

Stean Oxavik, who has a side business called BeyondBits in Loxahachi, Florida, which sets up computer networks for customers, has moved to Apple’s iCloud service, which was already available as part of an existing subscription package.

“It was less about the amount they charge and more about the fact that they changed the rules. said Oxavik. “They can change the rules again at any time.”

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