I’m glad Google Apps for domains isn’t free

That’s right, I said it.  I’m glad that Google Apps for domains is no longer free.

Before you scroll to the bottom to submit an angry comment, hear me out.

I use Google Apps on a daily, nay, nearly-minutely basis.  My mail and calendar for this and several other domains that I’m responsible for are all hosted on Google Apps.  And yes, all of them are using the free version.  I am sincerely grateful to Google for this.

“He’s a filthy hypocrite!  He’s glad it’s not free, but he’s grateful that he has it for free!”  WAIT… read just a little further before submitting that comment.

I have honestly struggled with the whole free software-as-a-service thing on a regular basis for as long as I’ve used Google Apps.  Why are they offering this to me without requiring me to pay anything?  Sure, they’re hoping that eventually I’ll grow to need more than ten accounts or require one of the additional features that comes along with the paid accounts, but they have to know that there are tons of domains that will never go beyond the free offering.  What are they getting out of it?  Then, believe it or not, there’s the “this service is actually worth quite a bit to me, shouldn’t I pay for it” argument.

The problem, in my opinion, is this: Google offered a great service, for free, allowing everyone and their brother to have “AnythingIWant@mydomain.com” with great features and (let’s admit it) pretty great uptime – something that was historically a mark of a medium to large businesses – and then everyone expects that great services like this should be free except for medium to large businesses.

Wait – you want the same features as the big boys, without paying for it.  Well, duh, don’t we all?  But why would you think that you’re entitled to that?

As I said, I use Google Apps constantly.  All of my plans are still free, because each of them has less than ten users.  That said, I will strongly consider upgrading to the paid edition (most likely rolling several of my domains into the same plan), because I believe that you should pay for a quality service.  If I don’t pay for it, I have absolutely no right to expect anything of it, nor to complain about it.  Let’s face it, I have high expectations and I like to complain!

Will this be an option for everyone?  Maybe not.  At that point, though, I would question whether you really need the full-fledged experience of Google Apps for every one of your e-mail accounts.  How about setting up your “me@mydomain.com” address via your web hosting provider (most offer basic e-mail services) and then using a regular GMail account to grab that mail – you can even reply-as me@mydomain.com, if you set it up properly.  Granted, that gets another system in the mix, but hey, we’re talking about free here.

This speaks to a larger problem with free “cloud” services today, in that every company and their brother starts offering these free services and eventually they need to monetize on them – servers, staff, bandwidth, etc. all cost money.  However, when this inevitably happens, if they do so in the most legitimate way possible – charging to use the service – the company is no longer considered a rock star provider of an awesome service, but instead is perceived as a bunch of money grubbing jerks.

WHY?

I, for one, like to be paid what I’m worth … and I expect to pay the amount that the services I use are worth to me.

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