Bad news for many -- Google has killed off its free Apps suite for businesses, but luckily those that already have accounts set up are in the clear.

The new policy is only for new accounts. At a cost of US$ 50 per year the Google Apps suite may be too much for some so free individual accounts are still available -- but those folks will simply have to use a email account. 

Too Much of a Good Thing

Google doesn't want to let this opportunity slip away, but we have to think that start-ups and young entrepreneurs will begin looking elsewhere for their business needs because of it. The reason is that US$ 50 per year is per user. Fifty dollars is no problem for one person -- it's just that when things start to scale, it can become burdensome for small firms.

Additionally, for those who already have the free version, you can still create a new Apps account going through the App Engine Admin Console. The free Standard Apps accounts are still available, but you'll only be able to get one user per account rather than the 10 under the old version.

Perhaps none of this should be a surprise. Google is a big business -- it recently cut the price of its cloud storage service to ensure it continues to be that way. We're not saying this price hike is directly in response to Google's price cut on cloud storage, but that move had to have assuaged any hand wringing over the bump on the Apps suite.

As the Google Apps service has grown, businesses that signed up for the free version quickly started demanding things like 24/7 support, according a blog post by Clay Bavor, director of product management for Google Apps.

Bavor cited the experience for both businesses and individuals as having become not quite right. While businesses were demanding new features, individuals had to wait for new features while they were made business ready. Anyone not dissuaded from setting up new Google Apps accounts can check out a free Webinar Monday, Dec 10 at 1 p.m. PST for an hour long overview of the system.

Alternate Services

For those who are thinking of setting up new systems like email hosting, but don't want to spend US$ 50 per user per year, there are lots of other options. Zoho, Rackspace and even Microsoft all offer similar services for less money. 

We think one of the biggest losses of the free version will be for simply kicking off new ventures. The ability to paste together a small team, establish a workflow on no budget and get an early stage idea off the ground will likely be severely hampered by this move.

There is still a 30 day free trial, but that's a super fast gear up time, and it makes switching to a new system even harder if it has to be done because the team must learn a new system.

Tell us in the comments if you're surprised with the change or if you were still kind of shocked how much value could be derived from such an inexpensive service in the first place.