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Days after walking back a pledge to kill off legacy, free G Suite accounts come May 2022, Google has announced Google Workspace Essentials Starter, a new offering that will allow users to sign up for no-cost access to Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drive, and Meet, more using their existing work email. The move comes ten years after Google stopped offering free G Suite accounts, which allows enterprises to host Google accounts on custom domains. Additionally, the move comes on the heels just weeks after Google initially said it would force customers to upgrade their current G Suite accounts to a paid subscription by May 1 or risk losing access to services.
“The new Google Workspace Essentials Starter Edition is a no-cost solution for business users looking to enhance teamwork and unlock innovation with secure-by-design collaboration,” Google Workspace VP of marketing Kelly Waldher said in a blog post. “Essentials Starter can help employees and their teams break down silos and work together in new ways, even if their organization still relies on legacy productivity tools that weren’t built for the hybrid era of work.”
Essentials Starter works much like legacy G Suite does today. It doesn’t require file conversions, plug-ins, or new desktop software, and all the tools in Essentials Starter will work within existing environments, Google says. Essentials Starter includes support for video meetings from three to 100 people up to 60 minutes in length as well as group messaging via Google Chat, 15GB of storage in Google Drive (separate from personal Google account limits), and a team management and permissions control dashboard.
“Essentials Starter can help employees and their teams break down silos and work together in new ways, even if their organization still relies on legacy productivity tools that weren’t built for the hybrid era of work,” Waldher continued. “Starting today, with Essentials Starter, employees at your organization can make the switch from legacy productivity tools and experience the difference with Google Workspace.”
The introduction of Workspace Essentials should placate those who expressed concern about how they’d migrate their G Suite accounts to personal Gmail accounts after the cutoff. As many Twitter users pointed out, the shutdown would’ve left people who registered a G Suite account without a way to easily transfer apps, linked accounts like YouTube, and calendars, excepting through Google’s data-exporting service Google Takeout.
“In the coming months, we will provide options for G Suite legacy free edition customers with 10 or fewer users in their group who do not use their edition for business to move their non-Google Workspace paid content and most of their data to a no-cost option. This new option will not include premium features like custom email or multi-account management,” a Google spokesperson clarified to VentureBeat via email. “We will provide more detail in the coming months, and customers will be able to evaluate this option prior to July 1, 2022 and prior to account suspension.”
Workspace Essentials — which doesn’t include custom domain email — is competitive in the collaboration software landscape, comparing favorably to Zoho’s service (which imposes 5GB-per-user storage and 25MB email attachment limits). Beyond stemming the tide of negative publicity, its launch signals the importance that Google ascribes to Workspace in the context of the company’s broader cloud strategy. As of 2020, G Suite had 2 billion users — a segment Google is no doubt eager to convert to paying subscribers. The company this week reported that revenue from Google Cloud — which includes Workspace — reached $5.5 billion in Q4 2021.
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