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3 Reasons Why Free is NOT Free

I am still surprised by those that are experienced and knee-deep within 'the cloud"* asking me why a company would pay for the Google Apps Enterprise when they can use the free one.

The obvious answer is that you get more ... dur!
Everyone with Google Apps gets 25 users with access to:
  • Email
  • Calendar
  • Docs (words, numbers and presos)
  • Sites ("wiki" + gadgets)
With Google Apps Enterprise (which costs) you have the above PLUS:
  • Email security and archival/retrieval
  • Voice and video chat
  • Video (think in-house YouTube)
  • Single sign on using your in-house authorisation (SAML)
  • As many users as you'd care to pay for (around NZ$100/user/year)
Oh, and don't forget about the Google Apps Education Edition which is "free" excluding Postini and Video but talk to your local reseller ASAP ;-)

But remember, the "free" verson is NOT free.
This is a comment I left on Ben's sometime ago that explains what I mean:
... When I take SME's through Google Apps (a "free" service) I am very honest that it's NOT "free". It's paid for by advertising (as you mention) which in turn they contribute to by paying for it with their "data" and "attention". TV3 is "free" to the consumer but it's not really is it? Same deal. And those that "give away" their s/w (Silverstripe for example) are using the software to generate an audience for their service offerings. "Free" isn't "free" there either.

Another example - I give "free" preso/speeches at conferences, put up free IP on my websites but it's all designed to generate the same for me, a demand for my services.

I think "free" is different to how software/computer stuff has normally been moved around (as a product, like shoes, cars and other physical stuff) but the alternative ways of making $$$ are also occurring. It's not one or the other, it's a world of every which way :-) The trick is to be very clear HOW the money is coming and not be sucked into some sort of hippy concept of "free".

And finally there is a payment for everything in "the cloud"* - your attention.

Everything you do is recorded, aggregated and used. Every click, every tag added, every email marked as spam ... it al goes into the great big pot and helps that company (be it Google or whoever) create better products, more relevant information and ultimately more coins in their pocket.

Nothing is free ... but somethings are worth paying for.

Other articles related to this:

* SaaS, grid, Web 2.0 - whatever your favourite yet soon to sound old hat moniker is


  1. Nice post Mike - and spurred on by your motivating words I just upgraded my skinflint "free" google apps account to GAPE.

    I hope you get a commission from the 'plex!

  2. Heh, without us putting it through, no ;-)

    On ya

  3. I agree with you...nothing is free but the notion that it's free makes offers appealing though!

  4. Thanks @nzlemming, I had to look it up ;-)

    @Christine - oh yeah, but I get a tad annoyed when appealing is played upon to sell lies :-)

  5. Umm, the free in 'free software' is to do with what users can do with said software, not how much it costs. but you know that. Google apps are certainly not free software.

  6. @don - I know what you're saying and the complimentary article (chance, not planning), "Open Source: What It's Not" is with ya.

    This time though I was most definitely talking about $0 cost software vs $1+ software


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