Google today announced a new version of Workspace, the company’s productivity service that you probably still refer to as G Suite. With the new — and free — Google Workspace Essentials plan, Google wants to bring more business users onto the platform by offering them the basic Workspace productivity tools — with the exception of Gmail.
Until now, in order to use Workspace with a non-Google email address, you had to sign up for the $6/month/user Business Starter account after a 14-day trial. That paid plan is not going away, but all you now need to do is sign up with your work email and you’re good to go. No credit card needed.
The new free plan is essentially the existing entry-level Business Starter plan, but with a reduced storage quota of 15 GB (down from 30). Otherwise, though, you can use Google Meet with up to 100 users for up to 60 minutes in each call, get access to Spaces for work collaboration and Chat for gossiping about their co-workers. All of the standard tools like Sheets, Slides and Docs are also included, of course.
Since you already have an email address from work, though, there’s no Gmail included in this edition, which makes sense, given that it would be tough to send out emails with your work address from there, leading to all kinds of confusion.
There is a little complication here, though. There is a cap of 25 users per Essentials Starter team account. But multiple team accounts can be created within the same company. So basically, somebody from your team needs to start an account and can then invite other team members if you’re working in a larger company.
With this move, Google is opening up a whole new world for shadow IT — and Google says as much in its announcement when it writes: “With Essentials Starter, we’re making it easy for employees to choose their own productivity tools and bring modern collaboration to work.” If IT doesn’t make the choice, employees will make it for them.
This also opens up all kinds of questions about data governance and security.
“Google Workspace Essentials Starter was designed for people to easily start using Google Workspace at work by themselves or with their team,” a Google spokesperson told me when I asked about this. “While it does include some lightweight admin controls—such as the ability to invite users to their team— granular IT controls and features like more advanced security are only available with paid Google Workspace plans.”
Chances are, this will get any large enterprise that doesn’t have a paid Workspace account yet to quickly sign up for one in order to block its employees from setting up their own.