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Google Cloud Offers Free Google Workspace ‘Essentials Starter’

Donna Goodison

Business users can get no-cost access to the limited Google Workspace edition using their existing emails.

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Google Cloud is launching a new free, but limited version of its Google Workspace collaboration and productivity suite.

Google Workspace Essential Starter gives business users no-cost access to its Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drive, Meet, Chat and Tasks using their existing emails.

Features include one-on-one and team video meetings, real-time messaging, team collaboration in Spaces, which are integrated with Google Workspace tools, and the ability to store, share or co-edit more than 100 file types—including Microsoft Office documents and PDFs—without the need for file conversions. Google Workspace Essential Starter Edition can be accessed from mobile devices, tablets or computers, and Drive for desktop enables syncing of files and folders to a personal computer or Mac.

Google Cloud rebranded its former G Suite cloud-native apps, which are powered by Google artificial intelligence, as Google Workspace in October 2020. Google Workspace currently has more than 3 billion users across consumer, enterprise and education, according to Google Cloud, with usage buoyed by the coronavirus pandemic and the shift to remote and hybrid work.

In a blog post Thursday, Kelly Waldher, vice president of marketing for Google Workspace, framed the new free offering as making it easy for employees to choose their own productivity tools for work, noting Google Workspace Essential Starter Edition doesn’t require a new email address, file conversions, new plug-ins or desktop software.

“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 said in the blog post. “All of the tools in Essentials Starter will work quickly and easily within your existing environment. And because we designed Google Workspace to operate on our industry-leading cloud foundation, Essentials Starter provides encrypted and secure access to files, helping keep users safe and their information private.”

Essential Starter Versus Paid Editions Of Google Workspace

Google Workspace Essential Starter differs from paid editions of Google Workspace—Business Starter, Business Standard, Business Plus and Enterprise—which have custom business email management, more storage per user, advanced video meeting features, enterprise-grade admin controls and other features.

Google Workspace Essential Starter Edition does not come with Gmail. While it includes secure one-to-one video meetings and team meetings for three to 100 people, those group meetings will be capped at 60 minutes in length each.

The starter edition also does not include advanced security features or live support.

It comes with 15 GB of Google Drive storage and no shared Drives.

Not A Replacement For G Suite Legacy Free Edition

The new offering comes as Google Cloud said it’s retiring its G Suite legacy free edition that dates to 2006 and has a reduced set of business features.

Google Cloud, which stopped new users from signing up for the G Suite legacy free edition in December 2012, has said it will no longer be available starting July 1. Current users have to upgrade to a paid Google Workspace subscription by May 1 to maintain their accounts and services, according to the cloud provider.

Google Workspace Essentials Starter is not a replacement for the G Suite legacy free offering, and there is no path to seamlessly migrate from the G Suite legacy free edition to Google Workspace Essentials Starter, according to a Google Cloud spokesperson.

“The G Suite legacy free offering gives customers a custom email and access to basic business features,” the spokesperson said. “While Google Workspace Essentials Starter is also available at no cost, it was designed for people at work and does not include custom email—it’s meant to work with their existing work email and does not need domain verification.”

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