Google announced last December that its Google Apps would no longer be free for new businesses. Its explanation was that its free basic service wasn’t really meeting their needs—specifically, the need for larger inboxes and 24/7 customer support. Meanwhile, its consumer clients weren’t happy waiting for features while Google made them business-ready.

Of course, money also played a role in this shift: According to the Wall Street Journal, paid Google Apps generated $1 billion in revenue in 2012. By dropping its Google apps for free for businesses and charging them for its premium service, Google clearly stands to make a sizable chunk of change.

This decision will actually be good for SMBs. Why? Free online services aren’t designed to meet specific business needs. Lured by the promise of reducing costs, struggling organizations have seriously compromised on productivity and support.

Instead of settling for free, SMBs should assess their specific needs and look for a paid email service that can be tailored to their needs—and that comes with top-notch service.

Why Business Should Be Happy to Pay for Quality Services with Quality Support

Many small businesses don’t realize that in addition to Google or Microsoft, there is a third option that may give them even more than what they would ever get from the two IT giants: personalized, round-the-clock technical support.

For example, there are many smaller providers that resell Microsoft cloud-based solutions like Hosted Exchange and Office 365. Not only do they compete with Microsoft on price, but they also carefully tailor their services to better meet the needs of the still largely-underserved SMB segment.

What SMBs Will Get From A Small Provider That They Won’t Get From Microsoft Or Google

– All the same features and functionality (of Hosted Exchange and Office 365 for example)
– Competitive pricing
– Customizable plans that can be tailored to their specific needs
– Personalized 24/7/365 support
– Free migration
– Access to a highly trained technical support team that is available when you need it to quickly resolve even the most complex issues

These represent important value-added services for small businesses, which often cannot afford to hire the services of a highly qualified IT professional to handle migration, maintenance and troubleshooting—let alone day-to-day user issues. And issues do happen.

More than any other segment, small businesses cannot afford lost emails or downtime. For Microsoft or Google, an organization of 5-10 employees is just an insignificant drop in the bucket. But a small provider that makes its bread and butter catering to the SMB market will go to great lengths to ensure you remain a satisfied customer.

In the end, Google’s decision to shift to paid Google apps for businesses may end up benefiting SMBs by opening the market to smaller providers that will do a better job of offering business-grade web-based apps and support that’s tailored to their needs. After all, better productivity and ROI—and not “free”— are what help small businesses succeed.

Written by JP Mercier Employee @ SherWeb

JP is SherWeb’s community manager. He has been working for IT companies since 2010, in both the software and cloud computing industry. JP has a degree in communication and specializes in online marketing. As a good Canadian, he is (overly) polite and loves hockey.