Google today announced a new version of Workspace, the enterprise productivity service you probably still call G Suite. With the new – and free – Google Workspace Essentials plan, Google wants to bring more business users to the platform, giving them the basic Workspace productivity tools – with the exception of Gmail.
Until now, to use Workspace with a non-Google email address, you had to sign up for $6/month/user Business Starter account after a 14 day trial. This paid plan isn’t going away, but all you have to do now is sign up with your work email and you’re good to go. No credit card required.
The new free plan is essentially the existing entry-level Business Starter plan, but with a reduced storage quota of 15GB (down from 30). Otherwise, you can Google Meet with up to 100 users for up to 60 minutes on each call, have access to Spaces for collaboration at work, and Chat to gossip about your coworkers. All the standard tools like Sheets, Slides, and Docs are also included, of course.
Since you already have a work email address, there is no Gmail included in this edition, which makes sense as it would be difficult to send emails with your work address from there, causing all sorts of confusion.
There is a slight complication here, however. There is a limit of 25 users per Essentials Starter team account. But multiple team accounts can be created in the same company. So basically, someone on your team needs to start an account and can invite other team members if you are working at a larger company.
With this change, Google is opening up a whole new world for shadow IT — and Google says this in its announcement when it writes, “With Essentials Starter, we make it easier for employees to choose their own productivity and collaboration tools to work with.” If IT doesn’t make the choice, employees will make it for them.
This also opens up all sorts of questions about governance and data security.
“Google Workspace Essentials Starter is designed for people to easily start using Google Workspace at work on their own or with their team,” a Google spokesperson told me when I asked about it. “While it includes some light administrative controls like the ability to invite users to your team, granular IT controls and features like more advanced security are only available with paid Google Workspace plans.”
This will likely cause any large company that doesn’t already have a paid Workspace account to quickly sign up for one to prevent their employees from creating their own.