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A neon Google logo is seen as employees work at the new Google office in Toronto, Nov.13, 2012. (MARK BLINCH/REUTERS)
A neon Google logo is seen as employees work at the new Google office in Toronto, Nov.13, 2012. (MARK BLINCH/REUTERS)

SMALL BUSINESS BRIEFING

Free ride ends for small businesses using Google Apps Add to ...

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Company will now charge businesses with 10 or fewer users annual $50. Does it set stage for cloud battle?

The ride has ended for small businesses that have been using Google Apps for free, the company announced in a blog post.

Google Inc., which had been offering its online suite of applications to businesses with 10 or fewer users for free, will now charge them an annual $50 for each user. It’s the latest in a series of moves to scale down its free use of Google Apps: The company used to provide the apps at no charge to businesses with up to 200 users, then scaled it down to 50 users, then over the past year, those with more than 10 users had to cough up, and now even smaller firms will pay.

Google Apps, which offers a range of services including an online office suite, e-mail, calendar and storage, will still be free for individual users and for businesses that are already using the free version, the company said.

It’s all part of a growing move by the company to generate revenue from its offerings, which you can read more about in The Wall Street Journal. Google Apps competes with Microsoft Corp.s office software and Exchange e-mail.

Google’s announcement said the apps are used by “millions” of businesses. There are more than five million businesses using Google Apps, according to The Wall Street Journal, the majority with fewer than 10 users and so have had it for free. Both The Journal and Infoworld quoted Google as saying there are more than 40 million users of the free and paid versions of Google Apps. The Journal said Google generated about $1-billion in the last year from selling Google apps and separate mapping software.

Google’s announcement said that businesses had outgrown the free, basic version and wanted more, such as round-the-clock customer support and larger inboxes, and said it would cut confusion about its various versions.

Will business stick with it? One quoted in The Wall Street Journal said it was willing to pay, but this analysis on The Verge suggests that small businesses wanting to avoid incurring charges might start to look elsehere  to avoid the charge.

“Google’s announcement has just made it easier for other services to capture the small business market with low-cost services, so expect 2013 to be a big cloud battle amongst the big and small players,” The Verge piece said.

Elephant dung secret ingredient of Canadian entrepreneur's coffee creation

A Canadian entrepreneur working in Thailand is brewing some of the world's priciest coffee. His secret ingredient: Elephant dung, reports this Associated Press piece printed in The Ottawa Citizen.

The coffee is made from beans eaten and excreted by the elephants; a protein breakdown turns the beans bitter and create an earthy and smooth flavour, according to the  Canadian entrepreneur, Blake Dinkin, behind the enterprising brew.

The so-called Black Ivory coffee, launched at some luxury hotels in remote places, including Thailand, the Maldives and Abu Dhabi, doesn't come cheap: It runs about $50 a serving, according to the story.

 Mr. Dinkin has a background in civet coffee, created  from the excrement of that animal.

You can also check out some photos and video at the Daily Mail.

EDITOR’S PICKS FROM REPORT ON SMALL BUSINESS

Why these businesses should not be on Facebook, Twitter

Despite all the hype about the importance of jumping on the social media bandwagon, many small firms could actually cause more harm than good to their businesses, experts say.

FROM THE ROSB ARCHIVES

Chinese entrepreneur brews world's most expensive tea with panda poo

That Canadian entrepreneur isn't the only one at work using animal excrement to create exotic brews. We earlier reported  on a Chinese entrepreneur who has been brewing pricey tea, fertilized with panda droppings.

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