After posting disappointing earnings for the first quarter of 2011, Google hopes to boost its bottom line by limiting free provision of its Google Apps for Business cloud suite to organisations with 10 users or fewer.
The company had previously offered the suite to organisations with up to 50 users free of charge, but the move means all customers with more than 10 users will need to sign up to Google's paid service.
The new policy comes into effect on 10 May, and it is only new customers that will be affected; existing Google Apps customers can expand beyond 10 users - up to a maximum of 50 - at no additional charge.
Those who sign up to the service can opt to pay $5 (£3) per user per month, requiring no contractual commitment, or $50 per user per year with a one-year commitment.
Google is also eliminating upfront payments for new customers, and customers can pay by direct debit at the end of each month. The offer is available to companies based in the US, the UK, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.
The 10-user limit does not apply to schools and not-for-profit organisations, which will still qualify for subscription to Google Apps for Education.
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