Google offers two types of messaging and productivity solutions for businesses; Google Apps (free) and Google Apps for Business. They both include Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sites and an Administration Panel for your domain. Google Apps is free, and Google Apps is $50/user/year. But there are some very compelling reasons to upgrade to Google Apps for Business.

Google Apps and Google Apps for Business

Businesses using Google Apps for their daily operations should upgrade to Google Apps for Business. The extra features, integrations and security create a peace of mind that far outweighs the price tag.

1. Storage

Google Apps for Business users have a quota of 25GB of email storage space, Google Apps (free) users only get 7GB. Although 7GB may be more than you had with your legacy system, 7GB of space can be filled up pretty quickly these days. Given the number of emails most businesses get per day and compliance laws on email retention, business users will need the extra space.

2. Mobile Sync and BES Integration

Google Apps for Business can also be integrated with Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES). The BES connects with Google, authenticates using OAuth and syncs using Gmail Sync, Calendar and Contacts. The Google Sync (Active Sync) tool which syncs mail, contacts, and calendars with smart phones like iPhones and Androids is a feature of both editions of Google Apps. However, in Google Apps for Business this feature can be restricted or turned off as a security measure. This allows an Administrator to better comply with the company’s policies around mobile devices.

3. Outlook Interoperability

Google has a tool called Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook (GASMO). This tool allows users to access their Google Apps mail, contact and calendar through the familiar skin of Microsoft Outlook. This tool is like “training wheels” for those who are resistant to move to a web-based email system. This tool is especially useful with Administrative Assistants and other heavy calendar and email users. GASMO is only available for Google Apps for Business users.

4. Support

Google Apps for Business Administrators have access to 24-hour phone and email support. A real person actually answers the phone or replies by email. Free Google Apps subscriptions do not include phone or email support. The administrators and users must comb the Google User Help Forums and Google Help Center articles for answers. With the constant evolution of Google Apps these articles and posts may be out of date and unreliable.

5. Google Video

Google Apps for Business users can activate the Google Video service. Google Video is like a private YouTube within your company. Users can upload videos, which become searchable and streamable online. The videos can only be shared within the company. Videos provide amazing training opportunities as well as communication tools for virtual or global companies.

6. Google Groups for Business

Although the interface is poor and inconsistent with the rest of Google Apps, this service is a necessity for email communication. Groups allow Admins and/or users to create groups which can be used as distribution lists, shared mailboxes and internal announcement lists. Groups also provide a searchable web-based archive of all group communications.

7. Business Security

Google Apps security is a very popular and somewhat controversial topic of discussion. I won’t attempt to go into it in this short blog article today. However, Google Apps (free and paid) is the first cloud based messaging and collaboration suite to achieve FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) certification. Google Apps for Business offer the additional security features of SSO integration, 2-step user verification, forced SSL, and custom password strength requirements.

8. Reliability

Security is not the only consideration when choosing a business productivity and messaging solution. The other important factor is reliability; the service must be available and have very few service disruptions. Google Apps for Business guarantees a 99.9% up-time in the Service Level Agreement. This works out to be no more than nine hours of downtown per year.

9. Growing Your Business

Before April 26, 2011 Google Apps users could have up to 50 accounts for free. This Spring Google announced that the limit would now be capped at 10 users for new customers. This rule does not affect those organizations who signed up for Google Apps before April 26th, 2011. If you are new to Google Apps and plan on growing your business beyond ten people, you should upgrade to Google Apps for Business.

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You need Apps for Business

The standard version of Google Apps is just fine for families, recreational groups and students. If you are running a serious business on Google Apps, you need Google Apps for Business.

If you aren’t sure, you can always sign up for a 30 day free trial and downgrade if you aren’t happy with the extra benefits of the paid version. If you aren’t ready to make a full year commitment, try the recently released flexible subscription plan for the fee of $5/user/month.