Google Apps and G Suite

Google Account Types

To use any of the Google apps, an individual can sign up for a Google Account, or a company can sign up for G Suite.

Google Account

With just the free Google Account, an individual can access the Google apps software suite for free, including storage in Google Drive. When you sign up for this, you can either use your existing e-mail address for your login identity, or you can create a new address. You don't even have to provide any other contact information (such as an existing e-mail address outside of Google or cell phone number), or set up security questions. Of course, if you don't provide contact information and then forget your password, it may be impossible to get back in to your account, since alternate contact information is required for Google to send you a password reset link. Like many modern, free online services, there is no telephone or e-mail technical support.

Users with Google Accounts can easily share files and calendars with each other, and anyone without a Google Account, by sending an invite to that person's e-mail address.

G Suite Account

A G Suite account is for a business, nonprofit organization, educational institution, or government agency. This type of account allows an organization to manage its users' access to Google software, enable efficient collaboration, and configure security settings and monitor usage for the entire company. It also comes with telephone technical support provided by Google. Users can share files with everyone in the company or defined teams with just a few clicks, or look up users in the company from the company directory to share only with them, in addition to sharing with those outside the organization by e-mail invites.

When you sign up for a G Suite account, your company's domain name is used as your G Suite account identity. Only someone who has access to configure the company's domain name profile can sign up for a G Suite account. This is because Google requires you to make certain changes to your records in your company's domain to prove it really is yours before it will assign your domain to a G Suite account.

Once the account is created, you can have all your domain e-mail delivered into and sent from the Google Mail system, but you are not required to transition your e-mail delivery to Google in order to use G Suite. Either way, you must set up each user one at a time in the web-based admin console, or upload a file listing all the users and their e-mail addresses for automatic setup. Your users will log in using their company e-mail address, and a password you assign. If you set up a user in G Suite, and that user had already signed up for a personal Google Account using his work e-mail address before you moved the domain to Google, then this will create what Google calls a "conflicting account". Next time he tries to log in to his personal Google Account, Google will require him to change the e-mail address he uses for his account identity, which Google refers to as "renaming" the account. The user's personal Google Account, and all data stored in there, always remains under his control, and separate from his G Suite login.

Pricing and Storage Overview

Google Accounts and G Suite

Google Accounts for individuals are free.

G Suite accounts are free for educational institutions and eligible nonprofits. For business and government, it's $5 per user per month for the Basic plan. Higher-tiered plans are available with more storage and features, at $10 per user per month for the Business plan, and $25 per user per month for Enterprise. Once an account is upgraded, the additional capabilities and pricing applies to all users in the organization.

For more detail, see the link to the Reference Chart at the bottom of this page.

Payments and Invoicing

Like many online services providers, the technical administrator's login account for G Suite accounts will have access to the billing information, and any account that can access the billing information can also reconfigure the account. This is a terrible situation as far as security is concerned.

See, if you set up your accountant to be able to log in to your G Suite account and review invoices and change credit card information as needed, the least privilege you can give him would still allow him to delete your entire account. And, typically, businesses simply assign the Super Admin role to anyone who needs access to the billing information, because it is the only way for this to work unless you know how to create a custom role that puts at least some limits on the accountant's access. And with small companies that don't hire an IT professional, the guy who sets up the G Suite account typically does not know. So, for many companies, the accountant has access to everything—including the ability to reset any user's password and log in to that user's account and read all his e-mail and access all his Google Drive files.

If your organization has more than 50 users, you can have Google send you invoices by e-mail or even regular mail, which can then be paid separately. This will alleviate some of the need to provide access for your accountant to the Admin console. However, for smaller businesses, there are no other options except to have your IT system administrator provide any needed invoicing information to your accountant.


An individual with a free Google Account gets 15 GB storage.

Nonprofits, government, and business get 30 GB per user with G Suite Basic. The G Suite Business and Enterprise plans offer unlimited storage, while educational institutions using a free G Suite account also get unlimited storage.

Accounts that offer unlimited storage are limited to 1 TB per user if there are four users or less, so there is at least some minimum revenue coming in to Google before you get no limits on storage. You'll see why as you read on about the many options for storage upgrade add-ons, below.

No matter how much storage you have, you can only upload up to 750 GB per day.

Storage limits apply to the total combined size of your e-mail box (including attachments), and everything you've uploaded to Google Drive. Documents, spreadsheets, and presentations saved from within Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides do not count. Also, photos uploaded through Google Photos do not count if you selected the "high quality" option in the Google Photos settings (which actually means "reduced quality"). Finally, any files shared with you by another Google user do not count towards your quota, even if you move the files from "Shared with me" to "My Drive".

Storage Upgrades

If you have an individual Google Account, you can purchase more storage above the allocated 15 GB.

For G Suite plans that don't have unlimited storage, a G Suite user can choose to pay for more storage himself, which is then only available to that user. Or, where applicable, the G Suite account administrator can buy storage and assign it to users.

User-Purchased Pricing

If you have an individual Google Account, or want to buy additional storage for just your own G Suite user account, it's $2 per month to upgrade to 100 GB (2 cents per gigabyte). For more storage, it's a straight scale of $10 per month per terabyte, up to 30 TB, which is less than a penny per gigabyte. Here are all the options: 100 GB ($2), 1 TB ($10), 10 TB ($100), 20 TB ($200), and 30 TB ($300). All prices are per-month.

You can only choose from these tiers, and you can't combine upgrades on one account. That is, you can't get two 100 GB upgrades for $4 per month if you need 200 GB; you would have to get the 1 TB upgrade for $10.

If you are an individual with a free Google Account (with 15 GB) and you want more than 1 TB all under one account, you could conceivably register a domain name (for about $10 per year) and sign up for a five-user G Suite Business account with unlimited storage for all five accounts for $50 a month, and save quite a bit of money in the long term. Whether or not this is worthwhile depends on how much effort it will take to migrate information between your free Google Account and your new G Suite account, dealing with a new e-mail address (which is your identity when sharing with others), and, most importantly, how long you need the extra storage. Although the price difference is huge, it may be more sensible just to upgrade your existing Google Account to 10, 20, or 30 TB of storage with a few clicks.

Administrator-Purchased Pricing

This is available only for business or government with a paid G Suite Basic account. Nonprofits using a free G Suite account, and businesses using a legacy free Google Apps account, cannot purchase additional storage through this option. Educational institutions with a free account, and any organization paying for G Suite Business or Enterprise, already get unlimited storage for free.

For some reason, having a G Suite administrator purchase additional storage is much more expensive than a user purchasing it himself, probably in exchange for the flexibility of being able to add, move, and remove extra storage among users. For an administrator purchase, it's $4 per month for 20 GB (20 cents per gigabyte), up to $1,430 for 16 TB (almost 9 cents per gigabyte), with seven other pricing tiers in between.

Only a company with a very large number of users and just a handful that need extra storage would ever want to pay the above prices for this storage.

Let's say you're paying $1,042 per month for 250 users with 30 GB each, on G Suite Basic (that's 250 users at $50 each per year). Upgrading to G Suite Business, with unlimited storage for all users, would take you to $2,500 per month. But if you had just four users that needed extra storage, it might make sense to stay on Basic, and pay an extra $1,432 per month for four users to get 4 TB each (for a total of $2,474 per month) and get the flexibility to move that extra storage between accounts as employees come and go.

But if you have 10 users that need 4 TB, we're talking $3,580 per month, just for the additional storage, bringing your total to $4,622 per month, obviously way more than converting all users to unlimited. Buying the extra storage would not make sense unless it were needed for only a short time, after which you could revert back to $1,042 per month.

Even so, having business users with special needs buy extra storage themselves certainly affords a much lower price in all cases. In the above example, with just the four users that need 4 TB, you could have each one buy the 10 TB plan for $400 extra per month, and in the 10-user scenario it would be $1,000 extra. The drawbacks: your business will have to deal with the loss of centralized billing, and the extra storage cannot be easily reallocated. To move storage to another user at minimal extra cost, the first user would have to cancel the current storage (with no pro rata refund for the rest of the month), and then the other user would sign up and pay immediately for the next month. And keep in mind, if moving data all around, Google sets a strict limit of 750 GB in daily uploads.

So, depending on the use case for the storage and the number of users involved, it's conceivable that administrator-allocated storage may make more sense, given the advantages of centralized billing and user configuration flexibility.

Next:  History of Google Apps and G Suite   >>

Google Apps and G Suite

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Description of the Apps
  3. Account Types, Pricing, and Storage
  4. History of Google Apps and G Suite

For even more about Google and G Suite: