Google Apps and G Suite
Google Inc. (now Google LLC) joined the crowded field of web search engines in the late 1990s with innovative indexing methods designed by founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were still computer science graduate students at Stanford. Within a few years, Google took over as the leading search engine due to the size of its database of web sites, and the accuracy and relevance of search results. All new offerings for the next several years were related to their search technologies—going beyond websites to cover news articles, books, scholarly papers, merchandise for sale, and images, as well as various methods for software developers to link directly into the Google search engine.
In 2004, Google introduced Gmail, their first foray outside of search. Google's free web-based e-mail system offered one gigabyte of free storage (one hundred times more than the leading competitor at the time), the ability to search your entire mailbox using keywords and other options, and a conversation view to keep related messages together. These have been so widely copied by other e-mail systems that they are now considered standard. Shortly afterward, Google created Google Talk (a chat client) and Google Calendar, both of which were integrated into the web-based Gmail experience. The innovative Google Docs, allowing real-time remote collaboration on documents and spreadsheets in a browser, followed shortly after. To this day, all Google applications are based on the cloud model (formerly called the ASP model), where the software and your data all remain on Google's servers, accessible through a web browser or mobile app.
In early 2006, Google enabled business users to use their own domain with Gmail, with a product called Gmail for Your Domain. Upon the addition of Google Calendar that August, it was renamed Google Apps for Your Domain, and contained the first Admin console for managing user accounts and security settings, for any number of users. Mailbox size was doubled to 2 GB per user.
Google Apps for Education was introduced in October 2006, which was free for qualified institutions. It was engineered for integration with existing mail and user account directory systems of large educational institutions, with tools for enabling migration of these to Google Apps.
The first paid edition was released in February 2007, called Google Apps Premier Edition. This included the integration tools that had been introduced with Google Apps for Education. Google Apps accounts now fully supported Google Docs, which had been experimental until that time. The paid plan offered 10 GB per user, service-level agreements for guaranteed uptime, and 24x7 support for critical issues. Billing was annual only then, at $50 per user. Google Apps for Your Domain (the free edition) was renamed to Google Apps Standard Edition. In the ensuing years, the Standard and Premier Editions were sometimes collectively referred to as Google Apps for business, to distinguish them from the already-existing Google Apps for Education, and Google Apps for Government, which was introduced in July 2010 after Google achieved certification that they met security standards required for governmental agencies to store their data with them.
By late 2007, Google was trying to get away from offering Google Apps for free to businesses, without unceremoniously dumping it altogether. When the Premier Edition was introduced, signups for the free Standard Edition were limited to 200 users, and reduced in short order to 100 users. You could make a special request for more users, though. However, around that same time, e-mail storage for free Google Accounts and Google Apps Standard Edition was increased from 2 GB to 7.5 GB per user, while Google Apps Premier users got bumped from 10 GB to 25 GB.
During this time, the free edition got harder and harder to find; links for Google Apps "for business", led you to the paid account with a free trial as if the free offering didn't exist. You had to know exactly what you were looking for to find and sign up for the free Standard Edition.
Then, in early 2009, the user limit was reduced to 50 for the free Standard Edition, and special requests to increase beyond that limit were no longer allowed.
In November 2010, Google announced new branding. Google Apps Premier Edition was renamed Google Apps for Business, while Standard Edition was to be called simply Google Apps.
The next step in phasing out the free edition of Google Apps came in April 2011, when Google reduced the maximum user limit for new sign-ups down to just ten. At the same time, Google enabled monthly billing for the paid accounts, in addition to the annual plans.
In January 2012, Google announced that non-profits with under 3,000 users could get Google Apps for Business for free, while organizations with over 3,000 users could sign up for a discounted rate of $30 per user per year. This restriction was removed in February 2013, making it free to nonprofits of all sizes.
All free account holders got an increase in their Gmail storage space from 7.5 GB to 10 GB in April 2012. Google Apps for Business mailboxes remained at 25 GB.
At the same time, Google Drive was introduced, with 5 GB storage for all users, including free accounts. The storage limit was segregated from the other storage, so that, for example, a Google Apps for Business user would have his 25 GB for his mailbox, and an additional 5 GB for Google Drive, totalling 30 GB. Until this time, Google Apps already facilitated collaboration through shared calendars, Google Docs, and domain e-mail hosted by Google with a global address list of all users on the domain. The new shared general purpose storage, for internal use by your organization's users over the Internet with easy and intuitive file sharing, vastly improved the utility of Google Apps.
In December 2012, Google finally ended new sign-ups for the free edition of Google Apps for businesses; the Education and Nonprofit offerings remain free, to this day, for qualified organizations.
In May 2013, the 30 GB storage for the paid accounts (25 GB for mail and 5 GB for Drive) was applied across all services as one global limit. That way, you could use up to 30 GB for Drive if you didn't use mail, or have a 30 GB inbox if you didn't use Drive. Similarly, for free accounts, the 10 GB mail limit was combined with the free 5 GB Drive, to make a total of 15 GB.
In June 2014, Google Apps Unlimited was launched, which was Google Apps for Business with unlimited storage for $10 per user per month (although if you had four or fewer users, each user got only 1 TB). To use Google Apps Unlimited with your company account, though, you had to pay the higher rate for all users in your company. You couldn't upgrade only some of them to save money.
In September 2014, Google renamed Google Apps for Business to Google Apps for Work. Also, the Education edition was upgraded from Google Apps for Business to Google Apps Unlimited, still for free.
Over the next few years, Google engineers continued to add capabilities to the system, particularly what they call machine intelligence. This includes things like instantly translating words in a photo; the ability to search for objects, places, and people in photos; and the many ways you've probably noticed that Google already knows what you need, such as what document you're likely to want in Google Docs, when you should schedule a meeting, and where you're driving and when you should leave.
In January 2016, Google announced that their entire system has achieved accreditation under FedRAMP standards, which measures information security capability. Prior to this, Google kept separate groups of servers that had been FISMA accredited (a similar standard), and used these for government customers. Because those servers were relatively scarce, Google did not offer accounts with unlimited storage to government. Now that their entire system has become qualified to store government information, there is no need for separate servers for government. Government agencies can sign up for unlimited accounts now, and the Google Apps for Government page now links directly to the regular account sign-up page.
In the summer of 2016, Google quietly added something called "Business email" to their lineup, which enabled an individual Google Account holder to attach his own domain to an existing free Gmail account, for $5 a month, and get 30 GB storage as well. The user could cancel and revert back to free Gmail, or upgrade to the G Suite to add other users to the domain, in all cases without disturbing saved e-mails, contacts, calendars, or files in his original user account. Prior to this, there was no way to seamlessly merge an existing Gmail account into G Suite.
In September 2016, Google rebranded Google Apps as G Suite. The idea was to make clear that this is an integrated business system, rather than just a bunch of apps. Google Apps for Work was renamed G Suite Basic, and Google Apps Unlimited became G Suite Business, with no changes to the pricing, storage, or other account parameters. A new top-tier service was introduced for $25 per user per month, called G Suite Enterprise, offering high-end data confidentiality, data archiving, integrity, log analysis, and mobile device management capabilities.
Shortly after this, a new Team Drive feature became available in Business, Enterprise, and Education editions of G Suite. This allows a user to create a team and then set up a Drive that is owned by that team. This solves problems with the existing decentralized sharing model, where each user individually shares files but retains ownership of that file.
In February 2017, Google added the Cloud Search feature to paid G Suite Business and Enterprise accounts, enabling Google-powered searching across all content in your company's account (mail, calendar, and all documents).
For even more about Google and G Suite:
- Google Accounts and G Suite Editions Reference Chart
- Learn about the Google Chromebook, a proprietary Google laptop designed with Google Apps in mind