Free is Good Cloud Computing

Google searches have always been free. To service the huge volume of search requests, Google created the world’s largest cloud-based infrastructure. Then they kept those servers even busier, offering free public e-mail that provided the then-unheard of 1.0 GB of free storage per account. Over the next few years, Google repeatedly upped the ante.

Following on the heels of Amazon’s rent-a-cloud service, Google’s initial cloud offering was, with a bow to Google’s “it’s free to the consumer” mantra, offered without charge, subject to limitations. This free version of Google Apps now allows free hosting of your e-mail server (with your own domain name), up to 7.3 GB of storage per free user account, and free Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Docs (for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets and presentations, collaboration in real-time right inside a Web browser window), Google Sites (for easily creating and sharing a group Web site) and Start Page, and so forth.

Recently, IMAP support was added to e-mail hosting, and offline support for Google Docs was added too. (For $50 per user per year, storage is upped to 25 GB per user, and many other features are added.) All these goodies were initially targeted primarily at end-users, though now there are over 1 million paying, and presumably mostly business, users. Recently, Google Docs was enhanced to support storage of all types of files, up to 250 MB per file. At present there is a 1.0 GB storage limit for files you upload that are not converted to Google Docs format (e.g., Google documents, spreadsheets, and presentations). Following Apple’s lead this time, Google recently launched Apps Marketplace, allowing Apps users to add other layers to their environments from companies like SocialWok and Zoho.

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