Before we get to the topic of how to get a free Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite) for your organization, let me ask you: What’s the best consumer-grade free email?
Gmail is the answer.
The top-line arguments are that Gmail is superior to the other full-function email services out there:
Of course, we could add that Calendar is versatile and reliable. The Contacts directory is functionally adept under all platforms. The Chat feature is as good as any, and better than many, thanks to solid multi-device support and search.
And then there are the applications for word processing, spreadsheets, and slideshows that are thrown in for free.
By now, we have long entered the realm of functionality that is the backbone of Google Workspace. Office productivity apps cleverly interconnected with Google’s powerful communication tools, the scheduling and directory services, the cloud storage... It’s a full package of services designed from the ground up for collaboration anywhere.
If you have used Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, you know how smoothly they work on any device. You know you never lose your work. Every edit is securely stored in the Google cloud as you type, or secured on your device until you can safely reconnect. There is a level of “it just works” that allows you to focus on the important stuff.
When it’s time to get feedback from team members or show your work to a client, you just invite them to edit or read the file directly from the document or spreadsheet. No more emailed copies, no more outdated versions floating around. All suggestions and changes recorded in one place, easily reviewable by all.
And to the individual all this is free. Well, there are ads, but they are among the easiest to ignore. The efficacy of Google’s protection against malware, that’s what makes it priceless. Other free platforms might beat Google in attachment size or storage, elegance or decorations, but they inevitably have more obtrusive spam, malware, or annoying ads.
But what if you are ready to take the next step? Ready to join forces with others, to start an organization? Google Workspace is there for you!
Now imagine yourself at the helm of a small team. You have a domain name but now you need email, a website, shared storage, etc. but you lack a budget for an IT department. All of you are busy doing the actual work. You don’t have resources to dedicate to maintaining an IT infrastructure, as fascinating as that might be.
Yes, Google figured out a lot of it and distilled it into the Google Workspace experience for groups -- businesses, nonprofits, and institutions. With three paying plans, Basic, Business, and Enterprise, the search giant offers the G Suite package tailored for organizations large and small, prices starting at $6/user/month.
Prior to 2013, you could sign your organization up for G Suite for free. Those who did sign up back then can still use a reduced set of Google Workspace features for free to this day. They get Gmail with their own company domain for a maximum of 10 users, and all the different apps, synced to their group needs.
What a dream, free Google Workspace! That sure would be a cost-effective way to scoop up the simplicity and trustworthiness of Gmail and Calendar, Docs and Sheets, Slides and Meet for you and your scrappy crew.
Yes, it is still possible to get Google Workspace for free for your organization in 2020!
It turns out there is a sweet spot at the nexus of market capitalism and corporate charity, where there could flourish a remarkable two-pronged program that lets Google bask in public glory while banking millions in tax credits on the side.
Google has decided to give away G Suite for free, all that G Suite goodness, to entities in two wholesome categories: Nonprofits and Education.
Google for Nonprofits is available for activation to any group that has been approved for a Google for Nonprofits account. Google for Nonprofits is available in over 50 countries or territories, so the first thing to do is check if Google for Nonprofits is up and running in your country.
Then you can wade into the eligibility requirements for nonprofit charitable organizations in your country. In almost all cases, the following prerequisites apply:
Google further requires that your group be in good standing: you are “regarded as having complied with [your] obligations and are not subject to any form of sanction, suspension, or disciplinary action.”
Google for Nonprofits is available for free when your organization has its Google for Nonprofits account, but it takes a few extra steps to activate it. You have to:
Google for Nonprofits has similar features to Google Workspace Basic. However, it allows unlimited users and shared drives, which are features of the higher tiers of Google Workspace plans.
The contours of our economies are about to change in profound ways. Nonprofits have a role to play in providing information, services, and technologies in a wide range of sectors. However, you may not be ready to embrace such a way of organizing your activities.
Then there is another option you can look into: Google for Education.
On the face of it, this is an even more restricted route to free Google Workspace. The standard use case is organizations that are accredited educational institutions. But Google also makes this deluxe free plan available to homeschooling co-ops.
In an age where parents and guardians are being asked to step in and organize more at-home remote learning in school districts around the world, it might very well be feasible to band together with neighbors and friends in your local area and become a verified homeschooling cooperative group.
Google for Education unleashes unlimited storage, free security features, and a specially tailored Classroom suite of features that facilitates quizzes, assignments, discussions, grading, and more. It has a 10,000-user limit.
One advantage over Google for Nonprofits is that Google for Education is available in many regions. It is also a hub for an incredibly diverse educational app ecosystem.
There are many ways to face the future. Most of them haven’t even been invented yet.
But if you don’t yet qualify as a nonprofit or an educational institution but all this talk of the great features of Google Workspace has set your mind abuzz, you can get in on the goodness for as little as $6/month.
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