Earlier today, Google announced some changes to its Google Apps accounts. First the bad news: business with more than 10 users will soon have to sign up for a paid Google Apps for Business account when they sign up for a new account (current users will continue to get up to 50 free accounts). Until now, the limit was 50 users. The good news: business users won’t have to prepay for a whole year anymore. Google’s new flexible plan gives company’s the option to pay $5 per month per user without any contractual commitments. Google will continue to offer annual plans for $50 per year. These updates will go into effect within the next few weeks.

When it first launched, Google Apps was available for free at no cost to organizations of any size. The first paid version of Google Apps – Google Apps Premier – launched in 2007 and introduced a 99.9% uptime promise and 24/7 tech support. Since the launch of this paid version, Google has slowly brought the amount of users business could add to their free accounts down – first to 200, then 50 and now 10.

Two exceptions to today’s announcement: Schools and non-profits that use Google Apps for Education will continue to receive free accounts and current customers can continue to add additional users (up to 50) at no additional charge.