Pelland Blog

Google Giveth and Google Taketh Away

May 23rd, 2022

Just about any business has an online presence in order to survive these days. When you are on track with a domain name and a website, the related third rail is inevitably business email. Back in the Internet’s age of innocence, most of the companies that hosted websites (often small, local service providers) also hosted business email accounts that were associated with the website domain names. This allowed the owner of Tallest Oaks Campground to have an email address such as

Soon afterward, most small to medium sized website hosting service providers learned that hosting email was not only a headache but an intense migraine. Incoming spam attacks – or outgoing spam attacks, after a customer may have inadvertently installed a virus on his computer – could slow down or crash a server just as effectively as a DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack upon a hosted website. It was time to find an email hosting services provider that was willing and capable of dealing with those risks.

I have always told people that “real businesses do not have email addresses that end in,, or”, just like real businesses have physical addresses and not just a post office box. Most of the larger companies, such as GoDaddy, that provide domain name registration and website hosting services will also host business email – for a price. Oftentimes it will only be offered as part of a package that includes more profitable components such as website hosting itself. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the quality and reliability of service, many small businesses turned to Google for email hosting. The Gmail interface is intuitive and easy to use, and it is relatively easy to set up accounts to sync with popular third-party email clients such as Microsoft Outlook.

Either out of the goodness of its heart – remember that Google’s original motto was “Don’t be evil”, later modified to “Do the right thing” – or to get people accustomed to using its services, Google provided free hosting of small business email accounts until December of 2012. At that point, Google started charging for new business email accounts, but any existing accounts were grandfathered in to the free service. Well, earlier this year, Google announced that the grandfather arrangement would be ending this summer.

If you have been using this service, you have received email notifications as well as notices on your Gmail interface that read:

Act now and switch to Google Workspace
Your access to the G Suite legacy free edition will end soon. As a valued customer, you’re eligible to switch now to a new Google Workspace subscription and enjoy a special discount. Or, in the coming weeks, you’ll be able to join a waitlist for a no-cost option. If you take no action by June 1, 2022, we’ll automatically transition you to the recommended Google Workspace subscription.

Your access to the G Suite legacy free edition will end soon. As a valued customer, you’re eligible to switch now to a new Google Workspace subscription and enjoy a special discount. Or, in the coming weeks, you’ll be able to join a waitlist for a no-cost option. If you take no action by June 1, 2022, we’ll automatically transition you to the recommended Google Workspace subscription.

The Google Workspace edition that is the most similar to the previously free service is Business Starter. Other options include Business Standard, Business Plus, Enterprise editions, and Essentials editions. These all come bundled with added services that you probably neither need nor want but that help to justify the new expense. They all allow you to set up email accounts using your own domain, what they now call professional email.

Unless you make alternate arrangements or sign up for the less than clearly defined “waitlist”, you will be billed for the new service beginning on July 1, 2022. (As of this writing, Google is still yet to define this “waitlist”, but it may allow you to buy a bit of time. Speculation is that any free account may involve converting email addresses to @gmail accounts.) The Business Starter edition of Google Workspace will cost $6.00 per user per month; the Business Standard edition will be $12.00 per user per month; and the Business Plus edition will be $18.00 per user per month. Even if you transition to the least expensive Business Starter edition and have 6 employees with their own email accounts, you will be looking at a new expense of $432.00 per year.

All of these plans are less costly than comparable plans with Microsoft Office 365, but this is still a bitter pill to swallow. Alternatively, there are optional email hosting services available that provide everything that you need but without the added bells and whistles that come with Google Workspace at a fraction of the cost. One such company is Namecheap, where it’s fairly robust and most popular plan is just over $25.00 per year for 3 mailboxes, or an even more robust plan is less than $44.00 per year for 5 mailboxes. Of course, bargain email hosting plans are probably going to include popup ads, less than 99.99% reliability, and other compromises. You should also be aware that migrating email from one service provider to another can be a major task, even though many service providers claim that they will automate the process. Google is no doubt counting on these factors to help its subscribers to “grin and bear it” when it comes to the new expense.

My own company began setting up its new clients’ email hosting to run through the Rackspace mail servers a decade ago, when Google started charging for new accounts. This service is on a par with Google’s offerings and is affordable on a per-user basis under our enterprise contract, allowing us to provide the service at no charge to our website hosting clients. Individual plans with Rackspace Email Plus cost just under $48.00 per user per year, which is significantly less than the roughly equivalent Google Workspace Business Plus. At minimum, now is clearly the time to rethink whether individual employees need their own email accounts. I have previously made the argument against individual employee email accounts in this column, strictly on the basis of security risks, but now there is an additional cost to consider. At one point in time, most of us thought of email as something that was a free service, like over the air television, but somebody was paying the price. Eventually that “somebody” becomes the end users.

What’s next? Google recently announced that it will be discontinuing Universal Analytics and replacing it with Google Analytics 4. Unless you upgrade, the Google Analytics running on your website will stop processing new traffic on July 1, 2023. There will be better cross-platform tracking across web and app platforms, but I am willing to wager that pricing for the previously free service will be announced in the coming months.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Who Is Answering Your Phone?

December 24th, 2017

For campgrounds in Canada and the northern states, winter is the off-season. Whether or not the owners are fortunate enough to spend their winters in Florida or other Southern climes, their parks are usually operating with skeleton staffs or are totally vacant, with hopes that off-season income will cover their utility bills and mortgages. Either way, the off-season is the prime time for campers to make reservations for the upcoming season, and it is also the time when you, as a campground owner or manager, are likely to have the least number of interruptions competing for your attention.

We all tend to think that technology makes life easier, believing that it can simplify the task of generating a new stream of business. While there is some truth to that idea, the fact is that the most effective technologies require a commitment of both time and old-school business practices. If you are a small business owner, the time that must be invested is quite likely to be your own.

The Internet is often seen as a technological panacea with respect to the harvest of a new base of customers. For campgrounds, the entire online process is typically funneled toward online reservations, the outdoor hospitality industry’s equivalent of e-commerce on Amazon. Unfortunately, many people still buy into the “if you build it, they will come” concept that was the mantra of the 1989 fantasy-drama film, Field of Dreams. Things are not that simple in real life, and the reservation process rarely flies on autopilot.

In many instances, prospective online customers have pre-purchase questions that must be answered prior to making their decisions. These inquiries are almost always going to involve either email or a phone call, with the customer expecting a prompt response (in the case of email) or an immediate response (in the case of a phone call).

If somebody is determined to camp exclusively at your park, they may be more patient in awaiting a response to an immediate question; however, a camper who is seeking a park in your local area may very well be contacting you and several of your competitors. Being the first to respond is the equivalent of getting your business to appear at the top of the Google or Bing search results.

If you are away from the office, either make arrangements to access and respond to your emails or delegate that responsibility to a trusted employee. Never use an auto-responder, which simply encourages the recipient to look elsewhere. Try to use personalized templates that will streamline the response process and that will minimize the number of back-and-forth emails that must be exchanged. Next, check to ensure that the sender name on your emails is clear and intuitive to the recipient. It should include the name of your business. I am amazed at how many emails arrive in my inbox identified solely by vague sender names such as ‘info’, ‘reservations’, ‘office’, or some other generic term. If a customer has contacted several parks, ensure that he or she will immediately identify the source of your response. Finally, your emails should always include a “signature” that includes the full range of alternate contact information, including your mailing address, phone number(s), and social media addresses.

Beyond listing alternate contact information in your email signature, consider offering your online visitors one or more truly alternate means of contact. Online chat is great, as long as you have somebody available to respond at any given time; however, the single most important alternative is a telephone number. In 2018, there is no question that well over 50% of your online traffic will be coming from users of mobile devices, and according to a Google AdWords report, 70% of users of mobile devices are likely to “click to call” either prior to or rather than completing an online purchase. This statistic equally applies to online reservations at campgrounds.

A smartphone user may be ready to make a reservation but would prefer to do so over the phone rather than fumbling through an online process. Are the phone numbers listed on your website properly linked to allow smartphone users to simply click the number to call you? It is otherwise awkward to try to read a number and then call it from the same device. Make the process easy!

It is essential for the business phone number to forward directly to either the owner or manager of a campground and that the call be either immediately answered or returned within minutes. Do not include an alternate phone number “for a faster response” in your outgoing message. If another number will reach you more directly, forward the call to that number, rather than expecting the caller to be able to immediately transcribe that number and then place a second call. Nobody likes to needlessly jump through hoops, and that second call is highly unlikely to be made.

What happens when someone calls your campground in the off-season? Do they get a message telling them that you are out of the office and will reopen in May? If so, you can almost be certain that you have lost a sale every time your phone rings. Of course, callers might expect to reach your voicemail during off-hours and on weekends; however, if you are available to take a call during those times, do so. Big companies that have the poorest ratings for customer service are almost always the companies that are notorious for putting callers on hold, forcing them to navigate through complex phone menus, or make it extremely difficult to get through to a live operator.

What callers do not want to sense from you is a lack of response, whether that is an unanswered phone, a non-reassuring outgoing message, or a phone that is answered in an unprofessional manner. When was the last time that you called your own number to listen to your outgoing message? Does it clearly identify your park, is the sound clear and friendly, and is the message current? I am amazed at how many businesses use a default outgoing message that only references the phone number. I will not leave a message in that instance because there has been no confirmation that I have even reached the correct number. In other instances, the recorded message might include long pauses or background noise. Use a written script, record it in a quiet space, play it back, and do it again if it is less than perfect. I have even called parks with outgoing messages that say that they will reopen at a certain date that was two months in the past, not to mention parks where it is impossible to leave a message because the mailbox is either full or not set up properly.


This post was written by Peter Pelland