Google Apps vs Microsoft Office 365: Which is Best for Your Business? by E Speidel

As more companies move their file storage and editing, email and team collaboration software to the cloud, they must decide which Cloud service is the best choice for their specific needs.

Two main contenders have emerged in the Cloud-based business application space:

Google Apps: Google has gone far beyond the days of being just a search engine and now offers a range of Cloud-based services for businesses through Google Apps.

Microsoft Office 365: Office has long been the de-facto standard software suite for business, and Microsoft's familiar software is available from the Cloud with Office 365.

Both Google Apps and Office 365 provide off-premise file storage in the cloud, which gives businesses any-time access to their files from any Internet-connected location. This is certainly a plus during periods of power outages or other disruption that would disrupt a local server. Both companies also offer productivity tools that enable businesses to collaborate, communicate, store, and manage their files.

In spite of their similarities, each platform is unique, with its own set of pros and cons. So which one is right for your business? Do you need a hang glider (Google Apps) or a Boeing 747 (Office 365)? Let's take a look at each.

Google Apps for Business

This includes Google Drive (file storage), Docs (document editing), Sheets (spreadsheet editing), Slides (presentations), Calendar, and Gmail (email).


Google Apps is a low-cost option that small businesses can easily afford.
Its programs are relatively easy to learn and are fairly intuitive.
Integration across their Apps provides a high level of convenience.
Google Docs provides real-time file updates and collaboration across users and devices. Documents are automatically saved.
As more people migrate away from other email providers to Gmail in their personal lives, they will be more comfortable with using Google products at work.

Potential drawbacks:

Compared to Microsoft Office, Google Apps has a much smaller number of business users. Therefore, training may be needed to get employees comfortable and productive using Google's apps.
Compatibility can be a problem when sharing Google Docs/Sheets/Slides with other people who use Microsoft's products. Most Google documents can be opened/viewed by Microsoft Office applications, although certain things may not translate - for example, Sheets formulas often times won't work in Excel (and vice versa.)
Docs, Sheets and Slides do not have the same extensive formatting and formula options offered by Microsoft Office desktop software, which could frustrate users who are accustomed to the more flexible programs from MS. However, the same is true of the web-based version of Office 365 apps.
Google Apps is entirely browser based - no desktop versions of the programs are available. Desktop versions of Microsoft Office apps are included with the higher monthly-cost Office 365 plans.
The search giant scans and indexes emails and other user data for various purposes (mostly advertising); this scanning is completely automated and cannot be turned off.

Microsoft Office 365

Office 365 offers many programs familiar to millions of desktop users (and therein lies some benefit to it): Word, Excel (spreadsheets), Hosted Exchange (email), SkyDrive/SharePoint Online (file storage), PowerPoint (presentations), as well as Lync (voice/chat software - but requires an on premise Lync server.) Overall, Office 365 is a more robust suite that Google Apps, with greater complexity/capability within its programs and overall offerings.


Familiarity with Microsoft products - It is more likely that employees already use or know Microsoft Office products; therefore, training time will be reduced.
The likelihood of compatibility issues with customers, vendors and others is also minimized.
Flexible editing options - files can be edited directly through a Web browser using limited Web-based versions of the Office software suite or through the Office desktop software suite (based on the monthly plan that you use, or if you already own/purchase the desktop Office apps).
Hosted Exchange provides email archiving and journaling.
Broad range of monthly packages and pricing for small, medium, and enterprise companies.

Potential drawbacks:

SharePoint Online file collections can be mapped as a network drive on a PC so that you can open files directly from Windows Explorer, however the mapping often breaks.
SharePoint Online can be cumbersome to use and is complex to setup.
The number of choices in terms of packages and subscription options can be confusing. Depending on your staff's actual needs in terms of software, Microsoft Office 365 might give you more features than they'll ever use.
It is typically more expensive than Google Apps when only taking pure out-of-pocket expenses into consideration.

Which One Should You Choose?

Be consistent among users. Regardless of the platform that is used, all employees should utilize the same document editing platform (Google or Microsoft) to avoid incompatibilities or loss of formatting, layout, and formulas.

Address potential security concerns. Both applications maintain control of file data, including how/where it is stored. Since file data may be synched up on each employee's PC or mobile device, this could present some security issues as well, although convenience and access may override those concerns.

Legacy client or startup? Businesses that already use Microsoft tools can make the most of their existing investment by partially, or wholly, moving to Office 365. Businesses in startup mode (especially those with less than 10 users) can benefit from the simplicity, low out-of-pocket expense and ease of Google Apps.

No matter what, back it up! Neither Google nor Microsoft provide a complete backup or archive of all of your data that is stored in their Cloud apps - so we recommend a regular backup of your data/emails to a third party or to your office so that you have it if needed (which also may be required for HIPAA, FINRA or other regulatory compliance.)

Compare hard and soft costs. Compare the out-of-pocket expenses of each solution. Include both the monthly fees and one-time migration and training costs. Also include the soft-costs - time that will be spent by any internal employees involved with the switch-over, as well as the potential productivity loss.

Try before you commit. Because both solutions provide short-term month-to-month commitments, we suggest you have two or more users in your organization take both for a test drive to fully understand how they work, and the small differences that may make a huge difference to your users.

The IT professionals at IND Corporation can help you assess the various benefits or potential downsides to either of these cloud-based productivity suites, and work with you to decide on the pricing and package that makes the most sense for your business. For more information about our IT & Consulting Services, visit us at IND