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10 comparisons between Google Apps and Office 365

Google Apps and Office 365 are the leading contenders in the cloud-based business application space. Scott Matteson compares the two products.

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TechRepublic ran an article back in July titled "Google Apps v. Office 365 summary: Which is better?" The article was the finale of a series discussing in detail the various features of the two cloud services.

Since then I've done some further checking and found some interesting tidbits about Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 which may be of use to those considering these options, or who are merely interested in the subject of cloud-based applications.

Although this is the "Google in the Enterprise" blog, my role here isn't to exhort the benefits of Google Apps over Office 365. In truth, I find them both excellent products which will probably work just fine for most companies, but there are a few nuances here and there between them which are worth analysis.

Key points

With that in mind, here are ten key points about the two products to help keep you informed.

1. Both offer a similar feature set

When it comes to the programs most office workers use on a daily basis, both Google Apps and Office 365 each offer fulfilling counterparts with plenty of collaborative capabilities.

Table A

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In some respects they seem like twins. However, I have twin nephews, and while they may look alike and, to some measure, behave alike, under the surface they have some very different attributes. Some people love the simplicity of Gmail while others prefer the familiarity of Outlook. OneNote is a superior note taking program to Keep due to more advanced capabilities and the way it integrates with other programs. Corporate customers may be committed to SharePoint if they have architected specific features to accompany or enhance it. Google Hangouts are a breeze to get started on Google+ but there seems to be no such Lync connectivity with So.cl (which, frankly, many people have probably never heard of).

Furthermore, although Office 365 does not include Visio or Project in any plan, Microsoft provides these programs for online users as part of a paid subscription. Not everyone needs these tools, but as an IT guy who relies on Visio almost every day I would greatly suffer the loss of this program from my arsenal. True, you can get Google Apps add-ons for project management in the Google Apps Marketplace and Google Docs has a drawing option which can give you Visio-like capabilities, but those may not meet the specs of those who are committed to Project or Visio, or who have invested lots of time in files created by these programs.

2. Office 365 has various versions and prices for different user counts

Google Apps has a quick and easy pricing plan for their standard Google Apps for Business package: $5 per user per month or $50 per user per year (there is an advanced plan as well which I'll discuss next). This applies whether you're a company of three or thirty thousand people.

In contrast, Office 365 has a multitude of plans (six as of September, 2013) which can be both good and bad since it provides flexibility but also involves some complexity to figure out the best choice. Microsoft's small business plans are geared towards 25 users or less and provide a good scale of features for $5 or $12.50 per user per month (or $60/$150 per year). A midsize business plan for 300 users or less comes in at $15 per user per month, and there are hosted email/enterprise plans which cost $4, $8 or $20 per user per month and include different options.

3. Privacy agreements are different

The difference between the privacy policies used by the two companies may be the deal-breaker for some customers, so perhaps I should have made this #1! Microsoft's privacy policy says they will not scan your data or provide information to third parties. On the other hand Google's Privacy Policy states they can use information they collect from you for advertising purposes. In both cases the government can compel them to provide your data if required. You've got to decide which one fits your company requirements and/or level of comfort.

4. Online storage details vary

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When it comes to storage capacity, Office 365 gives users 50GB of space in Outlook and 25GB in Skydrive. Google Apps provides 30GB of space which is spread among Gmail, Drive and Picasa. By comparison, both companies will give freebies; Google provides 15GB of drive space and Microsoft will give you 7GB. Both vendors will sell you additional space if needed whether you're a free or a business user.

Both Drive and Skydrive integrate with related products by each vendor, and each offers online document readers so you can view all kinds of files right in the browser without having to download and open them. Conversely, neither storage platform offers centralized control of document sharing, which is curious. Google offers a better search function tied into Drive; there is no full-text search in Skydrive. Microsoft backs up your data; Google Apps does not do so by default (but you can recover previous versions of files).

Back in May I wrote about some Google Drive problems which produced synchronization headaches that ruled out the use of Google Drive for me. I haven't had the opportunity to circle around and test it out to see if Google has resolved the issue, but I will say that I tested Skydrive at the same time and found absolutely no problems with it.

5. Both provide dashboards showing the status of online services

If you're going to saddle up with a cloud provider for your company's applications, you're going to have to get up-to-the-minute status updates for outages so you can keep tabs on how your environment is working.

Microsoft provides a Service Health Dashboard which shows the status of Microsoft Online Services, but it is only available to paying customers meaning you need to buy before you try. Google provides an Apps Status Dashboard to the public which shows operational statistics for Google Services as well as Analytics, Maps, Voice and Blogger. I was able to view information covering the past two months including a Gmail outage on 8/16, for instance. If you're already an Office 365 subscriber it's not a big deal since you'll have access to the same information from Microsoft which Google provides to anyone, but it's worth noting that if you're still on the fence with your wallet in your pocket Microsoft outage data won't be available (though reports of Office and Google outages reach the public ears anyway, of course).

6. Both offer a form of email archiving/e-discovery

Email archiving is a popular feature. I never even heard of e-discovery until a few years ago, but it has exploded into a popular (or at the very least necessary) process as of late. Many companies have a need for one or both features and these are provided by Google and Microsoft via their "Google Apps for Vault" and "Office 365 Enterprise E3" plans.

Google Apps for Vault is the advanced plan I referred to above and costs $10 per user per month (no discount for a year's subscription is provided). Microsoft's Office 365 Enterprise E3 plan offers the same for $20 per user per month, but you also get hosted voicemail support and business intelligence features which may justify the $10 increase over Google's plan.  

7. Office 365 provides desktop apps

Some Office 365 plans include desktop apps such as Word, Excel, etc. to help round off the suite, giving customers both the thick clients and the browser-based versions. Google Apps is entirely browser-based so there is no such desktop program counterpart. However, you can use Docs, Sheets and Slides offline in Chrome, although changes need to be made in the Admin Console and on the user side to permit this. You can also install an add-on for Chrome to let you work in Gmail while offline.

8. Excel may be better than Sheets for certain users

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There is a perception among many that Google Sheets can't compare to the powerful features and formulas of Microsoft Excel. For companies which live by (and in) Excel, this can be a serious consideration, especially if they rely on Excel gurus with years of training and experience (though of course any good professional can transfer their experience with one product to that of a similar product, so long as the options are present).

David Politis of Bettercloud raised some good points about Google Sheets functionality in his TechRepublic column last year titled "Five Google Spreadsheet features to help kick your Excel addiction."  Mr. Politis stated: "Google Spreadsheets is often cast in a negative light, with many claiming the tool isn't as powerful as its primary competitor, Excel… however, several updates made in the past few months combined with the Google Spreadsheets' hundreds of functions and ability to derive information from other Google products like Search and Finance have leveled the playing field."

However, there are still some features offered by Excel which companies might need to rely on. For instance, in-depth detailed formulas might not carry over well to Sheets. Furthermore, Google limits Sheets to 400,000 cells, compared with 17 billion in Excel.

9. There's an interesting tradeoff on unused features vs. familiarity

This is more of a philosophical comparison, but I think it will hold valid for many readers. Office 365 has the advantage for plenty of users who have been familiar with Word, Excel and the rest of the gang for years; there is less of a learning curve than with Google Apps if the latter represents a brand new experience.

However, it's also true that Office is notorious for being loaded with complex, unused features which can cause confusion, so the familiarity many will embrace also comes with something of a price, especially if companies are paying for advanced packages not all employees will use. By contrast, Google Apps programs are fairly easy to learn and intuitive, but may feel too awkward for those who are hard-coded to work in Office.

10. Both have app marketplaces

The beauty of cloud-based environments is that they can be customized depending on company needs, new advances and administrator skill sets. With that in mind, both Google and Microsoft offer add-ons through a centralized marketplace. The Microsoft Office 365 Marketplace is quite comparable to the Google Apps Marketplace and both feature professional services as well as applications you can use to enhance your platform.

In Conclusion

There are plenty of other features and categories which are similar or different between Google Apps and Office 365, of course - mobile apps and connectivity, document sharing, instant messenger tie-ins, and dozens of other topics. The field is always changing as each vendor updates and improves their services, so if you're in the market for online productivity apps I recommend you keep an eye on the Google Apps and Office 365 product pages to stay as current as possible - and read independent reviews as often as possible.

About

Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.

36 comments
enemy of the state
enemy of the state

Regarding point 8 I can't understand why people still think excel is better than google spreadsheets, since for me its the other way around. The most important difference is google apps script versus vba. Google apps script which is javascript based and super easily structured versus the vba mess.

johannes.candra
johannes.candra

I dont believe its true for the Google Apps Privacy Policy that it will use information for ads. There is no ads on Google Apps for business. Anyone?

itzstewart
itzstewart

If Google continues to gain market share, I see Microsoft reducing Office 365 further.


It's a win win for us.

DavidMillerReLC
DavidMillerReLC

Actually Google Drive gives you unlimited storage capacity if you use docs, sheets, slides, etc.

PrintingChicago
PrintingChicago

I use Excel to create very neat proposal documents. Very low tech. 

When I started my business, I bought into Google Apps for Business and hosted my domain on Google.  Attempting to migrate to the Apps, I tried to use Google Sheets for proposal documents.  It was (to put it mildly) a nightmare!  NO TEXT OVERFLOW! There are solutions. But you have to fix EVERY line affected.This one "feature" makes Google Sheets completely useless to me.  (There are Google Forums loaded with people complaining about this one missing feature.)  Google Sheets has many other shortcomings, all of which point out that it is a poorly executed knock off of the real thing.  


Another thing I just cannot get past is the way Google's sub for a Word document displays. As I recall, the display is landscape, no matter that it was created in portrait.  Microsoft created these programs long ago. They've had time to improve and refine.  Google APPS has a long way to go. Until then...I'm loyal to the programs that work: Microsoft.

aubrob
aubrob

Hi, Do you know if Office 365 has forms that populate an excel file? 



annikokotiko
annikokotiko

You have to edit the article, 

There is already a MS project analogues in Google Aps- Comindwork (this is different for sure,but still it has some nice features), Vision analogue is Graphs. 

Actually it may be in the testing phase because in my Ukrainian google account I do not have those features but they exist in newly created US account . Please, review those features

Pravash Kumar Pujari
Pravash Kumar Pujari

I found a better experience in GApps from last three years. I had also used O365 but found many problems during operation. Live Collaboration with Docs, Spreadsheet are awesome however the best in GApps is Forms and Hangout with 15 users in a single window. The degree of satisfaction is off-course best with GApps. The free version of GApps has the optimized gift for student that take them to a different future hi-tech platform. Hat's up to GApps. Thanks a lot.  

zackzealer1
zackzealer1

 "the phone i'm calling from is not associated with this google voice account" this is what i get when i call my google Voice number and try to log in from my cell Metro PCS and listen to my messages. Help

sdjcs
sdjcs

Google Apps will suit some people just fine, and for others it will not. I use both (O365 to a lesser degree). It is true that Microsoft offers an array of pricing for different capabilities, and that can be confusing when you're reviewing options. I also find the Office 365 setup and administration somewhat daunting - setting up GA is much easier. However, my small business customers don't see the pricing models or the admin panels so what they care about is usability and functionality.  Most customers that I have introduced Google Docs and even OpenOffice to (or a variation), think they're ok, but don't or are not interested in considering them as adequate outright replacements for Office.  Google calendars are great and are a very important feature, but Drive has sufficient issues with sync'ing that it is to unreliable to consider for business use. I think that if you have to move GB's of files out of the Drive folder because you have to re-create it or reinstall Drive, and then move it all back, makes it unsuitable (especially when it happens to you more than once with more than one account).  I haven't yet had hands-on experience with SkyDrive or O365 Calendars, but I'm moving my own business from GA to O365 to run it through its paces.  

Joshua Morden
Joshua Morden

When I reloaded Windows 8 on my tablet, I lost my free 25 GB Skydrive storage as well as all my documents. I used Skydrive because of it's better compatibility with Office documents. But, this is absolutely ridiculous. I have a Google Drive account that I have been using as a secondary docs source, but now I am migrating everything to that after this incident.

derik.vanvleet
derik.vanvleet

Interesting article, although pretty light and inaccurate in some areas. Example, as other have pointed out, item #3 is incorrect; there is a distinctly different TOS for the paid version of Google Apps that does not have advertising. On your storage point, you forgot to mention that any native Google formatted documents do not count against your storage. So you can create thousands of Google Docs and it will not count against any of your storage.

You are right that the Microsoft dashboard is "hidden" so any customers wanting to compare the two environments cannot do so (see my transparency blog on Cloudsherpas blog). For example, Exchange online has been having issues for over 24hrs now and SharePoint online has been having issues for 10 days.

You didn't even touch on mobile either, which is a major component for enterprises now, so it might be good to go over that; don't forget, QuickOffice is free to anyone with a Google account to edit native Office documents.

bobbowhale
bobbowhale

I see that most commenters are speaking only about the upfront costs and functionality as marketed. 

USER INTERFACE & CRASHES I have just removed *Outlook 2013 from our home-based business PCs, because 1) It is so difficult to see for older people,

2) It appears to cause I/E crashes.  No Outlook 2013....no crashes.

DOWNLOADING DELAYS I also returned to other Office 2007 apps, as *Office 365 programs appear to have to download some routines before the user can begin work.  This can take up to 45 secs.)

PRODUCTIVITY LOSS During the '60s and '70s, an IBM woman PhD published articles in the IBM Systems Journal about research into the effect on productivity of quicker response time.  Across all applications and user functions, productivity rose linearly with faster response time.  And....when response time was under .5 sec, productivity skyrocketed, as the user could perceive no delay between Enter and Response, which kept them focused.  In the years since then, I have found that techs continue to believe that 1 - 5 secs is "not bad" response time.  Certainly, running an app completely in the Cloud will cause tedious work, and very low productivity, especially for functions requiring ongoing data entry.  In order to maintain adequate response times, the client will have to be almost completely independent of network delay, at least until the final Saves. 

Although the applications are supposed to reside on the desktop, there are many lags, especially if a file is saved to the Cloud.  Altogether, this is too tedious and complex for our small office needs. 

BIG ADDED COSTS Also, M/S Project is not "included" in the Office 365 package.  It costs $58/mth per user (or, 35 times as much as the entire Office 365 Suite). 

Visio costs $589.99(!).  You can get free apps which do most of what these do.  BTW, my copy of Visiofrom a few years ago cost only a fraction of that amount.

Good luck, everyone!  I am not offering any advice;  only my experience.

Ted Bradford II
Ted Bradford II

365 over Google for many reasons (some technical, some personal). As an IT company, we are all much happier with our experience using MS over Google.

Kit Hollywood
Kit Hollywood

360 is more structured to business needs. Plus easy to manage in a more corporate environment.

allenfalcon
allenfalcon

Scott,

On Pricing, you did not mention that according to Therese Connor, senior corporate planning manager at Microsoft, the Office 365 pricing options are "dizzying," (http://www.crn.com/news/cloud/240158349/microsoft-to-partners-our-licensing-is-dizzying-but-dont-let-your-customers-defect-to-google-apps.htm).

It should also be noted that the level of support you receive depends on your license/pricing as well. Google offers all Google Apps for Business/EDU/Government customers 7x24 service.

- Allen


allenfalcon
allenfalcon

Scott,

Your pricing for Google Apps Vault is incorrect.  Vault for businesses and government costs $5 per user per month, or $50 per user per year (there IS a discount for annual prepay).  For non-profits, it is $30 per use per year, prepaid.  For EDU, $10 per user per year for faculty and staff, student accounts are covered at no cost.

-Allen


allenfalcon
allenfalcon

Scott,

Point number 3 is incorrect.  You are comparing the Office 365 privacy policy against Google's policy for free services.  The privacy policy and terms of service for Google Apps for Business, Education, and Government make it perfectly clear that Google will not access customer data unless under subpoena and will notify customers if allowed under law should a subpoena be received.

I assume this is lack of knowledge, not bias.

Allen



Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

Has your organization completed a comparison of Google Apps and Office 365? Which of the services came out on top and what was the deciding factor?

smmatteson
smmatteson

Derik, thanks for reading and I appreciate the feedback. You are correct about Google Docs and it's good you pointed that out. I've already asked Allen for clarification on the privacy policy; the links I provided on price lead directly to Google and searching for "Google Apps privacy policy" shows a page on their site which indicates no exemptions for Google Apps customers as far as I could tell; in fact, it indicated their data was subject to the same privacy policy I referenced (forgive me but I am traveling without a laptop and only have a smartphone with a small sceeen; I can quote and link to this tomorrow if you like. Also, please elaborate on any other inaccuracies you feel were present so I can address. I want these articles and comments to be a place where we can all discuss facts, make clarifications, correct any data, etc. You make a good point on the mobilr topic-that is worth meriting its own dedicated article!

DavidMillerReLC
DavidMillerReLC

Does it have a cloud presence so that you can collaborate with others? Does it have versioning?

sdjcs
sdjcs

@Michael Lucas Not anymore... unless you were signed up before 12/6/2012.

smmatteson
smmatteson

Allen, thanks for your comments. I wrote the article based on information which seems to have changed or which it's possible I misinterpreted. I'd like to see the links vouching for the price and privacy topics if you could provide them; I'd be interested in finding when this changed, if that was the case. I will make sure to update the article with the appropriate information since we want our content as reliable as it can be.. Also, because I have found some of Google's details have changed on other occasions, could you point me to a contact at Google (or serve as one) with whom I can verify information of this nature in the future? Lastly, please address the comment from Michael Lucas (I believe, but I am typing this on a smartphone with a cranky screen) regarding Google Apps being free - as far as I know this is not the case; has this changed? Thanks again, Scott Matteson.

cac1031
cac1031

@allenfalcon This is an important point as he is reaffirming a misconception that Microsoft has used to attack Google in advertising and lobbying, in particular in the Education arena. He should correct this as businesses reading this comparison should know that as paying customers with Google, they are subject to a different  economic model.

thesilversurfer
thesilversurfer

Hi - Good article, I hope just to be able to provide some of the missing sources the thread above asked for: 

@Mark W. Kaelin: Globe Telecom in Philippines chose Google Apps over Msft 365. Here's why according to the CEO:http://goo.gl/gsLxd9

@smmatteson: You probably saw the Vault pricing here and mistook the total price to be the Vault price:  http://www.google.com/enterprise/apps/business/pricing.html. The $10/month is for both Apps AND Vault. Vault alone is US$5/month if you get a monthly option, allowing you flexible numbers on a monthly basis, or US$50/user/year if you have a prepaid contract.

On the privacy, Enterprise (paying) customers has additional rights and options. See here for for the policy for Google Apps for Business: http://www.google.com.sg/apps/intl/en/terms/premier_terms.html

Point 1.3 states that advertising is switched off by default but that the admin has the ability to switch it on.

Cheers,

Johan


smmatteson
smmatteson

@Pravash Kumar Pujari @allenfalcon Pravash, I don't appreciate your inflammatory and incorrect comments.  I write articles for TechRepublic regarding topics such as Google in the Enterprise; I am neither employed by nor affiliated with Microsoft in any way other than supporting their products as a system administrator. The same applies in reverse for Google.

I challenge you to step in where Allen declined to do so and provide the evidence I requested of him to support his claims regarding Google pricing and privacy policy.  If you decline to do so, kindly demonstrate the integrity to apologize and retract your statement. 

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