Google Apps v. Office 365: Content and document management

Ian Hardenburgh compares the content and document management features between Microsoft's SharePoint Online (in Office 365 plans) with analogous features in Google Apps.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in June 2012. It has been updated where necessary, along with its associated comparison spreadsheets, to reflect the latest information for both Google Apps and Office 365.

Previously, in my ongoing series comparing Google Apps and Office 365, I've compared several feature groups, beginning with their basic productivity applications, and moving on to their e-mail and messaging and calendar line of products. In this segment, I will compare various aspects of each one's content and document management software, mostly in regard to features that have at least some overlapping properties, as the two services can be noted as being inherently dissimilar in approach.

SharePoint Online, which can be bought as a standalone, but is included in various Office 365 plans, is a slightly stripped down version of Microsoft's on-premise version of SharePoint 2010, and aims to bring teams of users together on a single platform in order to collaborate on shared productivity (MS Office) documents, improve management of those documents, and provide tools to design relevant business content and streamlined workflows in well-coordinated spaces. By no means is Google Apps able to say the same, at least for one single application. One has to use a combination of Google Docs, Google Apps' Sites service, and to a certain extent,-Google Drive, so that they achieve an analogous set of features to SharePoint Online. However, even in doing this, one might find that not only does Google Apps fail to meet with certain standards that larger enterprises demand, but also a certain level of continuity and hegemony that SharePoint users are used to. As rigid as this may sound, it actually helps to create a more cohesive and familiar setting (enterprise users hate surprises).

So why even make a comparison between Google Apps to Office 365 in terms of document and content management when most have probably heard the story of David and Goliath before? Well, for one, Google Apps might be noted as being a more than acceptable solution for smaller enterprises, and to a certain extent, more appropriate when a person considers the time and cost it takes to administer a SharePoint deployment. In fact, as good a product as I think SharePoint is, I'd be so bold to say that most organizations don't fully utilize the majority of features it offers. Secondly, an organization is afforded the ability, in many respects, to customize Google Sites to purpose a lot of those features that come out of the box with SharePoint Online. Although this might be a stretch, one can theoretically use the Google App Engine and Google Drive to at least create rudimentary components akin to SharePoint Online. Furthermore, an organization can also tie in applications from the Google Apps Marketplace, in order to provide tools for activities like project, task, and contact management. However, I'll save this for another post.

The features that Google Apps and Office 365 -- or I should say, Google Sites and SharePoint online -- have most strikingly in common, concerns Sites' wiki style pages schema and SharePoint's My Sites and My Profile components. Again, Google Apps leaves much to the imagination of its authors, while SharePoint Online makes use of templates and universal composites known as web parts, which can be modularly controlled and assigned users permissions. If this is all an organization is looking to get out of a site, without much need for SharePoint Online's document management or content design tools, such as its intranet and public-facing website sites, I might be inclined to say that Google Apps is the better choice of the two; probably because of cost savings alone. On the other hand, if your organization is committed to efficaciously solve interpersonal communication issues and drive productivity, there's no competition, SharePoint Online is the clear winner.

Here are the primary feature areas that I cover in the chart

  • Document co-authoring/collaboration
  • Document navigation and search
  • Document change alerts
  • Mobile documents
  • Offline document sync
  • Content collaboration and task management
  • Domain sites
  • Social content tools
  • Content data backup

The chart is very detailed, so for those who prefer a version to save to the desktop and manipulate, you can download the Excel chart. If you prefer to view a snapshot version, click the thumbnail below to open to full-size.

Related tool:

TechRepublic Cost comparison toolkit: Google Apps vs. Office 365

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Ian is a manager of business intelligence/analytics for a small cap NYSE traded energy company. He also freelance writes about business and technology, as well as consults SMBs upon Internet marketing strategy.

Julien Jurion
Julien Jurion

A good compromise when using Google Apps is to plug it with third party products that will answer to the lack of some corporate policies in term of document management. AODocs, edited by Altirnao is a good product for this. Documents are REALLY centralized in a corporate account, and there is no more personal ownership of Drive documents. 

Search, indexation and organization is also well improved as AODocs will add metadata to the Google Drive documents that it manage. 

In term of documents backup, the product can do regular backup and also save all documents revisions, wether you use Drive format documents or Office documents. 

Finally, Google Apps + AODocs is still cheaper than Office 365!

You can try AODocs for free, during 30 days:


Google tasks and Office 365 are very initial stage of task management. Advanced version needs to be the leader in all possible manner. I too rely on google tasks fr personal task management but the One such tool that I have been using for my official task management is from Replicon -


It's also important to take in consideration that there tools that can help you to improve your document organization in Google Drive, like this one This is a nice example, about the extra funcionalties you can get on Goolge Drive with some small components.


I use Google Apps for our company, and have used Docs, etc. But I'm a longtime Word user and the Google interface doesn't please me. Now, I've starting using SkyDrive and love it! The apps are simplified versions of Office so there's no learning curve. It syncs easily, saves as Office files, there's an iPhone app, 7GB free storage... It makes me wish we could move our email domain to MSN.


we have been playing around ith sharepoint and office for extended collabrative functions. really only for multiple people on on document at the ame time, which i still think is organised chaos as i would never personally allow it but others seem to think they need it! I am liking more of the control features which have been released gradually but there is a long way to go to bring standards across a business! but i love it still.

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