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.
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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.