Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 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, I did a head-to-head comparison of the Google Apps and Office 365 basic productivity applications as part of a planned series of posts that seeks — as far as possible — to differentiate these cloud-based office suites and help decision-makers to evaluate which suite, if either, may best suit your business needs whether you are a small, medium, or large enterprise. In this segment, I will compare the features of each one’s email and messaging apps in as much detail as possible.

Communication is an integral part of any organization. Central to this role is email, and to a certain extent, various types of digital messaging (e.g., instant messaging). Google’s mail server and user application, Gmail, and Office 365’s online equivalent to Microsoft’s on-premise Exchange Server and Outlook software, are arguably the two leaders in email networking and personal information management. However, the two services diverge in many ways. Central to this claim is that while Google remains unwavering in its quest to remain utterly cloud-based, Office 365 still relies heavily upon its on-premise software, such as Exchange Server and Active Directory [Update 04-03-2013: Both Exchange and Active Directory have since been de-emphasized]. Google does this as well in a few cases, but it is really just due to migration/adoption purposes (as with migrating users from an LDAP server). Nonetheless, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Office 365, as hybrid cloud solutions can be said to be the best strategy going these days, as enterprises look to slowly transition their data and infrastructure to both on-demand and PaaS/IaaS type spaces.

In the attached chart, I review some of the more notable features of Gmail and Exchange Online, mostly in terms of that which is required by enterprise-class servers in traditional, on-premise data centers. Although some features, such as the sheer ability to organize and search for email messages and personal contacts are covered here, these capabilities are all but an afterthought these days as desktop clients and standards/open based file formats like Personal Storage Table files have become status quo. Secondly, toward the bottom of the chart, I examine messaging, or Google Apps’ various new-age communication tools that help to complement your more traditional email messaging, against Lync Online.

Here are the primary feature areas that I cover in the chart for email:

  • Space/User allowances : Max number of users, storage space, message sizes, etc.
  • General organization and navigation
  • Filtering, search, e-discovery capabilities
  • Contacts and mailing lists
  • Directory
  • Migration
  • Mobility
  • Desktop client
  • Security
  • Policy and compliance
  • Networking

Here are the primary areas covered for messaging:

  • Chat/video conferencing
  • SMS/Voice
  • Social

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 here. 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

Download this tool to find out which online productivity suite is most cost effective for your business. This download is available for free as part of a TechRepublic Pro membership or may be purchased through our online store.