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Google Apps vs. Office 365

Which cloud-based software tools are right for your business?

Google Apps vs Office 365

When it comes to office suites, Microsoft Office is the standard—it’s been providing businesses with great software to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more for over twenty years. However, as software has become increasingly web-based, Google has burst onto the scene with Google Apps, which offers a reasonable alternative to Office.

Both Google Apps and Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based competitor to Google Apps, provide businesses with the applications they need to get work done.

But which one is best for your business? Check out our table to figure out which one is right for you.

Pros to Both Cons to Both
Both are made by trusted, widely used companies Can get expensive
Cloud-based for easy file sharing and collaboration Cannot pick and choose specific products that you want, so you may be paying for unused products
99.9% guaranteed uptime  
Data is safe and secure  
Google Apps Office 365
In Summary Google Apps provides businesses with a cheaper alternative to Microsoft Office. It’s not as elegant or complex, but is sufficient for users who only need to do basic work with the software. Microsoft Office is still the standard for productivity suites. It is more expensive and all the features may not be used by most small businesses, but for those that need the capabilities it’s the best option.
Pros Plans are cheaper and don’t have a maximum user count, so if your business grows you don’t have to change plans Microsoft Office has been the standard for a long time—almost everyone in the business world is familiar with it and knows how to use it.
Cons The products that come with Google Apps, like the word processor and spreadsheet, can do considerably less than their Microsoft Office counterparts and could be frustrating for users who are accustomed to Office. Because Google Apps operates exclusively in the cloud, any downtime could affect productivity. There are a lot of features that come with the Office software—to the point that it could be overwhelming and/or result in many unused features. Many people (especially younger ones) use Google Apps for personal use and are more familiar with it.
Best for Businesses that only need the basic applications and don’t want to pay more for unused features. Better for smaller companies that only need to do basic work with it, and growing companies that don’t want to worry about a max number of users Businesses that need and are willing to pay more for the features and familiarity of Microsoft Office, generally larger enterprises or companies that need the advanced features of Excel in particular.
Privacy Google scans your mail and files to collect data and give you relevant ads Microsoft does not scan emails or documents for anything other than to protect against malware
Security compliance FISMA (for use in government), HIPAA (for use in healthcare—not by default but available), ISO 27001 and SSAE 16 (both third-party audits) FISMA, HIPAA, ISO/IEC 27001, EU’s Data Protection Directive (regulates processing of personal data)
Compatibility with the other Microsoft files can be uploaded to Google Drive, but since a lot of features found in Office aren’t available in Google Apps, formatting is often not preserved well. Google Apps Sync allows you to use Outlook for your Google mail, calendar, and contacts. Google drive files can be downloaded as PDFs or in the format of whatever word processor you have on your machine, so if you want to edit them in Office it’s easy to do so.
Mobile/tablet apps Drive, Docs, and Sheets apps for iOS and Android Microsoft Office Mobile for Android and iOS
How much? $50 user/year (or $5 user/month) or $120 user/year to add Vault Small/midsize business plans range from $60 to $180 user/year
Payment plans
  • Flexible: you pay monthly for the service that you used during the previous month.
  • Annual: you still pay monthly, but you are committing to the entire year and receive a discounted rate.
  • Monthly: pay 1/12 of the total plan cost each month
  • Annual: pay whole annual cost at once at a discounted rate
Free trial? 30 day free trial for lower plan 30 day free trial for higher two plans
Offline usage Docs, Sheets, and Slides can be enabled for offline use in chrome and there is an add-on for chrome to enable offline Gmail usage Offline editing is supported for all Office Web Apps, and the higher two plans of Office 365 include the desktop versions that can always be accessed offline
File storage Google Drive—30 GB per user OneDrive—25 GB per user
Adding users Users can be added at any time Users can be added at any time as long as you don’t exceed the user limit for your plan
What happens if you cancel? Data is deleted upon cancelation. If you’re on the flexible plan, you only pay for up until you cancel. On the annual plan, you are responsible for the cost of the entire year and will be billed the remaining amount. Once you cancel, your administrator will have access to any data for 90 days. If you’re on a monthly payment plan, then you’re done paying. On an annual payment plan, you’ve already paid for the year and will not receive a refund.
Support 24/7 phone and email Web and 24/7 phone
Options
  • Google Apps for Business: business email, video and voice calls, online calendars, 30GB of storage, online text documents, spreadsheets, and slides, project sites, security and admin controls
  • Google Apps for Business with Vault: archiving, email retention in case of employee departure, protection from data loss, administrator-restricted search, control over data retention, legal holds, web-based data management
  • Office 365 Small Business: business email, file storage and sharing, video conferencing, website, online calendars, data security and spam filtering, online and mobile versions of Microsoft Office (up to 25 users)
  • Office 365 Small Business Premium: Full desktop versions of Microsoft Office on up to 5 PCs or Macs per user, plus Office for tablets Office 365 Midsize Business: directory integration (and up to 300 users)
Two-step verification? Yes Yes
Does mac vs pc matter? Nope! Since the only thing you’re downloading to your computer is Google Drive to sync files, it doesn’t matter if you use a Mac or a PC. Yes, if you have a plan that includes desktop software—some applications, such as Access and Publisher, are only available on PCs and others, like Lync and OneNote, need to be downloaded separately. For full info, go to Microsoft’s website.
Home/personal versions Every Google account comes with access to Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. Microsoft accounts have free access to OneDrive and Office Web Apps. In addition, there is Office 365 Home, a subscription based plan that includes desktop applications for up to 5 PCs or Macs and 5 tablets, and Office 365 University, a four year subscription that includes desktop applications for 2 devices.

Google Apps Review

Google Apps is Google’s approach to the office suite, relatively simple and inexpensive, getting the job done without all the bells and whistles. It’s totally online—all the applications are web based and your files are all stored in the cloud. Everything is saved automatically as you work, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally losing all of your changes. Since everything is stored in the cloud, you can access your files from work, your laptop, your phone, someone else’ computer, or anywhere you have internet access.

What Products Are Included?

Google Apps for Business includes the following products, all online:

  • Gmail (email)
  • Hangouts (video chatting/instant messaging)
  • Calendar
  • Drive (cloud storage)
  • Docs (word processor)
  • Sheets (spreadsheets)
  • Slides (presentations)
  • Sites (website building)
  • Admin (administrative tools)

Google Apps for Business with Vault also includes Vault, for archiving.

Pricing

With Google Apps, you pay monthly, either for the services used during the month or 1/12 of your annual cost, depending on your payment plan. You have two options: Google Apps for Business and Google Apps for Business with Vault, the difference between them being $5 per user/month and of course access to Vault, which gives companies the ability to archive and search emails and chats.

The Bottom Line

Google Apps is great for small businesses that need its products to do basic work but don’t need a full desktop version of the software. There’s no user limit, so you don’t have to worry about having to change plans if your business is growing. It’s not particularly polished or feature rich, which is fine for many small business but if you’re looking to do extensive, complicated work (especially with spreadsheets) then this may not be the right choice for you.

Office 365 Review

With over a billion users around the world, it’s hard to find someone in the business world who isn’t familiar with Microsoft Office. While the standard Office desktop software is nothing new, Microsoft has recently come out with Office 365, an online version of its Office applications that make file sharing and collaboration a breeze. With Office 365, you also have the option of adding on the full desktop version of Microsoft Office, which has more features and allows for even more customization.

What Products Are Included?

All Office 365 editions come with Office Web Apps, which include online versions of the following:

  • Word (word processor)
  • Excel (spreadsheets)
  • PowerPoint (presentations)
  • Outlook (email)
  • OneNote (note taking)
  • Publisher (publishing)
  • Access (database)
  • Lync (video conferencing/instant messaging)
  • OneDrive (cloud storage)

More expensive plans include the full desktop versions of these products that each user can download to up to five machines each.

Pricing

There are a lot of different options for Office 365, but the main ones for smaller businesses are Small Business, Small Business Premium, and Midsize Business. They are $5, $12.50, and $15 per user/month, respectively, and the main difference between the three of them is that the higher two plans come with desktop versions of the applications and the lower two have user limits of 25, while Midsize Business is for up to 300 users.

The Bottom Line

Office 365 provides users with a familiar and comfortable cloud-based office suite experience. For many businesses, it’s probably not worth the high price—you’re paying for the extensive advanced features that it offers, but a lot of businesses just need the basics and won’t get any use out of them. If you need to be using large spreadsheets or other complex files, though, it’s by far the best choice out there.

Other Options

LibreOffice

  • Free, open source, downloadable office suite
  • Compatible with Microsoft file formats

iWork

  • Word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications
  • Comes for free with newer Macs, available for download on the App Store for $19.99 each, or available for free at www.icloud.com with an iCloud account

Zoho

  • Online office suite
  • Free version including word processor, spreadsheet, presentation applications and file sharing
  • Paid plans at $5 & $8 per user/month