Google Apps/Office 365 a cloud showdown

For most of the 90s and well into the first decade and a half of the 2000s, Microsoft Office reigned as king of the Office suites. The Internet, in its early years, didn’t change that much, until the concept of the cloud was introduced. With it came competitors, such as Google with Google Drive, determined to give Microsoft a run for their money. Microsoft also has a cloud solution, Office 365. The question many managers are asking is: Which is better?

Here’s a comparison of both Google Apps and Office 365.

Cost
Google has three pricing schemes for Google Apps: Free, $5 a month and $10 a month. Office 365 has eight price plans – six for normal users and two for kiosk users – these vary from $4 a month up to $22 a month. Note: all prices are in USD and are per user, per month.

With Google Apps, the majority of businesses will choose to go with the $5 a month plan, as it can support an unlimited number of users. Businesses that adopt Office 365 should chose the plan that closest matches the number of users in the organization. The only problem with the lower priced Office 365 plans ($14 a month and lower) are that they don’t include the desktop version of Office, which you will have to buy or license separately.

Setup/migration
On paper the setup or migration to both systems can be easily achieved, but in reality, there are a few differences. With Google Apps, you follow an online migration process which you can either do yourself or with the help of a Google Apps Authorized Reseller.

Office 365 follows a similar process, with a setup wizard to help the transition. As of Spring 2012 If you’re a current Microsoft BPOS user, you can only do the migration at certain times, Microsoft’s Online Services team will give you a schedule. This means your migration works around Microsoft’s schedule, not yours. For new Office 365 clients, working with a Microsoft vendor is your best bet to achieving a successful migration, as there have been known to be complications with the process, especially if you’re upgrading from a legacy system.

Cloudiness
Both Google and Microsoft market their products as cloud solutions. Google Apps is centered around Google Drive and Gmail, with Drive being the online storage, collaboration and document creation and editing app. Basically, anything created using a Google App is accessed from Drive, which in turn can be accessed using any Web browser.

Office 365 users on the other hand will likely have to adapt a hybrid solution. You will be able to access documents through SharePoint, Microsoft’s online document management system. These documents are in turn shared with Office 365 users who can access them through their Web browser. There is also Office Web Apps which is a slimmed down version of Office for desktops, which is fully in the cloud.

Management
Management of any cloud based solution should, in theory, be as easy as managing web browsers across the organization. With Google, any program updates are automatically installed by Google, and will show up often instantly, meaning that all users are always on the same version, regardless of their location. If you use a Google Apps Vendor, the updates will be available to all of the vendor’s clients when the vendor updates, which is usually close to the time Google releases the original update.

Management of Google Apps is done through the Web browser of the admin account. Users can add new services, change access rights and tinker to their heart’s content. Office 365 on the other hand relies on a fairly tech-intensive backend that requires a company to have IT staff with knowledge of Microsoft’s products. A new version of Office 365 will be available in November 2013, however, if companies want to upgrade, they may have to pay for a whole new version of Office for each user.

When it comes to support, Google offers 24/7 support for paying customers, and no physical support for non-paying customers. Microsoft offers support for some price plans, however no 24/7 support is available for businesses that chose the Small Business price plan. Both have websites and incredibly extensive forums you can access for help.

Day-to-day use
If you were to compare Google Apps with just the online parts of Office 365, you’d find that the two offerings are fairly similar. Both facilitate online collaboration, while providing essential features like a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software and email, that are instantly familiar to any computer user. Strictly comparing these to Office Web Apps, both are fairly light on advanced editing and creation features that content producers and layout editors need.

Where Office 365 shines is with day-to-day integration. If it’s set up properly, Office 365 will work great with Office 2010, and allows users far greater formatting options than Google Apps. In fact, to get the most out of Office 365, you will probably want to use Office 2010 along with it.

In short, businesses that already use Microsoft’s products, have the required infrastructure for Office 365, or need the advanced functionality of the Office suite, will be better off sticking with Microsoft. For businesses that are looking for a set price solution that’s fully based in the cloud, Google Apps may be the better choice. If you’d like to learn more about the various products from either company, please contact us.

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