Office 365 Versus G Suite: Which Cloud Service is Best for Business?

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As the president of an IT consulting and cloud services firm, the most common cloud question I am asked is: “We want to move to the cloud - would you recommend Office 365 or G Suite?” Having observed a number of cloud migrations for small and mid-sized organizations, I believe there are a number of considerations necessary for selecting the appropriate cloud suite.

Both G Suite and Office 365 offer a comprehensive suite of collaboration capabilities with several important pros and cons. Looking at a company’s specific situation can help you determine which solution is better for an organization.


G Suite
Microsoft Office 365
Email, Contacts, Calendars, TasksPros: Simple, streamlined web experience.

Cons: Creating well-formatted emails with pictures or attachments, or creating repeating calendar entries with invitations to external users.

Pros: Single integrated app. More powerful software for complex email, contacts and calendar capabilities.

Google Drive
OneDrive
File SharingFile storage and synchronization service that offers both online and offline access to files.

Cons: It’s not as easy to save files to Google Drive from third-party cloud services.

Shared file service.

Pros: You can easily migrate thousands of folders to Office 365 while retaining existing Active Directory security group privileges.


Google Hangouts
Skype for Business
Chat, Voice & Video ConferencingChat, voice and video communications with seamless communications and strong user interface on mobile apps.Chat, voice and video conferencing with both internal and external contacts.

Cons: Skype’s 2018 user interface overhaul is frustrating some users.


Google SitesSharePoint
CollaborationAllows users to simply create and share information, such as project sites, with team members.Allows users to create and share information with coworkers via a web interface. It also allows users to edit Word documents or Excel spreadsheets online simultaneously.

Google DocsMicrosoft Word
Word ProcessorOnline word processor which works well for simple word processing.

Pros: Google enables multiple users to collaborate and edit the same document simultaneously from different locations.

The leading word processing software.

Pros: Allows you to view and edit complex Word documents on your iPad.


Google SheetsMicrosoft Excel
SpreadsheetsSimple, web-based spreadsheet.

Pros: Google enables multiple users to collaborate and edit the same simple spreadsheet simultaneously from different locations.

Allows you to view and edit simple Excel spreadsheets online and in the Excel app.

Pros: For complex spreadsheets, like a sophisticated financial model, you need to use Windows or macOS.


Google SlidesMicrosoft PowerPoint
PresentationsBuild simple presentations in your web browser.Use range from simple slide presentations to intricate pitch decks.

Pros: Many projectors can display PowerPoint natively.


G SuiteOffice 365
Third-Party Add-OnsGoogle offers the ability to add third-party modules to G Suite, especially Gmail.

Most cloud services integrate with both G Suite and Office 365.
Microsoft’s Office 365 Store offers a wide range of third-party apps to enhance Office 365.

Most cloud services integrate with both Office 365 and G Suite.

Pros:
There’s a much larger library of third-party modules, such as project management or purchase order approval, that you can incorporate into Office 365 and SharePoint.

User Acceptance, Ease of Migration

In general, Office 365 has a substantial edge over G Suite for most clients migrating from in-house Exchange and SharePoint environments. Users and IT staff are familiar with using and supporting the Microsoft Office suite and prefer staying with the same platform. Furthermore, Microsoft’s migration tools and processes have matured to enable seamless migration from Exchange servers to Office 365.

Marc Piparo, IT Director of Fortune Society, a 300-person nonprofit, moved from in-house Exchange servers to Office 365 email, calendars and SharePoint about two years ago. The organization's primary motivation was improving reliability of email and communications during potential disasters. Piparo told Tom’s Hardware that he selected Office 365 in order to avoid retraining employees who are already familiar with Microsoft apps such as Word and Excel.

However, new organizations and clients migrating from non-Microsoft solutions are much more open to selecting G Suite. Brooks Ross, President of Leggiadro, a luxury women’s fashion retailer with 13 U.S. locations, migrated the company from an in-house Exchange server to Google G Suite two years ago because they wanted reliable communications without the cost of maintaining and operating in-house servers. He tells Tom’s Hardware Leggiadro chose G Suite because most store managers and staff need to work on iPads and wanted a simple, seamlessly integrated web-based solution.

Credit: Shutterstock | Alexey BoldinCredit: Shutterstock | Alexey Boldin

Integration

Both Google and Microsoft offer built-in integrations to a variety of cloud services and extra features, including email archiving, CRM, marketing communications and more. Most cloud services today (CRM solutions, such as Salesforce, accounting/ERP solutions, like NetSuite, project management solutions, such as Slack) support integrations with both Office 365 and G Suite.

Piparo says Fortune Society was able to easily integrate their in-house CRM system to Office 365.  The nonprofit also integrates with AppRiver for email filtering and CloudAlly for third-party backup.

Ross tells us Leggiadro easily integrated their custom CRM app and email marketing solution with Gmail, as well as their client list.

Reliability

In recent years, both G Suite and Office 365 have been reliable with minimal outages, and any outages I've seen have been fairly short (under an hour) and limited in scope (meaning only a few users or functions were affected).

Piparo attests to this, saying Fortune Society has had no outages in the two years they’ve been on Office 365. Meanwhile, Leggiadro has seen just one G Suite outage. According to Brooks, email was down for less than half-a-day, but the overall elimination of cost and hassles of in-house servers has been well worth it.

Credit: Shutterstock | Nopparat KhokthongCredit: Shutterstock | Nopparat Khokthong

Security and Compliance

Both Microsoft and Google invest in security to protect their systems from hackers. However, they cannot protect you if your password is stolen. In addition to requiring staff to select strong passwords, IT can protect users by using built-in two-factor authentication capabilities. Google offers Google Authenticator, and Microsoft offers Microsoft 2FA.

Piparo says that because Fortune Society has access to personal and medical data, they enable compliance filtering on Office 365 and require staff to use encrypted emails when exchanging confidential personal data with partners or government agencies. They also improved security by greatly reducing the number of staff with remote access to the Fortune Society network since most information is now available on Office 365.

Google and Microsoft both have compliance options for monitoring the release of confidential data, also known as Personally Identifiable Information or PII, and also offer integrations with third-party archiving solutions.

Support

Both Google and Microsoft offer an extensive online self-help knowledge base, along with telephone and chat help desk support. For the most common support issues, both companies offer suitable support services. For complex enterprise/integration issues, you may need to reach out to an experienced third-party IT provider for assistance.

Hardware Support

Google provides strong web-based functionality on Chromebooks and the Chrome browser on Windows and macOS. Its web-based functions on other browsers and other platforms, including tablets, are limited. You may also use the Google apps for iOS and Android, although they’re not as good as the Microsoft mobile apps for Outlook, Word and Excel.

Microsoft outshines Google in its support for complex spreadsheets and documents with its Office suite, which users can use on a Windows or macOS computer.

Pricing

G Suite starts at $5/user/month for email, calendars, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, voice and video conferencing with 30GB storage/user. You can upgrade to G Suite Business for $10/user/month and gain unlimited storage, as well as email archiving. The most premium option is G Suite Enterprise, $25/user/month, which adds enterprise compliance and security alert capabilities.

Office 365 starts at $8/user/month for Office 365 E1, which includes web versions of its email, calendars, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, voice and video conferencing solutions with 50GB storage/user. You may upgrade to Office 365 E3, which adds the offline software suite (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher and Access), as well as 100GB storage for $20/user/month, or Office 365 E5, which adds enterprise compliance and security alert capabilities for $35/user/month.

Bottom Line

If you’re moving a new organization over with connected mobile users mostly accessing productivity applications through web browsers, G Suite may be the right choice. G Suite offers a stronger web-based experience on Chrome browsers with seamless integration with its various components, with decent mobile apps. It’s also often preferred by smaller organizations for its simplicity and lower cost.

If you’re migrating an established organization with many users familiar with Microsoft Office’s more sophisticated capabilities, or have users who wish to work offline on their Windows or Mac laptops, Office 365 is a better fit.  Experienced Office users prefer the advanced software features of Microsoft Office software installed on their Windows or Mac, as well as the ability to more productive while disconnected. Office 365 has a good web-based experience, as well as high quality apps for iOS and Android.The Microsoft suite is usually preferred by larger organizations, because most IT departments are already accustomed to managing and supporting it.

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  • vogelp
    Solid article with good insight into the two platforms. I would add that if the company is a startup, with many young employees, there will be a preference, if not demand for, the GSuite solution. A good example of this is Facebook, where the 27,000 employees have demanded a switch to GSuite.
  • hannibal
    If very many people work with same document or file, the Google has advantage. The O365 seems to have problems with multiple users, from time to time, because syncing is not fast enough.
    But MS tools are de facto standard in office tools, so good choice if you need compatibility. Also MS teams is something that Google does not exactly have at this moment as well as OneNote.
  • ynthrepic
    One feature which Google Gmail continues to lack is the ability to collaborate on emails via Shared Mailboxes. Google only has groups which is a different experience to Gmail, and cannot be used in third party programs like Outlook or Thunderbird.

    Office 365 has always supported Shared Mailboxes, and you can set them up as independent email accounts with passwords *for free* that minor users that only need to send and receive emails can be given. These users can also have their signatures for OWA set up by an admin and they cannot change them.

    Unfortunately, it may be the case that this use case is not officially supported by Microsoft, but for now, it's a huge money saver for small businesses with only one or two primary users and a handful of minor staff and contractors.
  • bob.larimer
    Probably would be a good article to read if I could get that Assassin's Creed video ad to stop overlaying in top of the article itself
  • mihen
    I don't understand why you would want to use the services of a company who's whole business model is selling user data. I would be nervous to give them access to my spreadsheets and documentation.
  • Xajel
    I would love google to have an offline office suite (a real application, not just a webapp), the main reason is getting away of using the browser, dedicated apps are more efficient, faster, less power hungry.

    These apps can be fully integrated with the online services. But with the main factor is the native application nature of the suite which brings better performance and integration with the OS.
  • antilycus
    @XAJEL why reinvent the wheel when LibreOffice already has a free and extremely compatible "office suite".
  • cryoburner
    Anonymous said:
    A good example of this is Facebook, where the 27,000 employees have demanded a switch to GSuite.

    Why would one of the largest, multi-billion dollar online services even need to rely on a third-party solution for hosting their business documents? I get the impression that they would be better off hosting everything on their own servers where they can have better control over it, using standalone office applications. At the very least, it seems questionable uploading all of your sensitive business documents to a service run by a data-harvesting company that is arguably something of a competitor to them.

    Additionally, I doubt that their 27,000 employees "demanded" a switch to Google's cloud service. The vast majority of their employees probably don't care, and a large number probably preferred what they had been using. There were likely just a tiny vocal minority of their employees making any demands like that.
  • trevor_chdwck
    This article is good, for the most part, but the word and excel points are lacking acknowledgement that Microsoft's word and excel both have multi-person collaboration just like Google docs, so those aren't really pros for Google anymore.
  • trevor_chdwck
    The article is pretty good, but missing the details of office 365 being able to co-author / collaborate on word and excel documents in real time, same as Google docs. Please correct. Thanks!
  • zverko
    o365 comes also the possibility to install the "full" desktop applications,
    you want custom add-ins for your office: you got it, for desktop, mobile and web solutions.
    and as cherry on top: it is possible to locally install the whole "o365" infrastructure, for those that do not want to host it at MS servers.

    except being cheaper, gsuite has zero other advantages.
  • Peter Martin
    i still prefer office. probably always will. after i had to learn all about every app in the suite in college and how powerful Excel is, well, I'm convinced. Plus you can use VBA if you need/want to to generate business reports dynamically from data sources. With a subscription you can install it on 10 devices, and you get 1TB of OneDrive space! I get the 5 user license per yr, every user gets the same, 10 devices and 1TB per person. love it. With business subscription, everybody gets those options in the business including the 1TB OneDrive space. I am sure the Google package includes cloudspace as well on their system.
  • stdragon
    Exchange (local or cloud based Office 365 service) is *the* standard for e-mail, contact, and calendar integration. The only other product that came even remotely close for enterprise was Lotus Notes.

    It's not that Google isn't capable of delivering a good product, but rather, it's that their ideas are flawed in how best to do enterprise communication.

    Tagging e-mails instead of creating sub-folders, WTF? That's such as horrible idea! And IMAP sucks! Google's "exchange-like" add-on for Outlook is just as flaky as Zembra's

    Trust me, stick with the true Exchange platform. It's not worth the butt-ache to try and shoehorn in another solution as a replacement.