G Suite vs Microsoft Office 365

office365-vs-g-suite

Today’s business software is centered around email, the original killer productivity app, which has become a 2-horse race: Google’s G Suite and Microsoft’s Office 365. The good news is that both products are good and getting better quickly as competition continues to heat up.

We’ll review the benefits and challenges of each of the platforms, and offer our recommendation. Before getting started, we do not recommend hosting your own email, using a non-major email provider, or maintaining any on-premise servers for something as mission critical as email and core productivity software. Today’s cloud offerings have long surpassed the reliability, quality, and scalability of non-cloud products.

Microsoft Office 365 Overview

Though Microsoft long ruled the business productivity world with Office and Exchange, it was slow to evolve to the cloud world, which opened up a window for Google. Over the past few years though, under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft has made a concerted effort to close this gap and focus on cloud and mobile. Office 365 is the result of this focus, and given its importance, we’ll likely continue to see rapid improvements on this front.

There are several misconceptions about what exactly Office 365 is, which is mainly Microsoft’s own fault in it’s confusing pricing and packaging.

Many people think it’s ONLY an online version of Office, like G Suite, which turns some people off, but it’s actually the unified brand name for all of its Office productivity offerings, including email, downloadable software, online productivity apps and more. There is a version that offers only online versions of Office a la G Suite (Business Essentials), but there’s also a license that enables users to download FULL desktop versions of Office applications. And most (but confusingly not all) licenses include generous 50GB of email. (We’ll get to pricing details later).

Basically Office 365 in its various flavors is a full productivity suite designed to compete fully with Google for Work.

G Suite for Work Overview

G Suite is Google’s alternative to the Microsoft hegemony. G Suite has matured significantly since its humble beginnings of Gmail and Google Docs, bringing a powerful platform of email, productivity software, file sharing, and more to businesses for a simple low price.

Google now has over 2 million businesses paying to use Google for Work, so you can be confident in the performance and rapid improvement of the platform.

Other Alternatives

We’ve deliberately not included other alternatives because they’re simply not complete enough for most business usage. The iWork Suite from Apple has some unique benefits (e.g. Keynote is best in class beautiful slide deck preparation), but lack of email offering and robuts collaboration tools make it ill suited for the full workload.

Summary Recommendation (tl;dr)

In this article we’re going to dive deeper to compare the benefits of each platform, however in keeping with our philosophy at Blissfully, we want to make opinionated and justified recommendations to make your life easier. So for those of you who like the conclusion up front, here’s our recommendations.

For MOST companies, especially new companies, we’d recommend to go with G Suite for Work. The pricing is simpler and more fair, the collaboration tools are better, the platform is improving very very quickly, it has tons of extensibility to make your experience even better, and it’s the choice of most technology startups these days. G Suite is also easier to set up and manage without the help of an IT department or sales rep.

If you’re already deep into the Microsoft ecosystem and/or you’re migrating from existing on premise Exchange servers, then we’d recommend moving to Office 365.

Now Let’s take a look at the individual components of these productivity bundles.

Office 365 vs Google Apps Feature Comparison

 Microsoft Office 365Google AppsVerdict
EmailOutlook
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50GB email included with most plans (not basic Business or ProPlus)
Gmail
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Leading consumer email provider, 30GB or Unlimited depending on plan
Both very mature email clients, many younger workers used to Gmail interface.
File SharingSkyDrive
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1TB file sharing with most packages.
Google Drive
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30GB with basic and unlimited storage with Unlimited package
About the same these days, Dropbox still better on usability, but both of these are good enough.
Word ProcessingWord
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Full downloadable version in all but Essentials and Enterprise E1.
Docs
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Online version comes with both plans, great collaboration, opens and exports Word files.
Docs wins on collaboration, Word for power features.
SpreadsheetExcel
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Full downloadable version in all but Essentials and Enterprise E1.
Sheets
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Online version comes with both plans, great collaboration, opens and exports Excel files.
Excel for most power jobs, Sheets for integration with other services
PresentationPowerpoint
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Full downloadable version in all but Essentials and Enterprise E1.
Slides
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Online version comes with both plans, great collaboration, opens and exports PowerPoint files.
PowerPoint is standard, though Apple's Keynote makes easier/prettier slides.
Team Chat and ConferencingSkype for Business
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Solid support for Windows, improving for smartphone and Mac. Comes with all versions that include email (not included in Business and ProPlus)
Hangouts
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Ok browser support. Legacy UX and technical issues slowly improving.
Both ok, have UX idiosyncrasies, Slack probably a better option for team chat.
Summary of product features in the Microsoft and Google productivity suites.

Pricing and Plans

Microsoft has a legacy of confusing price points and configurations, and Office 365 is no different. Microsoft offers at least 7 different pricing configurations for Office365. To summarize, there are really 3 main offerings:

  • Business Essentials: Email + Online apps only (closest to G Suite) – $5/user/month – (with annual commitment, which Google doesn’t require, price is $6/month for month to month)
  • Business: Downloadable Software + File Sharing – $8.25/user/month ($10/month with no commitment) – this is basically replacing the traditional software license for Office, with some cloud storage tossed in
  • Business Premium: Email + Downloadable Apps – $12.50/user/month ($15/month no commitment) – this is the combination of the above, which is what I’d consider the “real” Office 365.
  • Essentials is to compete with the G Suite offering and price point, Business is for legacy users that still haven’t migrated to cloud email, and Business Premium is really the first fully featured Office 365 offering.
  • Additional plans offer more admin, enterprise features, business intelligence, higher limits, etc., but still along the same broad groupings as outlined above. You can see the more advanced pricing plans here.
  • Downloadable full featured Office apps for computers, tablets, and phones is probably the single biggest differentiator for Office365, and it’s a bit buried in the confusing pricing plans and starts at the third tier.
  • You can view additional pricing details on the simple plans and additional plans.

Google for Work (pricing details)

  • G Suite Basic – $5/user/month
    • Email, 30GB/user, Hangouts for voice and video, online productivity software (Docs, Sheets, Slides)
  • G Suite Business – $10/user/month
    • Everything plus unlimited storage and enterprise level control and admin functionality.
  • FREE for Education and Nonprofits

Verdict: Google – Google offers much simpler and fairer pricing and easier signup and deployment. If a few users need Excel or Outlook, you can still use the stand alone licenses for Office 365 apps.

Email

G Suite offers email powered by Google’s Gmail infrastructure, the leading email provider. It comes with standard web access, which is likely to be familiar to most employees given how common gmail is for personal use. In addition to the powerful web view, it supports IMAP email clients like Apple’s Mail, 3rd party apps like Airmail and Spark, and even Microsoft Outlook (Windows Outlook support for Gmail is much better than the Mac Outlook).

Office 365 offers 50GB of email (for the plans that include email), available online through Outlook’s web portal, and if you have the plan with downloadable apps, also via Outlook’s app. If you’re an Outlook power user you’ll probably prefer this (though Google offers full Outlook integration for Windows and limited integration for Mac).

Verdict: Tied – both offer powerful back ends, tons of storage, and flexible usage options.

Productivity Software

Office is the standard bearer for productivity software suites, with Word, Excel and PowerPoint essentially defining their categories. If you are a power user on any of those products, you’ll likely want the downloadable versions of those applications, which is available on all but the Essentials Office 365 plan (which offers online versions only).

Google offers online versions of its productivity apps: Google Docs (like Word), Google Sheets (like Excel), and Google Slides (like PowerPoint). These versions offer basic functionality, but excel in real time collaboration because they’re mainly online only (all have limited offline support). Google has built out great collaboration tools so you can seamlessly work on documents with colleagues, add comments, and get notifications.

Verdict: Office 365 for apps (downloaded versions are much more powerful, especially if you’re doing a lot of Excel), G Suite for real time collaboration.

File sharing

G Suite offers Google Drive, and Office 365 comes with Microsoft OneDrive (most plans). Both products are very similar with core functionality of desktop syncing, sharing management, and online access. Google Drive’s default file sharing metaphor is a mess if you don’t set it up right, and OneDrive is still a bit rougher around the edges, but both get the job done.

Verdict: Tied – file sharing these days is table stakes, and while OneDrive and Google Drive are still not quite as elegant as Dropbox, they both have plenty of storage, desktop sync, and control.

Device and Platform Support

Both suites offer a rich array of apps for Android and iOS, and are all browser accessible from any computer. Office365 goes beyond with rich apps for Windows and Mac (for most plans).

Verdict: Tie – The platform wars of the 90s and early 2000s are largely behind us as the battle moves to the software layer. As a result, whether you prefer Android or iOS, Mac or Windows you’re covered. Google and Microsoft are actively supporting all platforms, with near functional parity across all of them.

3rd party applications and support

G Suite offers many more integrations with third party applications, and has an entire G Suite Marketplace which lists great third party software that you can easily install to augment your experience. Additionally, many products support Google authentication, creating an easy way to manage user onboarding for your employees and third party applications. (As a side note, this is a huge wasted opportunity for Microsoft especially given how much they dominated with Active Directory, but that’s a topic for another post).

Verdict: Google

Video Conferencing and Communication

Skype for Business is a catch all for chat, voice and video tools from Microsoft, which is included in most Office365 plans. The product works, and will soon be at feature parity between Mac and Windows after a long period of neglecting the Mac platform.

Google Hangouts has always offered more potential than it’s delivered, with a clunky UI and no native apps for Mac or Windows. The product is improving rapidly, but isn’t ready for prime time as your primary communications platform.

Alternatives: If you have more than basic collaboration needs, you’ll likely want to augment G Suite or Office 365 with dedicated tools. RingCentral for voice (and now meetings) is a powerful platform with much more control and flexibility. If you want dedicated video conferencing hardware, Highfive has you covered. And for team wide chat, Slack is probably your best bet.

Verdict: Skype for Business is far more mature than Google Hangouts if you’re going to rely on the built in communications options, but this point is moot if you go with one of a number of high quality third party communication options for phone or video conferencing.

Recommendation: G Suite for Work is best for most organizations

Picking one of the two standard business productivity suites is a big choice that impacts a lot of your core communication, collaboration and workflow. If you’re not on either of these platforms, you really should be. And if you’re picking between them, our recommendation for MOST companies is G Suite unless you’re deep in the Microsoft ecosystem.

The pricing is simpler and more fair, the collaboration tools are better, the platform is improving very very quickly, it has tons of extensibility to make your experience even better, and it’s the choice of most technology startups these days. G Suite is also easier to set up and manage without the help of an IT department or sales rep.

If you’re already deep into the Microsoft ecosystem and/or you’re migrating from existing on premise Exchange servers, then we’d recommend moving to Office 365.

But best of all both platforms are powerful and improving quickly.

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