The great collaboration battle: should it be Office 365 or G Suite for your business?

Jonathan Davies • Wed, Mar 13, '19 •

The great collaboration battle: should it be Office 365 or G Suite for your business?

Cast your mind back, all the way to the mid-noughties and a series of ads comparing the cool guy to the nerd as a means to entice you to purchase a new laptop. The cool guy was all about simplicity, ease of use, helping you to create and collaborate without needing to stick your head under the hood. The nerd, on the other hand, was always knee-deep in spreadsheets, data, analysis, lacking sunlight and fun. The comparison was simple – and the preferred buying option was obvious.

Back then, this was how advertising got you to buy an Apple Mac instead of a PC. Fast forward to 2019 and it might as well be a modern take on the Office 365 vs G Suite battle.

Google’s collaboration tools, formerly known as Google Apps for Business but now going by the moniker of the G Suite, have taken Apple’s place as the proverbial cool guy. It’s all about stylish but simple UX, intuitive working, and easy collaboration across as big a divide as you can imagine.

The nerd here then is Microsoft’s Office suite. Despite its move to the cloud with Office 365 – pushed, in part, by the rise of the G Suite – Office is still seen as the “safe” choice for big corporates with matrix organizations, major silos and no hope in hell of getting people to talk to each other outside of mile-long email trails because Jean in Brussels keeps hitting reply-all.

But if you’re currently sizing up Office 365 vs G Suite, your winner is going to be determined on more than just looks. (Unless you’re *really* superficial.) While we’re biased because we love Google collaboration tools, let’s put that to one side for a minute and walk you through your options.

Document creation

First and foremost, what does document creation look like in Office 365 vs G Suite? Both suites have the core apps: a word processing tool (Google Docs or Microsoft Word), a spreadsheet app (Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel), a presentation creator (Google Slides or Microsoft PowerPoint). So far, so samey.

Where we go from here depends on the size of your business and what you need your staff to do. If you’re looking for an intuitive interface that automatically updates to the cloud and offers real-time collaboration, the G Suite is your friend. While its applications might not offer as many bells and whistles as Microsoft’s, that means they’re easier to drive straight into. The real-time collaboration feature (we’ll go into it further in a sec) is the real killer here.

That said, Google apps for business are designed to be simple and efficient. If you need to dig into some hardcore data, or you need something with masses of functionality, you’d be better off looking at Office 365.   

Take the spreadsheet option, for example. Google Sheets are so simple to use, but many people who use spreadsheets want it to do more than pretty tables.

“Microsoft's Excel is superior to Google's offering when it comes to spreadsheet tools,” says Computerworld UK. “It is made for complex number crunching and sizeable data imports and exports. Microsoft announced in September 2018 the addition of AI-powered enhancements in Excel, which aim to help employees transform data into insights and offer improvements in functionality, for example, speedier 'lookup' functions.”

Still, try saying “Hey Google, open a new spreadsheet” and then talk to us about efficiencies.  

Collaboration and productivity

“Both G Suite and Office 365 are built around collaboration, but how they handle it is different,” writes Jason Aten for Fit Small Business. “Google’s approach is a lot like a classroom with a whiteboard. You can invite anyone in the classroom and you can all stand at the whiteboard together and work on a document. The “whiteboard” keeps track of everyone’s contribution and you can edit, accept, or remove them anytime you want.”

He continues: “Office 365’s approach is like a whiteboard, except that every time you want to share, you have to hand out a new key to the classroom, turn on the lights, make your changes, take the whiteboard off the wall, take it to the next classroom, hang it up, give your team member a marker, and let them make their contributions. Then you reverse the process to review the changes. The end result is similar, but the process is much less simple and transparent.”

It’s Google collaboration tools and the G Suite’s focus on collaboration and integration that sees it come out on top for us. Real-time collaboration cannot be undersold. While Office 365 has come along in leaps and bounds on that front – no more checking out a document on SharePoint to make sure you’re the only one working on it – the magic of having an entire team working on the same document from different locations at the same time is just priceless. Plus, everything syncs automatically to Google Drive, and you can revert to old versions quickly.

Communication and engagement

We’ll keep this one short and sweet, because email is gmail at the end of the day. Where Office 365 vs G Suite comes into play is in the real-time communication environment. Some Office 365 packages come with Skype for Business as an added extra, but that involves a separate app on your desktop or mobile device. Google collaboration tools and the G Suite come with Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet video calling, which let you make calls and have chats from within your Google collaboration tools system.

Throw in the possible integrations with the G Suite – apps like Slack seamlessly become part of your system – and Google makes life so simple and engaging here.

Cloud vs desktop

One other consideration when you’re sizing up Office 365 vs G Suite is the question of where it all lives. If you’re totally cloud-based as an organization, then you have no issue; both systems operate in the cloud, allowing creation, collaboration and communication from any browser or device as long as it’s internet-enabled.

If, however, you need desktop access – maybe you work in an area with patchy connectivity, or you prefer to work from your desktop because you have a deep-seated paranoia that the cloud will swallow your work whole and never spit it back out – then you’re out of luck with the G Suite. Google collaboration and productivity tools are totally cloud-based, so there’s no desktop version - though you can opt to work offline and it will sync when you’re connected once more.

Some Office 365 plans, however, come with the desktop versions of old chestnuts like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Watch your enterprise and old-school IT boffins get all misty-eyed about that.

Pricing

Both Office 365 and G Suite offer tiered pricing on a per-user basis, starting at around the same price. Where Google keeps things simple with just three tiers – basic, business and enterprise – you’ll need mountaineering equipment and a rocket science degree to figure out Microsoft’s uber-niche tiering, which has multiple levels of business tiers followed by even more enterprise tiers, each one giving you access to something extra that you may or may not need.

“Google is really going after acquisition with their simplified pricing tiers, and it’s a great competitive advantage over Microsoft’s more confusing price structure,” writes Patrick Campbell for Price Intelligently. “To say that Office 365's pricing is confusing is an understatement. Their pricing page is one of the most confusing we've encountered and it makes for a terrible pricing experience.”

The general consensus from experts is that the G Suite’s pricing structure best suits smaller businesses, but that for the larger, more complex enterprise it’s a no-brainer for Office 365 and Microsoft. But, Google is now going after the enterprise crowd for G Suite, so that may change in coming years.

Office 365 vs G Suite: the verdict?

So, we’re clearly biased but we reckon you can’t go past Google collaboration tools added to a G Suite intranet. The interface is modern and simple, the UX is familiar – especially to your Millennial and Gen Z workers – and the options for team collaboration and productivity integrations are second to none. Additional G Suite apps like Google Forms and Google Sites make even the hardest of Internal Communications pros salivate with anticipation.

It’s not as simple as small business = Google, though. More and more enterprises are ditching Office 365 in favour of the G Suite, including very traditional companies like Airbus. Their CIO Luc Hennekens told The Register: “We want people to fundamentally reconsider how they work and move away from old ways of working, like sending millions of emails around. It is a lot easier to achieve that with a tool that, from its conception, radically breaks with past ways of working and past concepts, rather than working with a tool (Office 365) that is a step up, but still in many ways is similar to what we’ve been using in the past.”

Add a G Suite intranet to your system and you have a world-class business communication and collaboration system at your fingertips, wherever you are in the world, whatever device you’re on – and you know that version control is in check, conversations are being stored for posterity and are searchable, and you don’t need an on-premises server to back it all up.

While this article has only scratched the surface – we haven’t even gone into the all-important security question, considered storage options, or looked at why SharePoint is not the intranet you’re looking for – it’s still obvious (to us) that Google collaboration tools are the digital workplace’s cool guy: simple, easy to use, no fluff and no wasted energy. It doesn’t give you a million super-complicated things you’ll never use and call it value for money.

Besides, let’s face it: Is “people have been using it for years” really a good enough reason to choose a collaboration and productivity suite for your business? As US Naval officer and early computer programmer Grace Hopper said, the most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way’.

Author:

Jonathan Davies

Date:

Wed, Mar 13, '19

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