What’s Better for Small Business: Google Apps for Work or Microsoft Office 365?

by Denise Hazime on September 3, 2015

 Google Apps for Work or Microsoft Office 365 banner

Microsoft 365 has been getting lots of press lately as its use is increasing in large corporations. Microsoft 365 is Microsoft’s answer to cloud app computing, and it is a competing suite to Google Apps for Work, largely due to legacy use of Microsoft Office products in many organizations. So if you are a small to medium size business, which is the best to choose? Both suites have their advantages.

Cost Comparison Between Google Apps for Work and Microsoft Office 365

The pricing for Google Apps for Work is very straightforward; either $5 or $10 per user, depending on what features you want, and can be billed month to month. The only plan that includes email with Microsoft is Office 365 Business Premium, which is $12.50 per user and requires an annual commitment.

Another thing to consider with Google Apps for Work is that IT costs for certain employees could be slashed significantly by furnishing them with a Chromebook. A Chromebook is a laptop available from Google that relies on Google Apps to perform most regular functions.

A Chromebook starts at $250, while a Windows desktop or laptop generally starts at around $400. If an employee is just handling basic functions such as editing documents, coding using cloud servers, working with spreadsheets and other tasks that can be completed online, they only need a Chromebook. If you have a theoretical organization with 100 people, 20-40 of those workers may only need a Chromebook to do their jobs. That is a significant cost savings on hardware alone.

Most knowledge workers do not require installed programs or high-octane standalone computing; operating in the cloud puts less and less requirements on hardware. Small and medium-sized businesses can afford to get more life out of their older laptops and desktops before making an upgrade to the inexpensive Chromebooks.

A Chromebook is cheaper because it relies solely on Google Apps and Chrome as an operating system. There are no initial or ongoing licensing costs associated with its use, unless you want to subscribe to Google Apps for Work – which is significantly less than renewing licensing costs for a Windows OS and other software.

IT costs are much lower, and quite predictable thanks to Chrome Management Console. Chromebooks require no antivirus solutions, and are always immediately backed up; Windows, Mac or other operating systems are not. And if you are looking for more processing power, you can go with a higher-end Chromebook such as the Chromebook Pixel, which is still cheaper than most Windows and Apple computers.

The Chromebook Family

Google Apps for Work: For businesses with Strict Compliance and Legal Requirements

We have discussed in the past how Google Apps for Work is HIPAA-compliant and how Google Vault allows you to store employee communications, revisions and records in an easily searchable manner for standard legal requests. Even if your organization is a larger one which is relying on a legacy Microsoft Office licensing system, Google Apps for Work is worth looking into for this reason alone. Unlimited storage in Google Vault is available at the $10 per user level; Microsoft Office 365 does not offer a similar service.  

Microsoft Office 365: For the Microsoft-Entrenched Workplace

If you have a larger business and are heavily invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, Microsoft Office 365 may be an easier short-term choice than Google Apps for Work. While Google Apps for Work allows many provisions for working with Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, rolling it out for thousands of users may be too much of a chore for most IT departments in large organizations, despite its integrations and cost savings. If you are considering a hybrid solution of Google Apps for Work for use with the Microsoft Office suite, the Quick Office Chrome extension makes editing MS Office files easy within Google Apps for Work. Download it here.  

Quick Office Chrome extension for editing Office documents in Google Apps for Work

Google Apps for Work: For the Future-Forward Workplace

Google Apps for Education is being used in an increasing number of schools around the world. In the US, the entire state of Oregon is using Google Apps for Education from kindergarten to Grade 12. As of 2013, over 25 million students were using it in the US and 72 of the top 100 universities were using Google Apps for Work. This means that the new workers entering your organization are completely up to speed on Google Apps and ready to hit the ground running – and these numbers are increasing significantly every year.

Students using Google Apps for Education are almost always using Chromebooks to connect to it – so they are also used to using the less expensive hardware.

Collaboration, Communication, and Mobile Access are Key

Microsoft’s solution for collaboration, Microsoft Office Live, does not work on non-Windows systems. This makes collaboration difficult for Mac users. Microsoft Lync, its more advanced offering, is very expensive. Google Apps for Work comes with Google Hangouts, which gives every employee access to web conferencing out of the gate with no setup or licensing requirements.

Additionally, mobile apps are not free to business users of Microsoft Office 365, while mobile apps are free to Google Apps for Work users. Since most of the workplace is mobile today, this is a hidden cost which businesses will have to absorb.

For a clear picture of what is available in each suite, see the Venn diagram in this ZDNet article.

Interested in Google Apps for Work for your business? Contact UpCurve Cloud today for more information and talk to us about integrating Microsoft Office.

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