G Suite vs Office 365 (2016)

To give a fair comparison as Microsoft has limited its “Business Essential” and “Business Premium” plans to maximum 300 users and the “ProPlus” plan does not include email, the most directly comparable G Suite and Office 365 plans are:

  • the ‘G Suite Basic’ ($50 per user per year) and Office 365 ‘Enterprise E1’ ($96 per user per year) plans
  • the ‘G Suite Business’ ($120 per user per year) and Office 365 ‘Enterprise E3’ ($240 per user per year) plans.

Price

As Office 365 Enterprise plans all require annual commitment we are comparing the annual fee per user. In essence there is a $46 per user per year saving to be made at the lower end of the pricing bands for ‘G Suite Basic’ over Microsoft’s ‘Enterprise E1’; but at the more ‘enterprise’ level, the Office 365 ‘Enterprise E3’ plan comes in at $120 higher per year than ‘G Suite Business’ plan.

We need to take note that the ‘Enterprise E1’ plan, only provide the online version of Office 365. So if a key motivation behind choosing Office 365 is to avail of the desktop apps as well as the cloud features, make sure you pick “Enterprise E3” or higher plans.

Features

I have put together a quick list of the services you get from Microsoft and Google.

Storage

If we’re talking entry-level plans, then Office 365 is a clear winner here: you get 1TB of storage with the ‘Enterprise E1’ plan compared to Google’s 30GB on the ‘G Suite Basic’ plan.

However, if you move up a notch to the “G Suite Business” plan, Google beats all the Microsoft plans hands down in the storage department. As you get unlimited storage, which is extremely useful to any business that works with large multimedia files. Although Microsoft Office 365’s 1TB limit (which applies on all its plans) sounds very generous, you’d be surprised how quickly you can burn through 1TB of storage if storing video (or even audio). If cloud storage is your primary concern, then there is a win here for “G Suite Business” plan.

You are also likely to find the Google Vault feature handy – this lets you archive all communications in your organisation according to rules you define. This may be useful if for legal reasons you need to store communications history.

Both Office 365 and G Suite give you the option to buy more storage on a per user basis.

Work together

Googles strong suit is real-time collaboration. While Microsoft has improved real-time collaboration in its products, it hasn’t matched the simplicity of G Suite, as this Wall Street Journal video demonstrates.

The downfall is that you cant collaborate in real-time using Office 365 desktop versions, you have to use Office 365 online which is not as feature rich as the desktop version or as fast as G Suite.

Applications

You need to consider giving your team access to the desktop apps: habit or human nature. Most people like to work with tools they’re familiar with, and given the long history of Microsoft Office products, your team is likely to go for the locally installed versions of the Office 365 products over the cloud-based, collaborative tools it also provides. This will probably encourage ‘local’ or offline working rather than the more collaborative cloud approach you where looking for.

If you create a working environment where your organisation only uses browser-based applications that save documents to the cloud, then your data is arguably more secure (as long as you have backup procedures in place, see my other posts about cloud security) and your team are more likely to make fuller use of the collaboration features that tools like G Suite and Office 365 provide.

Compatibility

There is nothing to stop you from using both G Suite and MS Office applications in conjunction with each other. If you are tempted by the unlimited cloud storage provided by G Suite and its real-time collaboration, but want to save Word documents in it, you can buy the offline versions of the Microsoft applications and save files created in them to your Google Drive via Google Desktop Sync, there are also a plug-in you can use to open and save files stored in Google Drive directly from MS Office.

Google also allow you to open MS Office files in Google Drive for fast and easy editing online but you can also open them in the desktop version of MS Office if installed, using plug-ins and Chrome browser extensions. Same goes for Adobe and other desktop products.

Video calls

Both G Suite and Office 365 provide video conferencing functionality: Hangouts and Skype for Business (formerly known as Lync).

The maximum number of people that can participate in a video call in Hangout is 25; on Skype for Business it’s 250. And Office 365 offers far more options that has to be preset before the meeting, while G Suite is easy to use with options to share your screen, change audio, video and call quality settings within the video call.

Adding a Chromebox for Meetings to a meeting room makes it easy to join or host meetings with the click of a button, integrated nicely with Google Calendar.

Conclusion

The strongest card in Microsoft’s hand is Excel. For some users, Excel is essential. However Google has been improving Sheets with APIs to facilitate third-party product integration and added some awesome functions not found in Excel and research shows that 95% of all users only use 5% of the functionality in Excel. Take the time to look closely at the list of services from each provider and how you want to innovate your workplace. You have to think in the long term. Don’t forget about technical support. Maybe you are moving from an on-premises solution to the cloud? Its important to engage a cloud adviser and partner that can guide you all the way.

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