There are only two big players in the cloud office productivity suite war, Microsoft with their Office 365 product and Google with G-Suite.
We’re not going to compare every plan and every application, there are a million sites out there that have done that for you and frankly, it’s a boring read. We are here to tell you that you are going to get screwed either way, but at least Google is a more tender lover.
So Why Is G-Suite better?
Here is an imaginary scenario. You break into an average office, maybe do it while under the cover of darkness, and you log into every computer and uninstall all the Microsoft Office products and instead replace the desktop icons and default app associations with their G-Suite counterparts.
In the morning, from your vantage point under a bush across the street, you watch as the office workers sit down at their computers only to get up from their seat in panic and alarm a short time later.
Was the alarm caused by the artfully curated erotic wallpaper you set on Lisa’s desktop? Was it the fact that you ate Terry’s left-over sandwich? Or was it the fact that G-Suite is such a different beast from the traditional Microsoft products?
G-Suite Is Not Office 365
For a lot of users being web-only is a hard concept to embrace, and web-only is all G-Suite has to offer.
Unlike the half-baked afterthoughts of the Microsoft web-app counterparts, the Google Docs products are actually fully fleshed-out and functional tools that work as well, if not better that the desktop-based alternatives.
G-Suite is better, but you can’t do a night-ninja deployment and expect anything other than pushback (and perhaps heightened security). But plan the project, run some training sessions and hold a few users’ hands and the adoption will be a positive experience.
What Is The Difference Anyway?
Again, there are a million posts that compare the two products in depth and you probably should read up on the specifics before you make any rash decisions.
Office 365 gives you business email, calendar, cloud storage, web-app versions of their famous office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.), and the traditional offline office products that you love to loathe. G-Suite gives you business email, calendar, cloud storage and the web-app only versions of compatible office products.
And What Else?
Depending on the package, Office 365 ships with SharePoint, Power-BI, Teams, Yammer, OneNote and Skype for Business. G-Suite includes Forms, Sites, Backup and Sync, Hangouts, Hangouts Meet, Vault, Charts and Keep. Generally speaking, the functionality is the same, for example OneNote and Keep do the same thing as do Hangouts and Skype for Business, however power-users will feel some differences.
SharePoint vs. Google Sites
Both Office Suites have merits, and when comparing the additional functionality outside of the base office suite there are a few things to discuss.
Google Sites and SharePoint are both web-platform creation tools typically for business Intranet sites. SharePoint overall has more functionality and can be customized with additional code to do almost anything your business needs, however the learning curve for actually doing any development is pretty steep and not for casual administrators.
Google Sites however is pretty much code-free and you can deploy a relatively complex and robust intranet site in a short period of time.
SharePoint supports file management with check in\check out functionality and version history\control, which are not features found in Google Sites. However if you just need a searchable Intranet that can be easily updated with forms and workflows then Sites is still a great, cheap (as in free) and easy tool. If you need advanced customization and file management you need to go with SharePoint. A lot of enterprise applications will use SharePoint for front end development on top of traditional SQL .NET backends, you can’t do this in Sites.
SharePoint vs. Google Drive
But… SharePoint is not a document management platform. In fact SharePoint has a bunch of hard to work with restrictions on the number of files per site collection and the size of the data you are allowed to use. Microsoft does include OneDrive which is much less restrictive on how the data is stored, but OneDrive is for personal storage, and while you can sync and share and do all the other wonderful things we expect from cloud storage platforms, it doesn’t do the version history or check-in\out tools of SharePoint.
G-Suite however uses Drive as the one-stop shop for all data storage and does a heap better job of integrating personal and team data and includes version control on all files. Realtime collaborative editing is also heaps better in G-Suite, meaning that multiple users can be in a document at the same time and working together, a common use case is adding notes and minutes to an agenda in a team meeting.
Microsoft killed collaborative editing\viewing of excel documents over 5mb using OneDrive recently. 5mb is super tiny. That document you made with a ranked list of cat pictures that you were planning to share with your coworkers is going to need to be pretty pixelated for it to work with Office 365.
Drive also works a lot better than Microsoft for sharing data outside of the organization, with one click file and folder sharing to other g-suite users, or with links for users who don’t have any google products. Microsoft is woefully bad at sharing data between organizations, especially as you can end up with a personal Microsoft account and a business Microsoft account that use the same email address and for some reason neither account will be deemed to be the one that should have access. In addition, Office 365 will often have AD integration to private networks and this will then break any permissions to access SharePoint environments for other organizations. You can fix all of this, but it is painful and inconsistent.
G-Suite also has Vault which connects to Drive, Gmail and the rest of the suite and adds extra security and features such as litigation hold, access monitoring, audit trail and historical file retrieval, which actually make Drive into a pretty much fully fledged EDMS.
Update on Updates
Google also does a better job of managing updates to their platform as the whole thing is web based and doesn’t really require much intervention from local admins. Microsoft however watches on with joy as it forces updates that break links between all of its separate apps, and breaks links with Azure, and with onsite and hybrid Exchange environments… and then ADFS and the all those connections to 3rd party SharePoint sites you just spent the entire month fixing.
G-suite is generally cheaper with more storage included. Google also has a better track record with security.
Power BI is miles better that Google charts. However that is some real nerd shit anyway.
I Don’t Use That stuff, All I Wanted Was An Office Product.
Sure. Well Libre Office is also a good option for you. But when comparing Office 365 with G-Suite we are actually comparing something much bigger…
End-Of-Life: Hammer Time
If you have one (or more) business critical applications that require a specific full version of Microsoft Access to run, will only works in Internet Explorer, and are currently hosted on Server 2008 R2, then what you have is a problem.
When Microsoft started their cloud platform “Azure”, they recognized the need for hybrid environments. This also happened to work in great with their existing business model of on-premise servers, on-premise email and on-premise office products. They’ve now found a way to make even more money, so bend over because…
Microsoft Is Not Gonna Be Gentle
Did you know that Office 2019 has the same end-of-life date as Office 2016? Office 2019 will also be the last non-subscription Office version. The same is true for Exchange 2019 which ends the same date as 2016 and is apparently the last on-premise email server. Dynamics and SharePoint look to be going the same way.
Microsoft have worked out that their cloud services and subscription models are far more profitable then the buy-once-and-ride model of years previous, and this time they are making sure nobody misses the money train.
Windows 10 Forever
Windows 10 is rolling release, meaning it is the last version of Windows that will exist (there will never be an 11). Windows 10 has already adopted an ad-supported revenue stream, with no (native) way to manage updates in home version of the OS. There is also already a model is which Microsoft has made Windows 10 a monthly subscription product too (side note, this model, if they managed to get the price and execution right, might not be all that bad for many business consumers).
The cost of server hardware has actually been decreasing for some time, however the licensing costs for server operating systems and client access licenses has been steadily increasing.
For a large enterprise with an internal tech team and the cashflow to support the subscription model this actually might all be for the best. If you are a smaller operation who relies on that one kid with the acne to keep the computers going then the prospects are a bit dim.
And What Does This Have To Do With Office 365 And G-Suite?
The future is in the cloud for small business more than for any other market segment. Most software companies who make the traditional book-keeping, point-of-sale, CRM systems etc. have already moved their products to the cloud and they work just fine from the web-browser.
When you take those applications off the small business server along with mail and intranet web hosting, you are only usually left with two things on the server; files\documents and all of those extremely important but often disregarded tools for network management and administration.
And This Is Where G-Suite Wins
Many businesses have tried to run using only a bunch of Windows Home devices in a work group network. This is a recipe for frustration and ultimately failure as the network is now less secure, harder to manage and at the mercy of Microsoft’s revenue focused, mandatory forced updates that have a history of removing features that might be used to replicate the functionality of true AD managed networks.
Google Has An Alternative, And It Is A Good One.
Not everyone knows that Google has two operating systems of its own. The most common is Android, which runs the bulk of the worlds smart phones and tablets, and the other is ChromeOS which is the desktop environment for the increasingly popular line of Chromebook devices.
ChromeOS uses your Google account to log in. What then happens is that all of your data and applications that you have linked to your Google account are made available to you. This works on any device running ChromeOS meaning you can log into a spare machine and pretty much instantly pick up where you left off with access to all of your data and applications that you need. Here the web only apps like Google Docs suddenly feel really at home and the OS works out of the box, with little scope for things to go wrong and require specialized IT support.
G-Suite as it currently stands has a lot of integration with 3rd party applications and vice versa. It is possible to have a Google Sheets spreadsheet read directly from your Quickbooks Online data, or have a POS system save receipts directly to Google Drive.
Administration For Dummies
With G-Suite you have administration tools that are self-explanatory for managing users. Create a new user in your organization, set their password and away they go with all the access they need to company applications and data. Employee leaves and it is a simple matter of disabling their account and all access is revoked. This means you can have a secure managed network without a dedicated local server and without requiring any huge amount of IT knowledge. The best part? Users can all be together in the same physical building, or distributed across the world. Administration effort remains the same. Drive does a great job as a file server and you can enable local sync of folders and files so that everything will work in no internet areas.
Chromebooks are cheap too when compared to Windows machines and are still reasonably powered. You can actually install Chrome OS on existing hardware too so you can play around ahead of time and keep using old hardware if needed (but this isn’t the best of ideas long term).
Give it a try. The experience could be sensual and surprisingly pleasant.
Not sure about that…
Then it’s time to go Linux. I’ll see you at the bottom of that rabbit hole.