Cloud Services Compared: Microsoft 365 or Google Apps for Work?

Microsoft was once uncontested king of office productivity software, while Google crept up from simple origins and became king of the web. The strategies of both of these tech giants have converged and they now both offer high-quality cloud-based office suites. This raises some questions.

Can Microsoft 365’s cloud services compared to Google’s offer the same ease of scale and reliability? Can Google – a company that despite all its strengths did not get rich off of productivity apps – really offer the same quality and user experience as a company that has spent decades honing its office suite? Let us examine how the two compare across five critical factors.

(Note: Google Apps for Work became “G Suite” effective September 29, 2016. The links used in this article refer to Google Apps, but it is only a branding change. Services and plans remained identical after the name change.)

1. File Storage Requirements

Google is a pioneer of web-scale and is one of the first tech companies to routinely sort 10 TB data sets in its regression tests. Not surprisingly, of the two Google is the only one able to offer unlimited storage; this is via its G Suite Business plan (formerly Google Apps Unlimited for Work). This could certainly be a must-have for companies that produce audio or video and can fill up many GB on a daily basis. However, there is a minimum requirement of 5 user accounts for the unlimited plan, putting it out of reach for many sole proprietors and early-stage startups.

Interestingly enough, Microsoft Office 365 offers better storage with its entry-level tier; 1 TB with its “Business Essentials” plan compared to G Suite Basic’s 30 GB (which also includes email).

Both companies offer additional storage for extra fees, but for organizations that can handle more than 5 user accounts that point is moot. With both companies’ cloud services compared in terms of pure storage capacity, the edge goes to Google.

2. How Much Editing Of Microsoft Documents Does the Organization Need To Do

For many years “business documents” were synonymous with “Microsoft Documents.” In many organizations this is still the case, even with a full range of alternatives available. The ubiquity of Office in the past has created large stores of .doc, .xls, .ppt, etc. files in legacy archives, as well as form-driven business processes that have come to depend upon theses formats. This is particularly common in the public sector, where there is rarely enough budget to modernize workflows.

Of course, such organizations can still switch over to Google. Users can open and manipulate Microsoft documents in G Suite without many issues. The major caveat is that it can not guarantee the formatting integrity of Microsoft documents. You may not expect to see two companies’ cloud services compared on the basis of their abilities to keep .doc files looking neat. However, there are definitely industries in which presenting a malformed or unreadable document to clients can be a deal-breaker.

3. The Nature Of Your Working Environment

Your culture and structure may be the ultimate factor in whether Microsoft Office 365 or Google G Suite is better for your business. Not surprisingly, companies with an internet or tech focus, which tend to have more digital natives, are more likely to use only Google for their office app needs. In contrast, only 10% of the more conservative finance industry uses Google exclusively.

Furthermore, business size appears to be an adoption factor. According to findings by Gartner, 80% of businesses with more than $10 billion in revenue chose Microsoft for cloud email. 50% with less than $50 million in revenue chose Google. Smaller, newer companies’ embrace of Google cloud services compared to larger, more established companies’ continued reliance on Microsoft Office makes sense given how long it can take to change corporate culture.

4. IT Implications

One thing that you can guarantee when choosing Google for your office suite is that they will absorb practically all of the traditional IT maintenance costs. Keeping a “business applications” department and its attendant Microsoft certified professionals has eaten up huge chunks of companies’ budgets over the years.

Of course, Office 365 mitigates these costs as well, but it also provides the desktop versions of all applications as part of the package. It can be extremely convenient to be able to work on an offline version of a file when the cloud-version of the app is not available. However, this presents possible hidden costs:

  • Because people are creatures of habit, many employees may instinctively stick with the desktop versions, mitigating many of the advantages of using cloud services compared to native apps in the first place.
  • Since the applications are installed locally, they will invariably require updates and maintenance – and even critical security patches that are easy to overlook.

However, one factor that Microsoft offers that helps to make up for these potential pitfalls is Data Loss Prevention (DLP). It has a powerful suite of tools that helps organizations protect sensitive data.

5. Scalability

Many would expect Google to have the advantage in terms of scaling solutions with the growth of a business since it is arguably better than any organization at scaling things. However, both Microsoft’s and Google’s cloud services compared in terms of scalability are quite even. This includes factors such as the ease of document collaboration across the enterprise and efficiency of data sync between cloud and local storage.

One scalability factors is clearly in Microsoft’s favor: video call participation limits. Skype can support 250 users on one call, while Google can only support 25. This could be a crucial factor for businesses that are looking to expand to a global level.

Learn more about cloud solutions available to your business and discover ways to scale your growth and operations with our free Business Guide to Cloud Computing.