After more than two years in the field discussing and implementing Office 365 and Google Apps, trying to decide between the pros and cons of both, I can say that Microsoft’s solution is where I drop my anchor. It is far more than checking a few boxes in a spec sheet and then comparing the prices as you will see.
In this cloud era, everybody is taking their time to evaluate the services and share their experiences. It has been more than two years that I published my comparison and guidance on Office 365 and Google Apps in Web Hosting Geeks. Since then many features are implemented and various bugs were fixed. Where are we now?
People are expecting me to be biased towards a certain platform looking at my mobile phone and notebook. I cannot say that this is strange where people meet fanboys here and there. I am a Microsoft and Google user but I am an individual. When you get down to business, fanboyism and personal choices does not work. There are the integration, mobile access, collaboration, synchronization issues; in one word, it is all about the ecosystem.
It is not about the bigger e-mail inboxes or larger personal file storage areas, the battle is about the 360 coverage of your business from collaboration to mobile access. This coverage starts with the point in time that you make the decision to choose a service to the future. Who is going to support your business in the future? I can safely say that both is going to, but when I consider Google’s decision and way of shutting down services just because they want and they can, I do not feel safe about the businesses that are using the services. Suppose that your small business is dependent on the RSS feeds for daily operations and using Google Reader for that purpose. Suddenly one day, out of thin air, it is announced that it will be shut down. What would you do? What if you have an integrated an application with Google Reader? Is it so easy to switch to another feed reader? No. And Google Reader is not the only example.
When you begin to use Google Apps, the first thing you realize is you are pushed into some limits. There are the things that are “Google way” and there is no discussion about that. Google Docs, Google Drive and Hangouts are great products, I cannot deny that but why do I have to join Google+ to use Hangouts? I have a personal account there, but this is not what I am talking about. Why does not Microsoft push me to have a Microsoft Live ID to use Lync? The same follows if I want to establish a live meeting with Lync with other people who do not have Live IDs or Office 365 accounts. They simply follow a link to join the meeting not activate their social media account.
Google Docs is similar. You can upload any file to your Google drive – Microsoft Word document, OpenOffice/LibreOffice document, whatever. Just try to edit or collaborate. Good luck with your quest: you have to convert them to Google Docs format first. This is the same “use my format” game that Microsoft played for years. Microsoft saw that it no longer worked and no longer insisted on it. Isn’t here something that Google should have learned?
Steve Ballmer said that “Microsoft is a products and services company” and I, personally, fully support that. With that vision Microsoft has ported its cash cow Office to iOS and Android platforms, SkyDrive on all the dominant platforms. Office Web Applications supports all the modern browsers, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari to the best extent possible. On the contrary, Google’s products are supported only by the Google products, Android and Chrome to be specific. Google misses Microsoft’s vision; Google, too, is a products and services company.
Shared folders is a total mess in Google Apps. Google requires the shared folders to be tied to some account – admin, user, lead user whatever it is. That means, anything that is saved in this shared folder is counting against somebody’s own quota. Turning to Office 365 with SharePoint Online, there are no gray areas. Every registered user gets 25 Gigabytes of storage allocated for himself. Plus, all enterprise plans have 10 Gigabytes of shared storage and 500 megabytes per user. That means, if you have 40 registered users, you have 30 Gigabytes of shared storage: 10 GB base + (40 users x 500 MB/user). If you happen to utilize the SharePoint online that comes with your subscription, that means you have eliminated file server and you are using the latest version of the most popular and connected collaboration suite.
Google is doing something better in this application and something worse in that application when compared side to side with Office 365. Overall, they look unpolished. With this, I am not talking about the user interfaces, but rather the interactions and the overall feel of using the entire range of products. Frankly, when I use Google docs, I feel like a college student contrary to what I feel when I use Office 365, I feel like a professional. That factor, that spirit, is Microsoft’s experience that has accumulated all those years building their Office suite. You get the impression that Microsoft understands what is going on in the physical offices and built a suite that works in that environment. With Google, you feel like, “look, I’m Google, I measured usage data and here is what you will be needing to get going.” Just compare Outlook 2010/2013 with Gmail. It is important for me to see my appointments together with my e-mail and tasks as a business user. Google places Calendar somewhere down below, tasks somewhere in the screen with no chance to organize them – left, right, top, bottom, whatever it is. This is not simplicity, this is both a cramped and cramping interface. I am a fan of simplicity, but it should also serve some usage ergonomics.
Once again, I am not trying to bash Google. They have solid products that are simple yet powerful and work extremely well given that you are using their ecosystem. I want them to be more successful so that both themselves and Microsoft can be innovative. But when I speak about the business, I always get the Google’s “naughty boy” style. They seem to do whatever they want, whichever way they want and whatever they want. If you add the user interaction problems I have just discussed, it is obvious that I cannot advise my clients to go Google way. At least as of now.
Image credit: microsoft.com