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Which is Better for Your Business – G Suite or Office 365?

A comparison of business features and pricing

How Do I Choose the Right Productivity Suite for My Business?

We have a bottom line up front approach to our writing. We don’t want to save the best until last, we put it right up front and then provide you the reasoning behind our choice. However to make a good decision, it’s important to ask multiple questions about your business and how you plan to use the productivity suite.

 

How will legal compliance with special regulations be affected by my choice?

Always communicate with representatives from G Suite and Office 365 to get the most up-to-date details on the scope of legal compliance offered. This could be a deciding factor, depending upon the industries your business serves. Ask specific questions that pertain to the special laws such as HIPAA and FISMA you must follow.  Here’s what this Microsoft white paper says about compliance across its products:

Legal requirements in one country or industry may be inconsistent with legal requirements applicable elsewhere. As a provider of global cloud services, we must run our services with common operational practices and features across multiple customers and jurisdictions. To help our customers comply with their own requirements, we build our services with common privacy and security requirements in mind, and our built-in capabilities help enable compliance with a wide range of regulations and privacy mandates.

However, it is ultimately up to our customers to evaluate our offerings against their own requirements, so they can determine whether our services satisfy their regulatory needs. We are committed to providing our customers detailed information about our cloud services to help them make their own regulatory assessments.”

Throughout the remainder of the aforementioned white paper, Microsoft makes it clear that businesses using any of its products or services are responsible for ensuring that their data is processed and stored in compliance with all applicable laws in each jurisdiction. For those concerned about GDPR compliance, there is no mention of it in this white paper. Overall, it appears that Microsoft claims that it won’t be responsible for any compliance issues that may arise as a result of using any of its products or services, including Office 365.

This is in clear contrast with Google, which is taking a proactive approach to be as compliant as possible, although Google doesn’t go so far as to say they can be held responsible for any gaps in compliance that may result from using its products and services. In terms of regulatory compliance, it appears that Google is a clear winner for its proactive approach, its robust regulatory compliance efforts, and not declaring it cannot be held responsible for gaps in regulatory compliance.

Does the history of my company being on Exchange server mean that I’ll end up on Office 365?

You are not locked into using Office 365, even if your digital assets reside on an Exchange server. G Suite provides a tool that can help you with the migration of email and contacts from your Exchange Server to your business Google Drive. To migrate other content, you may want to consult with a third-party vendor that provides migration services for G Suite and Microsoft Exchange.

Can I switch from G Suite to Office 365?

While it is possible to switch from G Suite to Office 365, Microsoft does not provide the tools for this. However, there are third-party migration services that can migrate your G suite email and content to Office 365.

What Sized Business Does Each Cater To?

With G Suite, it’s difficult to get a breakdown of paid business accounts by business size, especially since it is working hard to woo large enterprise clients, such as Verizon. Having said that, most of the reviews for G Suite seem to come from SMBs rather than large corporations. The simple, self-serve nature of G Suite’s pricing lends itself well to businesses with clearly defined needs that can be met with G Suite products and services.

Like G Suite, Office 365 doesn’t have a breakdown of business clients based on business size. Complex pricing and services would make it even more difficult to parse. Businesses that are not sure exactly what they need in terms of Microsoft products and services may benefit more from a consultation with a Microsoft representative to define business needs and the options available to meet those needs.

Which One Wins?

For smaller businesses with users who love web apps, G Suite wins. It’s affordable and has powerful enough features to meet most small business needs.

For bigger businesses that need desktop-level features and functionality in their productivity suite, Office 365 is the clear winner. It offers desktop versions of all its productivity apps, making it easy to work offline.

Background

Office 365, the latest iteration of the Microsoft productivity suite, has a lion’s share of the enterprise market, but G Suite is trying to catch up. At a recent earnings call, Sundar Pichai announced that G Suite has surpassed 3 million paid business accounts. Each of these suites has powerful tools and features tailored for enterprise use.

So, which one is best for your business? See what we found through our comparison of these two productivity suites that offers insights to help you decide which one is best for your business.  

Lets start with G Suite.

 

 

G Suite Features and Pricing

G Suite, formerly known as Google Apps, offers multiple features and a simple pricing structure, but what makes it a compelling choice for business email hosting?

Google Apps Sync

You can still use your favorite email clients and don’t need to be forced to quit your Outlook habit by switching to the G Suite. You don’t need to use the web mail interface to leverage the power or G Suite.

The Google Apps Sync app is super easy to set up and provides two-way syncing between email, contacts, and calendars. However, features that are unique to G Suite will not be accessible while using Outlook. Unfortunately it only works with the Windows versions of Outlook and Mac users will be unable to use sync.

Single Sign-on for Other Applications

Business users can be setup to use G Suite credentials to sign into other applications that offer single sign-on capabilities, such as Marketo and Slack. When dealing with several apps, this can be a huge time saver. This is a big deal, your users will not have to manage multiple accounts with different passwords to access the services that they use every day. SSO simplifies that authentication and allows administrators to manage policies around their network.

G Suite Pricing

Pricing for G Suite is simple and easy to understand. Straightforward pricing is in three tiers, with the option to pay a monthly fee or a discounted annual fee.

G Suite Pricing and Features

  • Basic — $5/user per month
    • Productivity suite with 30GB of data storage
  • Business — $10/user per month
    • Enhanced productivity suite with unlimited storage and data archiving
  • Enterprise — $25/user per month
    • Premium productivity suite with advanced admin controls and capabilities

This approach to pricing is great for self-serve customers who know what they want and don’t need additional services.

G Suite Security, Data Protection, and Compliance

One of the greatest concerns businesses have about moving to the cloud is security. G Suite provides robust controls for managing user access and protection of data in transit and at rest.

User Access

Administrators can easily manage user accounts with granular control over access and user permissions. This helps prevent access to and sharing of sensitive information by employees with unauthorized third parties.

Regulatory Compliance

Legal compliance can be difficult, especially for digital assets stored in the cloud. Google is contractually committed to the following:

G suite Compliance Certifications

  • ISO 27001, 27018
  • SOC 2, SOC 3
  • HIPAA
  • FERPA
  • COPPA

EU Data Protection Directive and GDPR

Google uses EU Model Contract Clauses to comply with the Data Protection Directive. When it goes into effect, Google will be compliant with the GFPR, with the following considerations:

“G Suite and Google Cloud Platform customers will typically act as the data controller for any personal data they provide to Google in connection with their use of Google’s services. The data controller determines the purposes and means of processing personal data, while the data processor processes data on behalf of the data controller. Google is a data processor and processes personal data on behalf of the data controller when the controller is using G Suite or Google Cloud Platform.”

Google advises any business that gathers, processes, or stores data that originates in the EU to seek legal consultation to determine its status and compliance obligations.

G Suite Limitations

For all of the powerful tools and features, G Suite still lacks the functionality of desktop apps. It also lacks native macros. Instead, G Suite has Apps Script, a tool you can use to automate Google Docs and Sheets.

Google Docs can only be saved in a document format (.doc, .docx, or .odf),  and can only be edited in a browser. You cannot save a Google document in its native format to your desktop.

G Suite Rating

Overall, G Suite is a solid, if lightweight, productivity suite. It is easy to use, with the features that most business users will need.

We use it in our office, but it would not be our recommendation to most small businesses unless they are comfortable with a Web first approach to document creation, and if they are not Excel power users.

 

Microsoft Office 365

The Office 365 suite is built on a legacy of Microsoft products that date back to 1989, the year the first Microsoft Office suite was made available for Mac computers. As of February this year, Office 365 had 24.9 million subscribers. This does not include the millions (billions?) of commercial Microsoft Office users.

What does Office 365 offer that makes it an attractive option for business?

Single Sign-On

Office 365 doesn’t have true SSO capabilities. Instead, it offers a tool, the Microsoft Online Services Sign-in Assistant (MOS SIA), to make it easier to sign into the various Office 365 apps. They have not made it easy for software developers to connect their apps to Microsoft authentication, and this is why you see Facebook and Google as a login option on site – but not Microsoft.

Office 365 Features and Pricing

28 years of product development back this powerful productivity suite with not-so-simple pricing, and it shows. Office 365 includes desktop versions of each productivity app, giving the business user the power and convenience of a cloud-based productivity suite with desktop features and performance.

Office 365 Security, Data Protection, and Compliance

Office 365 has multiple certifications, as follows:

Compliance and Reporting Certifications

  • ISO 27001
  • ISO 27018
  • SSAE16 SOC1 Type II
  • SOC2 Type II
  • FISMA

Office 365 Pricing

It’s no secret that Office 365 pricing is complex and confusing, with a wide array of add-on services that may be most appropriate for larger businesses with an existing Microsoft Office and Exchange infrastructure.

OMG this has to be the WORST part of dealing with Office 365. Google is pretty much a direct sales channel, they don’t have a huge number of legacy IT companies or value added resellers that have to make money by selling the product. But Microsoft has a huge reseller market and their pricing is extremely convoluted. Knowing which license to buy, who to buy it from and how to get the best deal may take almost as long as the process of migrating the the cloud.

Unlike G Suite, Office 365 requires a minimum one-year commitment, with pricing as follows:

Microsoft Office 365 Pricing and Features

  • Office 365 Business Essentials — $5/user per month, with annual commitment
    • Business email, other business services
    • Office applications NOT included
  • Office 365 Business — $8.25/user per month, with annual commitment
    • Office applications
    • Cloud file storage and sharing
  • Office 365 Business Premium — $12.50/user per month, with annual commitment
    • Business email, other business services
    • Office applications

Check Office 365 pricing

Office 365 Limitations

Microsoft is notorious for its complex pricing. Difficult and confusing, it’s virtually impossible for the average business person to figure out what she really needs, let alone come up with an accurate estimate on how much it will cost. Startups and small businesses may want to consult with a Microsoft sales representative to help them determine which tier is the best fit for their business, along with other Microsoft services.

Did you skip to the bottom to read our summary?

For smaller businesses with users who love web apps, G Suite wins. It’s affordable and has powerful enough features to meet most small business needs.

For bigger businesses that need desktop-level features and functionality in their productivity suite, Office 365 is the clear winner. It offers desktop versions of all its productivity apps, making it easy to work offline.

 

Brad Slavin

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