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Many organizations that have not taken the leap into cloud productivity services have a lot to gain from them. The first step that organizations must take is selecting a vendor.
The most ubiquitous options on the market are Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace, which go beyond basic email hosting, or storage and collaboration tools. They also offer cloud-based private branch exchange, business process automation services and data visualization tools.
Debating cloud productivity services: Microsoft 365 vs. Google Workspace
Organizations looking to select one of these cloud productivity offerings should learn what tools, features, apps and services each provides. Whether an organization is a startup or an established business looking to move on from its on-premises mail service, Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace -- formerly G Suite -- are both quality options.
Organizations must understand the two sides of the Microsoft 365 vs. Google Workspace debate to determine which suite is the best option for them based on collaboration, enterprise content management (ECM), pricing, security and cloud storage. Microsoft 365 tends to be popular among enterprise clients, while Google Workspace is common in the education sector, nonprofits and startups, but organizations should compare the details of each bundle to their resources and needs.
IT administrors, executives or purchase decision-makers should compare these two cloud productivity suites based on several criteria including support, license models and compliance.
Collaboration tools and support
Collaboration tools have been a staple of enterprise productivity suites for years, and the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the ensuing remote work boom, has only emphasized that. Organizations selecting a cloud productivity service should start the evaluation of these two options here.
Microsoft has released several iterations of its collaboration platform as part of a productivity suite, starting with SharePoint and Office Communicator and ending with Microsoft Teams. This latest iteration of Microsoft's platform provides customers with audio and video conferencing, chat and accessibility to enterprise content. Microsoft has learned from some of the successes of the Slack collaboration tool and incorporated several new features into Teams, including the following:
- Support for Microsoft Office and Office 365 application integrations
- Microsoft 365 Groups integration
- Basic Teams subscription plan available for free
- Support for dial-in numbers
- Support for screen-sharing
- Microsoft PSTN calling integration
- Support on Windows, macOS and Linux OSes
- Support for interactive bots
- Integration capabilities with other third-party software through connectors
- Integration with Microsoft Planner for task management
- Real-time translation and transcription services
Microsoft Teams provides features and integrations that focus on four key areas: chat, meet, call and collaborate. Users can go from group chat to video call with the touch of a button, and they can access, share and coauthor files in real time. The tools offer a great deal of flexibility for accommodating groups of different sizes and with different requirements.
For example, a user can instant message other individuals, chat with a group of people, make and receive PSTN phone calls or participate in a video call with up to 300 users. Microsoft Teams even supports live events for up to 10,000 attendees. In addition, the platform offers client software for multiple desktops, mobile OSes and popular web browsers, making it possible for users to collaborate on a wide range of devices.
Google now offers the Chat and Meet platforms as part of its Google Workspace plans. Chat replaces Google Hangouts and provides messaging and collaboration services and tools for easily migrating from Hangouts to Chat. Google Meet offers enterprise-grade secure video conferencing for teams and businesses. Like other Google Workspace services, Chat and Meet focus on ease of use and supportability. Google Workspace features include:
- Support for Google Apps
- Support for video and voice conferencing
- U.S. or international dial-in phone numbers
- Support for digital whiteboarding
- Ability to save meeting recordings to Google Drive
- Support for screen-sharing
Both Chat and Meet provide several important features. Organizations can use Chat to collaborate on Google Docs, Sheets and Slides and create dedicated virtual rooms for tracking projects. Chat also supports both one-to-one and group messaging. Customers can use Meet to hold secure video conferences with up to 250 participants. However, Meet is still a work in progress, with several features under development, such as moderation controls, hand raising, breakout rooms and attendance tracking.
Google Workspace also includes other features to support collaboration, such as shared calendars and content creation, and it supports interoperability with Microsoft Office files, including documents and spreadsheets. Requirements for working with Google Workspace depend on the specific service. However, most features are accessible through a supported browser on Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, Linux devices, or a service-specific app for iOS or Android devices, such as the Google Meet and Google Chat apps. The collaboration features in Google Workspace can benefit organizations of all types and sizes, although the lack of actual desktop applications may challenge some organizations.
Compliance concerns will vary significantly from organization to organization. However, for organizations with significant compliance considerations to meet, these issues can massively hinder their business goals.
Microsoft meets many of the core compliance certifications that healthcare or finance organizations may need regarding security and compliance. Some of these certifications include HIPAA, HITECH, ITAR FedRAMP, FISMA, EU Model Clauses and Privacy Shield, ISO standards, SSAE and SOC 1, 2 and 3. In addition, Microsoft 365 makes it possible for customers to implement information protection controls on their subscriptions to address privacy and compliance requirements such as the GDPR, California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) and Brazil Data Protection Act (LGPD). Controls include sensitivity labels, data loss prevention, Office message encryption and access controls for Teams and Sites.
Customers can also access the Microsoft 365 compliance center, which provides data and tools for managing their compliance needs. The compliance center helps customers simplify how they manage compliance, provides risk-based scoring that measures their progress toward completing recommended actions and offers workflow capabilities and built-in control mapping for carrying out improvements. However, Microsoft is still developing the compliance center, so it has not added some planned functionality at the time this article publishes.
Because the Windows OS and Office product suite are so widely implemented, Microsoft has made a concerted effort to address compliance issues and help their customers meet requirements without requiring any customizations or additional steps. These efforts can be especially beneficial to enterprise organizations operating in highly regulated industries and have a lot at stake when it comes to protecting privacy. They need to feel assured that their Microsoft 365 content is safe and adheres to applicable regulations, and Microsoft provides an assortment of tools and services to help them achieve these goals.
Like Microsoft. Google meets many of the core compliance certifications that healthcare or finance organizations may need. Some of these certifications include ISO 27001, SOC 1, SOC 2, HIPAA, PCI DSS, CCPA and GDPR. Google also regularly undergoes third-party audits in which an independent auditor examines the controls that Google has implemented in its data centers, infrastructure and operations.
Google invests a great deal of effort in protecting its systems as the vendor started in the cloud and has been addressing security issues since its inception. In addition, enterprise services run on the same infrastructure as Google's operations, so Google is highly motivated to safeguard these systems and bring its broad knowledge and expertise to its customers' cloud infrastructure and applications. Google Workspace also offers its enterprise customers control over their system and application settings while providing integrated Cloud Identity features to manage users and enforce multi-factor authentication.
One of the concerns that many executives have regarding privacy is Google's reputation of data mining and its focus on advertisement. This causes some customers to assume that Google is analyzing their data to gain insights into employee behavior. However, Google clarifies that it is not mining client data for any advertising purpose. Nevertheless, this perception could still hurt potential customer interest in Google, especially those operating in highly regulated industries.
Enterprise content management
Similar to collaboration tools and suites, ECM is pretty ubiquitous across enterprise organizations. SMBs, nonprofits, schools and many other types of organizations have to find the right ECM platform. Purchase decision-makers such as executives or organization leaders should learn the ins and outs of each service's ECM features.
SharePoint is Microsoft's offering for ECM, and for over 20 years, the platform has seen some significant changes. Most Microsoft 365 plans -- F3, all enterprise and business plans -- include SharePoint Online. This platform provides some of the core functions used by OneDrive for document versioning, collaboration and business workflow automation. The SharePoint platform is also highly customizable, making it attractive for larger organizations with the resources to customize its forms and streamline workflows. In fact, there are thousands of third-party apps such as timesheet trackers, time-off managers and help desk systems that turn SharePoint into a business app.
SharePoint can simplify and streamline document management, helping customers better control their content and increase productivity. For example, SharePoint enables customers to centrally control content and document properties while managing metadata globally, making it easier to organize and find content that spans multiple locations. In addition, organizations that manage digital video and audio media can use SharePoint to optimize their media libraries and control content. They can even play media directly using the players built into SharePoint products. SharePoint also provides records management capabilities, which can help improve legal and regulatory compliance and secure important records. Lastly, it offers web content management, making it quick and easy to create and publish content.
Google recognizes that end users working within Google Workspace may need help managing their digital assets and content. Therefore, the vendor includes an ECM tool called Google Drive. It offers features such as data loss prevention to ensure company data never leaves the ECM system, a system for auditing data and the AI-driven Quick Access feature that helps users find the files they need.
Google Drive provides an easy-to-use platform for storing, accessing and sharing files from one secure location. Google Drive supports over 100 file types and leverages Google AI for predicting and surfacing important content, collaborators and events. The platform also uses machine learning to enhance search capabilities and connect users with files that need their attention. In addition, customers can organize their files in shared spaces that let user groups collaborate in a secure environment. These features enable organizations to easily access and edit their content from any location by connecting from a supported device.
Additionally, Google Sites provides a private intranet service that enables users to upload documents and create, control and deliver digital content through a browser. Google Sites is easy to use and administer, making it an attractive platform to post events, announcements and different documents that employees might need.
Organizations can quickly build websites without programming or design skills, making it easy to access and display Google Workspace content, including Drive documents and shared calendars. Google Sites automatically optimizes how the content is displayed based on device type, so information is easy to read on desktops, tablets or smartphones. With Google Sites, organizations have a handy tool for effectively sharing and co-creating content. For example, individual teams can easily set up their sites using drag-and-drop operations and then collaborate on the site's content in real time.
When organizations plan for data backup, disaster recovery and file sync and share, cloud storage should be at the center of those plans. Each service offers similar options for cloud storage, but some notable differences could make all of the difference for certain organizations.
Organizations may look to adopt hosted email services and documents into Microsoft's cloud storage services. Microsoft OneDrive is a cloud storage platform that offers customers a generous amount of storage to securely upload and access documents and data from any device. Microsoft provides its Microsoft 365 subscribers with a specific amount of storage per user, depending on the subscription plan. For example, the Microsoft 365 for Business editions provide users with 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage. However, Microsoft offers unlimited storage for E3 and E5 subscriptions of five or more users, starting with an initial 5 TB per user.
OneDrive enables customers to share files securely inside or outside their organization and apply policies that control access. OneDrive also offers features such as file auditing and reporting, data retention, eDiscovery and sensitivity labels. In addition, customers can access and edit their files from any supported device or browser while having the ability to work on files offline. The platform is also fully integrated with both the web and desktop versions of Office products, making it well suited for organizations committed to the Office ecosystem, regardless of their size.
Similar to OneDrive, Google Drive provides a cloud storage platform that offers customers a generous amount of storage, depending on the subscription plan. For example, the Business Starter edition provides each user with 30 GB of storage, the Business Plus plan offers 5 TB per user, and the Enterprise plan gives customers as much storage as they need. Users also get Drive File Stream, enabling them to stream their Drive files directly from the cloud to their Macs or PCs, freeing up local disk space and network bandwidth. In addition, organizations can make Drive files available for offline access, which they can then sync back to the cloud when users are online.
Google Drive also provides integration with hundreds of third-party apps. For example, customers can use DocuSign for e-signatures or CloudLock to provide additional security layers. In addition, Google Drive provides plug-ins for Microsoft Office and Outlook, making it easier for organizations that rely on Office products to fit Drive into their workflows. However, some of the Drive features are not available with the Business Starter edition.
For example, Business Starter customers cannot use shared drives, which provide teams with secure shared spaces for working together. However, other customers have access to all the Drive features, making it a good fit for organizations that can afford plans other than the most basic.
For many organizations, pricing could be the biggest factor in this decision. After all, if there isn't room in the budget for a comprehensive version of Microsoft 365, Google Workspace may be the only option. Find out how these two offerings stack up with pricing options and the value of those licenses.
Microsoft prices vary significantly depending on the subscription plan. For example, some of these plans are:
- Business Basic plan is $5 per user per month
- Business Premium plan is $20 per user per month
- E5 enterprise plan is $57 per user per month
Microsoft also offers add-ons that allow organizations to add features that aren't a part of their licensing plan.
For example, customers might want to add Microsoft's Power BI, Workplace Analytics or the Office desktop applications to their subscriptions. Organizations can add these services to their plans individually, regardless of which subscription model they choose. However, they must be careful when including extra features because subscription fees can add up quickly, resulting in much higher costs than anticipated.
The Google Workspace subscription structure is much simpler than Microsoft 365. Google publishes pricing for its three Google Workspace Business plans.
- Business Starter is $6 per user per month
- Business Standard costs $12 per user per month
- Business Plus runs $18 per user per month
Google no longer publishes the subscription rates for its Enterprise plan. For this information, organizations should contact Google sales directly. Customers can also purchase add-ons with their subscriptions, such as Jamboard, Chrome Enterprise or Google Voice. As with Microsoft 365, organizations should proceed with caution when adding services to avoid unexpected charges.
Analyzing Microsoft 365 vs. Google Workspace
One of the biggest selling points for Microsoft 365 is its native integration with Office products and the fact that many plans include the desktop version of the Office products. Most enterprise organizations continue to use Office for their everyday operations, and Microsoft 365 fits into the Office ecosystem quite nicely. Microsoft 365 also provides a seamless experience between the desktop and the cloud. This can be especially beneficial for organizations that prefer the traditional desktop application experience -- and all the power and features that go with it.
That's not to say that organizations can't be productive with Google's apps, and Google makes the process of working with Office documents fairly painless. There can sometimes be minor glitches when converting files between the Office and Google formats, but Google has come a long way in delivering tools that work exceptionally well. Even so, Google Workspace was conceived as a cloud-based, browser-centric service and continues to adhere to this model, even though Google has added support for some offline operations.
For many organizations, choosing between the two services will likely come down to how they operate internally and where they realize the greatest productivity and management gains. An organization that's fully vested in the Office ecosystem -- especially when it comes to desktop applications -- might prefer the simplicity of moving to Microsoft 365. Of course, an organization can license the Office desktop products and use Google Workspace as their productivity suite. However, the potential savings and features might not be worth the extra complexity.
It can be difficult to compare the two services based on pricing alone because they offer enough unique features to set them apart. Even the plans within the same service can differ significantly. However, when it comes to Microsoft 365 vs. Google Workspace, both offer comparable basic services, such as business email, productivity apps and communication tools. As with any business technology service, the devil is in the details. Organizations should first determine what features they need and then evaluate the two services based on those requirements.
This process might be a bit easier with Google Workspace because the service offers a much simpler licensing model than Microsoft 365, which is par for the course with Microsoft. In fact, Microsoft's approach to product licensing might be one reason that organizations gravitate to Google Workspace, especially if they're trying to cut their ties with Windows and Office products. Of course, organizations choosing between Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace must take pricing into consideration, which requires a careful total cost of ownership breakdown.