Google Apps Versus Office 365: How To Decide

Deciding between Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps is not easy, because it’s not an apples-to-apples comparision of apps and features. It’s more like a fruit basket containing some apples, some pears, and a few exotic fruits. Not to worry — Forrester’s expert on collaboration software, TJ Keitt, is here to help you understand how to decide.

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Good overview

Google Drive is browser based but it also has a desktop app. Your example, PowerPoint is provided via perpetual license. You wouldn't say, "we're considering Dropbox but we use PowerPoint" for example. You can save, collaborate and sync .pptx files between your devices and team members with Drive. These firms can keep Office, what they can lose is a big chunk´╗┐ of their Enterprise Agreements. Consumerization and mobile are playing a huge roll, giving Google a nice advantage in those areas.

You can also keep using Outlook (although you shouldn't for the same reason you don't have a local client for Facebook) with Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook.

Google Docs can be very transformative because a place, rather than a thing, is created and shared. A URL vs a docx, pptx or xlsx file. Uniform resource locators are extremely underutilized in the enterprise compared to consumer markets.

Of course MSFT still has on-premises requirements and complicated pricing; they're not going to walk into an organization and offer them 40% off their current Enterprise Agreement. Redmond is in a tough spot.

Great overview and comparison

What a good balanced overview. T J Keitt's conclusion is so right: that there is no right or wrong answer nor a clear winner, but that you need to understand your organisation (where they are at, what they have, what they need, their direction) and choose a platform first.

Google certainly has some really attractive features: auto-save & real-time collaboration being the major advantages over MSFT 365, and 2 that I would be loathed to live without. But it is short-sighted to declare Google a winner because of these and start planning an implementation of Google Apps for any organisation.

The fact that small organisations have moved to Google first and large organisations are considering MSFT 365 more often over Google was touched on in this interview. But the reason given (that large organisations are familiar with the look and feel of MSFT and that they may want to continue to host certain things locally), misses something major in my opinion. A think a big barrier to organisations moving to Google Apps vs. MSFT 365 is the amount of effort and time it would take to change a large organisations' integration infrastructure and processes that rely on archaic macros etc. Being solely browser-based, Google Apps lacks some key functionality that large organisations have taken for granted for decades and built their processes upon. Changing an organisation's foundation blocks in order to make it work with Google Apps, whilst still running it successfully and efficiently is an enormous challenge for anybody. But I would also argue that for those who do achieve this successfully: a world of opportunity awaits in the cloud. Low cost, agile, and accessible will be a reality and your users will thank you for it, once they have got over not being able to use that macro they were so attached to.

Whether now is the time to take the plunge or not will depend on the size and complexity of the organisation & it's IT Infrastructure. Google Apps still have some developing to do. So, if you need to move to the cloud or want to dip your toe in the water, MSFT certainly offers some shallow pools with minimal risk of drowning, and this may be a good middle ground to wait on whilst Google improves it's features or MSFT develops auto-save and real-time collaboration.