Monday, October 25, 2010

Office365 vs. Google Apps for Small Business

Microsoft specifically acknowledges the IT needs of Small Business with it's Office365 cloud offering. The basic, $6 per-user per-month, offering is designed to fit the needs of "organizations with less than 25 people". The Office365 small business offering is comprised of Exchange Online, Sharepoint Online and Lync Online (formerly Office Communications Server).

So how does Office365 compare with Google Apps as it relates to small businesses. Well, first there is a fairly significant cost difference. Google Apps costs $22 per-year per-user less than Office365. Twenty-two dollars isn't a great deal of money, but most of the successful small business owners I support are acutely aware of each dollar they spend. In addition, the $6/month version of Office365 includes only the online Office Web Apps for collaboration and document sharing without additional expense. Microsoft, however, recommends a locally installed full version of Office for the "best productivity experience". This recommendation, if followed, represents a much greater cost for the small business.

For most small business "information workers" the online versions of both of the competing products (Office Web Apps and Google Docs) would adequately meet their needs. The trick is getting these workers to make the - mostly cultural -shift away from Microsoft Office (perhaps a subject for a future post!).

So from this Geeks On Call franchise owner's perspective - the overwhelming differentiator between Office365 and Google Apps is simplicity. Google Apps, from GMail to Docs to Sites, is extremely easy for the Apps Reseller to implement and, more importantly, for the end user to use. The learning curve for Sharepoint 2010 is much steeper for the average small business owner and workers, especially when compared to the simplicity of Google Docs and Sites. For that reason alone, I continue to recommend Google Apps for small businesses who have a need for a complete suite of cloud based collaborative products (and who doesn't!!)

Lastly, there is currently a question of reliability surrounding Microsoft's cloud offering. BPOS, Office365's parent product, suffered three major outages in September 2010. In addition, Microsoft has yet to roll out it's latest products (the 2010 versions of Exchange and Sharepoint) to BPOS. Are cloud upgrades too difficult in the Microsoft cloud "system"? Google, on the other hand, is constantly innovating and rolling out new features and improved versions of its base cloud products.

One thing for sure - Microsoft and Google competing for cloud dominance is fostering innovation and is good for small business!

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