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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  1. I am not so convinced that Microsoft has customer's as their center of interest:

    Office365 vs Google Apps!!!

  2. @MigrationKing - Thanks for the comment and the excellent comparison presentation. You make the point very well!

  3. Hi Ron,

    Can you make this a reference on your site. It seems that both our listings are on the top of Google's search for Office365 vs Google Apps!

  4. Good article. By the way, have anyone did any comparison with "security" and "accessibility" between these two? Just curious. Thanks!

  5. @MigrationKing ... great comparison, thankyou! Something I find most people overlook is interop. I find that MSFT solutions are a silo, working great together bad terribly with anyone else. Whereas Google (and others) tend to allow for mashups with other SaaS services.

  6. Both services provide detailed descriptions of their security features available online. Google has earned the GSA's Federal Information Security Management Act certification and Microsoft plans to earn their's soon. I am not aware of a credible direct security comparison between the two. For a small business, I would assert that either of these two products provide far more security and business continuity features than they can provide "in house".

  7. @ Ron,

    I think companies have to understand what is actually "security" and what is secure and not secure. An example of this is, you have a top-notch super secret and super secure infrastructure, but you use Internet Explorer 6 or Internet Explorer 7 and Adobe Flash 7/8. You navigate to the Internet and wonder why your computer just got slammed with viruses or Malware. this secure? I don't think so. However, when the entire infrastructure sits on an infrastructure that is actively patched, updated and innovated upon, this is a balance of power of real 'security'.

    People hear these terms slung around and some IT professionals, IT Managers and CIO's really don't have a credible excuse 'NOT' to use a cloud architecture for Internally hosted solutions. It really comes down to innovating thinking and a willingness to measure risk versus productivity, plus measured workflow output benefits. This is the scale that businesses should measure. Instead of the shock effect that some Exchange Engineer's or Network Engineer's seek to stimulate as a measure of keeping an infrastructure in house that is expensive, extremely manual to maintain and doesn't force the engineer to learn more technologies, project management or development on their own.

  8. @MigrationKing - nice to hear from you and thanks for the comment. The security of Google Apps for small business just happens to be the topic of my most recent post. You can see it here -

  9. I understand some of your logic here, but you have selectively ignored a handful of aspects of the Office365 offering that are pretty important. Certainly, you could still prefer Google Apps with these offerings, but it is only fair to include them in the discussion.

    1) Office365 includes completely integrated "presence" recognition, voice conferencing, video conferencing, and Live Meeting desktop sharing (Lync), and even logs all of your IM conversations in your Outlook conversation history. Yes, you might be able to cobble something like this together with a variety of other offerings and some from Google, but Microsoft has taken a huge step forward in integration here, and it flat out works out of the box.

    2) The higher end versions (around $30/month/user), while costing "more" on their face, also include the full Office suite on every desktop (still important to many users), plus integrated business data connectivity for in house databases, plus PBX replacement voice services.

    When these factors are included, the offering becomes MUCH more compelling! (Again, I completely see why someone might still prefer or recommend Google, but I, for one, will have a tough time not recommending folks take a serious look ot Office365)

  10. @anonymous - I don't disagree that Office365 is a viable solution for many businesses, particularly those businesses with LOB applications programatically linked/tied to Exchange or Sharepoint. With the exception of Desktop Sharing via Lync, Google Apps for Business provides all of the features you mention at a much cheaper price. But, I continue to assert, Google Apps for Business provides one thing Small Business owners crave the most - Simplicity. Give a small business owner his or her own Sharepoint server (via Office365) and it will not be used. Give a small business owner Google Sites and she or he will find a way to leverage it for the business - Google Apps for Business is that simple.

  11. I've been using Office365 beta for a while. The argument about simplicity really reflects the lack of features in Google's offering. Sharepoint is a huge product, with no equivalent in Google Apps. You can construct surveys, workflows for approval, store structured data with PK/FK relationships.

    Sharepoint has a huge market of third party webparts of extensibility products. I think the problem with reviews like this is that they're looking at the product from the standpoint of a consumer - where these features really aren't needed.

  12. @Joeyw - This review is based on the standpoint of the Small Business owner (see title of blog) who needs the kinds of features that Sharepoint offers without the complexity. See Google Forms, Sites and Docs for specific examples. Most (read as all) small businesses have neither the staff, time nor budget to develop in Sharepoint. Google Apps gives them what they need with a very shallow learning curve. We are not talking about the enterprise here - don't need too many PK/FK structured data relationships. Just need collaboration tools that work - right out of the box. Thanks for the comment.