Google Workspace or Microsoft 365?
5 important things to consider before making your decision.
Many companies have already chosen their path when it comes to business email host and productivity suite that comes with their monthly subscription. While some organizations have not yet moved to Google Workspace (Formerly G-Suite) or Microsoft 365 Business, they clearly need to decide. That said, there is no reason to rush into this cloud-based Software as a Service (SAAS) model, to potentially jump onto the wrong platform. Careful consideration should certainly be taken before making the choice, as the implications vastly affect the company’s overall workflows and therefore the company.
From our experience, the only wrong decision is when the company does not understand the differences before choosing Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace enough and ultimately must migrate to the other platform because of the nature of the business. This can be extremely costly, in more than just migration costs as there is so much more at stake. Here is a list of 5 important considerations BEFORE deciding on Google Workspace or Microsoft 365.
1. How do you use office type applications?
Most businesses need some sort of email, word processing and spreadsheets. This is what has fueled the two tech rivals, Google, and Microsoft, to build incredibly powerful office suite platforms. Understanding the nature of your business applications and how they are used is an important first step in considering which is right for you.
Businesses that are comfortable with web-based applications can both benefit from each platform, as Google is 100% cloud based, while Microsoft’s 365 platform has been around the longest and has had to adapt to the advent of the cloud. This gives Microsoft an edge over Google in some ways, especially for those of us that have been word processing since saving files on floppy disks were the easiest way to transfer files from computer to computer.
Perhaps your business requires features that were built on Access or Excel? These can be replaced with other means, but it would be a difficult transition to make the change to exclusively use Google Workspace and drop Microsoft desktop applications. That said, Google has a very robust web-based platform. While not every feature is the same as Microsoft’s desktop apps, they have integration into other web-based platforms that appeal to seed-funded start-ups and younger organizations born in the cloud-based era.
Ultimately, find what apps your organization uses and for what workflows. Many organizations have moved away from desktop applications to Microsoft’s web-based apps. Outlook desktop and Excel tend to be the stickiest, as the businesses who have ingrained workflows will find it a tough transition using an alternative application. Here are the pros and cons:
Google Workspace Applications – Apps
- 100% cloud based
- Great for both small startups and rapidly growing seed funded organizations.
- Has a very capable office suite that integrates well with other third-party applications
- A modern platform that the younger workforce is already familiar with.
- Licensing is straightforward and affordable.
- Handles most file compatibility conversions but there are some issues. Especially when converting older files that were built on Microsoft desktop applications with formulas and external app connections
- There is a learning curve. This means that it is really a different concept for opening, using, and saving files. Changing people’s habits is not impossible, simply different. Something to consider for older organizations.
- Companies that rely on Outlook desktop application workflows will need a Microsoft office license as well if they want to keep using Outlook desktop on top of Google Workspace’s.
Microsoft 365 – Office Suite
- Web based and desktop applications allow for mixed user experiences and workflows that could work for most businesses.
- Built for business. The corporate technology stack matured with the advent of Microsoft’s office suite. Their products have a great record of accomplishment that spans over 3 decades, and their mission was to build business tools that enable companies to change the world.
- Familiar applications with even more capabilities than before.
- Single platform that can integrate with about every business system.
- File compatibility is optimized on Microsoft’s desktop applications.
- It is extremely robust and has many security benefits that other platforms do not. This is one big reason government agencies prefer to use it.
- Licensing can be more confusing and expensive if improperly implemented.
- Just because they have an app for that, does not mean it is the best one for your organization. While Projects and Dynamics are powerful platforms, it may be overkill in some instances or plain out too expensive. Their standard Office 365 suite is not in this category, but it is worth mentioning that while you could stay with Microsoft for all things business, you may not want to.
- Complex administratively is a straightforward way to say that there are a lot of back-end settings. Not all are necessary to touch, but some are. It takes an experienced Microsoft administrator and sometimes multiple to implement security features. That said, this is also part of their robust nature, being able to add more security beyond the competition. Just know, there is a lot under the hood.
2. Does your business use PCs or Macs?
While technically both Macs and PCs work great with either platform, understanding which platform works best with which is important. This is because you may miss certain features that it would be unfavorable to not have. Otherwise, you may need a third-party system that integrates for the features that would be available out of the box.
PCs and Azure AD go really well together.
One example of this is Azure AD (Active Directory). If you are not already aware, Microsoft 365 is pre-configured to integrate with Microsoft Azure Active Directory. This means, PCs can easily be set up with cloud-based directory services and users get a fantastic experience on their workstations. In this setup, using Edge instead of Chrome can be a powerful time savings because the users are authenticated with Windows Hello when they first sign in. Companies who are staying inside of the Microsoft 365 environment can take advantage of these features that make cloud computing a great user experience. Ultimately, companies that implement Microsoft with Azure AD on PCs have a very capable, security optimized business platform that works great out of the box (PCs).
Macs have third-party cloud directory options.
In contrast, Mac based companies find that Google’s platform integrates with some of the most desirable applications on the market. When it comes to systems management, Mac based organizations prefer alternative cloud directory systems like Okta, Kandji and Jump Cloud. With the right configuration, the integration of Apple Business Manager with Google Workspace enables Mac based organizations to implement an extremely modern business computing implementation.
Not all companies use just PCs or just MACs, some use both. Both Macs and PCs can use Microsoft and Google platforms effectively. What is important to remember is that there are benefits worth considering and how they will affect your organization. Here are some pros and cons for each:
Google Workspace – Macs vs PCs
- Works well for both PC and Mac based companies.
- It integrates well with highly desirable third-party applications like Zoom and Slack.
- User authentication, federation services and Single Sign On are available using third party cloud systems like Okta, Cerby, Jump Cloud, Kandji and Apple Business Manager (ABM).
- Must use third party systems to manage PC or Mac devices.
- Single Sign On requires third party integrations.
- Does not provide PCs with the same user experience out of the box as Azure AD connected devices do.
Microsoft 365 – Macs vs PCs
- Most companies are PC based and they truly built their platform to perform best with PCs.
- One platform for directory services, Single sign on and federation.
- Excellent user experience for PCs that are Azure AD connected with many capabilities for administrative securities and control depending on licensing.
- Macs can be brought into Microsoft Intune with limited functions. This is both a pro and a con. Microsoft continues to add functions within the Intune platform but is natively designed off Active Directory. Macs just take a back seat in this case.
- Azure Ad and Intune are not the simplest cloud Directory systems to use. They work, and work well when properly configured, but they take time to configure, and an experienced administrator is needed to know what it is capable of.
- Let us face it, some apps are winning the cloud web application battles. Mac based apps tend to be better served using third party integrations with Google. Again, this is more related to Microsoft’s complexity, as it is capable in most instances. All things being considered, some Mac users may be at a disservice trying to run a Microsoft shop. But this does not mean if you have a Mac that you should be on Google. If you know what you are doing, Mac based companies can get a lot out of Microsoft in a similar capacity.
3. Sheets vs Excel?
Okay, this one is going to bother Google loyalists. Excel is far superior to Google sheets. I do not want you to think that Sheets is a terrible spreadsheet platform. It is not. But, if we are being honest, Google created Sheets based on Microsoft Excel. Heck, it has become a household name to call a spreadsheet an Excel doc, like Xerox or Kleenex is to their respective industries. Microsoft already won this battle around the same time Google was still working on taking over the internet with their search engine.
Sheets is a great platform, for what it is. There are conversion capabilities that make compatibility less of an issue now than it was 5-8 years ago. It really has come a long way. Perhaps Sheets will catch Microsoft someday. But still today, the desktop Excel application is the platform to use if your organization uses spreadsheets heavily. Many companies do need this sort of heavy spreadsheet use, which is a big reason Microsoft still offers desktop applications with their business standard and premium licensing models.
The important thing to consider is, how important are spreadsheets to your company? Important sheets with specific formulas and interconnected apps may have issues on Google Sheets.
Next is, who are your vendors and customers? If you heavily work with Government spreadsheets systems, it is highly likely that you will require desktop Excel to view or work with their documents. If that is not the situation and desktop apps are not particularly important, Google Sheets may work simply fine without any issues at all. In fact, Google’s suite platform may be an excellent fit. Here’s pros and cons:
Google Workspace – Sheets vs Excel
- Sheets is an easy to use, highly capable spreadsheet platform.
- Sheets integrates with Google Drive and have conversions to Excel file formats as well as .csv. Which allows you to upload and export what you need in a spreadsheet.
- There are some compatibility issues with file formatting. It has gotten much better, but some Excel files that have specific formula types in the spreadsheet will not perfectly translate every time.
- No desktop application choice. Web based only.
Microsoft 365 – Excel vs Sheets
- Excel has a long history of being the most powerful and most used spreadsheet software in the world.
- Users who need heavy spreadsheet use and/or special formulas will have the most capable application on the market using the Excel desktop application.
- Web and desktop applications are both available. Depending on the use case, users may prefer the desktop app as it is more capable with more functions built in.
- There are few cons with the platform. Google Sheets is becoming more popular and in many ways is remarkably close to Excel.
- The desktop app cloud sync functionality can be a bit tricky to figure out. But it works well when setup and used as intended.
- In a world where desktop applications are becoming less developed as more cloud-based apps arrive, Microsoft needs to get the full capabilities of Excel desktop into the web version.
4. Slack and Zoom, or Teams?
This consideration is more of preference than it is a hard truth. Almost every company has had to figure out virtual meetings. There are key players in this space that are winning, and some are losing ground. Those using Microsoft Teams still find themselves connecting with other organizations using Zoom, Webex, Google Meet, and other random conferencing applications.
Zoom and Teams are winning the virtual meeting space.
Let us look at two key players here, Zoom and Teams. You might be wondering why I am not focusing on Google Meet? Google Meet is the virtual meeting application that is included in Google Workspace, yes. But chances are, you already are using Zoom or Teams. In fact, Zoom has almost become the household name for web meetings. As the dust from the wild west of virtual meeting solutions settles, Zoom and Teams are front leading the pack in this space.
Slack and Teams are winning communication and collaboration space.
When it comes to communication and collaboration platforms, Slack and Teams are unquestionably front runners. This fact starts to highlight the power of Microsoft Teams. Most Microsoft 365 licenses include the Teams app. This makes it a serious contender for the long-term communications platform for the next couple of decades.
On the other side, companies that are choosing to work with Zoom are also looking at Slack as their collaboration counterpart. When it comes to Google Meet, many Google Workspace based companies still choose to use Zoom. Time will tell if Google will be able to grab enough market share and the Google meet platform will stick around long enough to be a key player.
What is your preference?
Based on these facts, it really comes down to preference. Teams, while powerful, seem to tail Zoom in the ease of use. But that has changed since virtual meetings became the norm over the last few years. I suppose a Microsoft 365 based organization could spend extra money to use Zoom and Slack while avoiding Teams. It seems like a waste of money, as Teams is a great platform that just takes getting used to. But don’t they all?
What is important to consider is that before selecting which platform is right for your organization, think about where you stand in the virtual meeting and collaboration space. If you are already using one of these platforms, it does not mean change is bad. It is simply different. Think about operational workflows, customer preference, and weigh your application needs as discussed in earlier considerations. Here are the pros and cons:
Google Workspace – Google Meet, Slack and Zoom
- Zoom users tend to also enjoy this platform as they can integrate well
- Slack is a fantastic collaboration platform, fit for both modern tech startups and older organizations that do not require Microsoft 365 tools for their business.
- Google Meet is a solid virtual meeting solution. The adoption rate is trailing the leading competitors. This means, to use Zoom is an added cost.
- Google does not have a collaboration platform, which is why Slack is the preferred choice. Which also means added monthly costs.
Microsoft 365 – Teams vs Zoom
- Teams include both a virtual meeting and collaboration platform.
- Teams also include an incredible customization ability that integrates with third party tools as well as apps made in Microsoft PowerApps (a topic for another time). This makes Teams an extremely powerful and integrated business tool, like a Swiss Army knife. Which is why it has taken the world by storm.
- Included in Microsoft 365 Business licensing.
- One platform can perform what multiple third-party platforms do.
- Teams Calling Plans can replace phone systems. It is Skype built into a new user interface.
- Built in SharePoint. While confusing for newcomers to SharePoint, Teams boasts a powerful and capable file sharing platform.
- Zoom leads the way with virtual meeting familiarity. New Teams users tend to find it a bit more difficult to use.
- With customization comes complexity. There’s limitless potential being able to integrate as it can. But it is quite a pill to swallow as there is a much larger learning curve to take full advantage of the platform.
- Preparation is crucial to building out Teams and the channels. Otherwise, it can get very messy very quickly. This takes time and knowledge of the Teams platform.
5. Drive, OneDrive, or Teams?
Finally, we come to the concept of cloud file sharing and storage. Many organizations have begun to take advantage of the cloud, and this was one of the first places they started. This is good news, as most businesses have adopted cloud concepts and pushed them into the 21st century. However, this has bred all sorts of confusion and wasteful spending as many of these organizations pay for third party cloud file sharing options that are included in both Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 licenses.
Which choice is best for your business? This really depends on the nature of your workflows. Likewise, Box and Dropbox for business are two very robust and reliable cloud file sharing options. The question becomes, do the features that these options offer make enough ROI (Return on Investment) to pay for them beyond what you get with Google Drive, M365’s OneDrive or Teams? The only way to know is to dive into your company to understand if you can use the Google or Microsoft filesharing options.
What about third-party file sharing options?
One example of such an organization that may want to use a separate cloud file sharing option is financial advisors. Many of these organizations find themselves in a bind that they are not able to use their preferred email host. This is because they are needed per their agent agreement to have their email hosted through their provider. In this example, they would prefer the use of Microsoft applications. However, their primary login to their corporate email is on a different host company, which means that they will not get the “full” Microsoft 365 experience. In this case, they could still use OneDrive, but their logins will be different than their emails. Which makes a third party (Dropbox, Box, Smart Vault) a more compelling choice.
Save money by using the native file sharing app.
Most companies that can stay within either platform will save monthly dollars by using the platform that comes with their licensing. This is important to realize and should not be weighed lightly. Granted, to get full team sharing access, a Google Workspace Business license is needed, while Microsoft 365 Basic license includes OneDrive and Teams. Be that as it may, the license choices are there and could save you money even though you may have to pay for an upgraded license.
For Microsoft customers, they can use both OneDrive and/or Teams. The ability to use both based on company operations and workflows makes a very compelling file sharing and storage option. Another great function of OneDrive is that it can be setup to synchronize your desktop folders as a cloud 1-to-1 backup. This is a fantastic choice for those who just want to be able to access their local files on their desktop, downloads, and documents folders anywhere. In addition, once M365 customers wrap their heads around Teams, it is hard to pass up. That said, it is especially important that before diving into Teams, you should truly prepare and plan before building out your Teams and channels. In other words, there is a lot under the hood, and it can easily be mismanaged. Just remember, that good data in equals good data out. Here are the pros and cons:
Google Workspace – Drive vs Microsoft 365 OneDrive/Teams
- Included with Google Workspace licenses, which means saving money from spending on an additional third-party file sharing app.
- Familiarity with the younger generational employees, certainly something to pay attention to.
- Easy to use
- Internal sharing and external sharing capable
- Client-side encryption available.
- Google workspace business drive storage is based on licenses.
- Google Business Starter license has 30GB per user
- Google Business Standard license has 2 TB per user added to pooled storage
- Google Business Plus license has 5 TB per user added to pooled storage
- Google Enterprise 1 TB per user added to pooled storage, up to a maximum of 25 TB
- Google Enterprise editions has unlimited and requires a customized plan based on each organization.
- Drive teams shared folders are only available with Google Workspace Business licenses or greater.
- Out of the box security with limited options. While there are security options for file sharing, it is straightforward and limited to the depth of scanning and controls. Google provides options to manage this, however, Microsoft 365’s advanced security features have far more controls available with the right licenses.
Microsoft 365 – OneDrive/Teams vs Google Drive
- OneDrive is a fully capable file sharing platform.
- Easy to use.
- Internal and External Sharing available
- Advanced Security and Compliance features available including robust DLP (Data Loss Prevention) policies, and they are awesome. Ultimately, this allows for incredible control over your data that rests within the M365 environment. This allows for preventing certain types of data that should not be shared and conditional access to the data based on parameters set. If you want the most security control over your data in the cloud, M365 should be at the top of the list. Knowing how to turn it on and customize it is another story, but the capabilities are there with the right licensing.
- Teams and OneDrive used at the right times makes for a very capable cloud file storage platform. This means you do not only have to select one or the other, but you can also use both or just one depending on your business needs. Both of which are available with the M365 Basic license.
- Microsoft 365 OneDrive Storage amounts depend on Business and Enterprise licensing plans.
- Business Licenses include 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage per user.
- Enterprise Licenses have a minimum quota of 5 users to receive 5TB of OneDrive cloud storage per user. Otherwise, it is 1TB of OneDrive storage per user.
- Message Purview Message Encryption comes standard with Enterprise licenses and Microsoft Business Premium. For the following plans you can add Azure Information Protection Plan 1 to receive Microsoft Purview Message Encryption:
- Exchange Online Plan 1
- Exchange Online Plan 2
- Office 365 F3
- Microsoft 365 Business Basic
- Microsoft 365 Business Standard
- Office 365 Enterprise E1
- Learning curve is not too difficult to handle but understanding the Microsoft 365 application capabilities inside and out can be quite a task. That said, once you understand it, the platform is very capable of handling most business file sharing functions.
- Microsoft Licensing is complex and it can be hard to figure out every detail.
Overall, I hope this has been highly informative to help you make the best decision for your organization. As you may have noticed, there is far more information on this topic than can be covered in a single article. So, our team is here to help! Please feel free to reach out and let us help you with your specific Google Workspace and/or Microsoft 365 needs. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this form HERE and someone will reach out to you.
If you are looking for pricing on a migration to Microsoft, we have a migration planning tool that may also be helpful. Use the Microsoft 365 Migration Planner to figure out how much your migration to M365 will cost.