There is a British idiom ‘Horses for Courses’, meaning that people or things have different qualities and skills, and are therefore more suited for different tasks and situations. It’s easy to use the idiom in the instance of, say, a rugby player playing cricket, or a ballet dancer fixing a laptop, but in the case of Workspace and 365, it is very tricky to separate the two. So how can we compare two very similar productivity suites to find out which one is more suitable for business needs, and how can we get accurate and unbiased information about the qualities of each? Let’s have a closer look at these two suites and do some comparisons.
Google Workspace Overview
Formerly called G Suite, Workspace is a cloud- and browser-centric productivity suite, offering popular tools already used by a vast number of people, including GMail, Google Drive, Sheets, Docs and Meet. If a Chrome browser is used, there is an option for saving emails and documents offline, but significantly it is online where Workspace shines. The familiar Gmail is a crisp, clean email service, used by millions. With Google Drive, you can access your files from anywhere, on any device. Sheets and Docs are uncomplicated, and offer good features in an easy interface. There are four payment plans, offering different levels of security and cloud storage. We’ll touch on those later in the comparison.
Microsoft 365 Overview
Recently changing its name from Office 365, Microsoft 365 is more centred around a combination of Cloud and physical apps, downloadable to the computer desktop. For years, Microsoft Office, in all its iterations, was the industry standard, a ‘must-have’ for all businesses, large and small, to communicate with clients and customers. I’d hazard a guess that most people over 30 are more familiar with Word, Excel, Powerpoint and the rest of the ‘Office’ family than Cloud-based apps. Payment plans are…well, confusing at best. There is a plethora of scales, and it might be difficult to pick which one is best. More later.
A Comparison of Key Features by level
Google Workspace Business Starter ($6 per user/month)
Being browser and cloud-centric, everything is online, with no downloadable apps.
Video and voice conferencing, Cloud storage (30GB/user), Branded Email, Web-based Docs, Sheets and Slides,Shared Calendars, Mobile apps, and 24/7 support make up a large part of the service. With function over form, it’s not as pleasing to the eye as Microsoft applications, but it makes up for that in seamless integration…for example, no need to save documents, as the Docs app saves everything as you go.
Microsoft 365 Business Basic ($5 per user/month)
Video and voice conferencing is included, as with Cloud storage (1TB/user), but no branded email, which might be a gamechanger for some. All apps are web-based, and not as fully functional as desktop apps, although they are close. Mobile apps are there, and Advanced Security and Compliance. Sharepoint, an intranet website builder, is also included
Google Workspace Business Standard ($12 per user/month)
This has all the inclusions of the Starter pack, with the addition of a whopping 2TB cloud storage. Enhanced security and administration tools are in the bundle, as well as the possibility of recording and saving Video and Voice conferencing on Drive.
Microsoft 365 Business Standard ($12.50 per user/month)
This is where it starts to get interesting. Two versions (web-based and desktop) of the feature-rich email app Outlook are added to the plan, along with the Office suite, including desktop versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, et al. Outlook is particularly good at sorting, grouping and managing emails. With this Office suite, Microsoft 365 is now online and offline based, and although Cloud computing is huge, many companies prefer the traditional methods of sending files using the more sophisticated desktop apps.
Google Workspace Business Premium ($18 per user/month)
This plan adds Archiving and eDiscovery, vital to avoid severe ramifications in the case of lawsuits and criminal investigations, an increase to 5TB of personal storage, and a 250 person limit on Team meetings.
Microsoft 365 Business Premium ($20 per user/month)
This includes all the Business Standard features, and adds Intune and Advanced Threat Protection. Intune is a management and deployment tool, and the Advanced Threat Protection raises security levels and information access control.
Google Workspace Enterprise ($25 per user/month)
A large jump in price, this version provides S/MIME encryption for enhanced security, and the ability to detect any leaks of sensitive information by scanning emails and images. Appsheet, a no-code app builder, is also included in the package.
Office 365 E3 ($20 per user/month)
This mid-tier Enterprise plan (there are two others, E1 and E5) is the most comparable to Workspace Enterprise. Full desktop apps, unlimited Onedrive cloud storage, and eDiscovery for admins.
There are other permutations available in Microsoft’s offerings, but I have tried to balance them with their equivalent levels in Workspace. What they offer is a mix-and-match possibility within an organisation, where higher security is required for one group, and online only apps for another.
This is where it gets difficult. It depends on the situation, requirements, and level of collaboration desired.
If regular clients normally use Microsoft products, then it would be better to use 365 for communication, as, although Google Docs can be used to edit Office documents, the formatting might take a hit, the same with Sheets and Excel.
A small startup company, for example, might want to use Workspace for the security of Cloud based applications, and superb collaboration / communication tools. If there are multiple operating systems, then Workspace fits perfectly.
Workforce familiarity is an issue, too. Productivity can be lost if people are forced to switch from one system to another, with the accompanying problem of re-training.
Google Workspace is simpler, with fewer functions, but is terrific for collaboration. It was made from the bottom up, specifically put together for Cloud work.
Microsoft 365 has the best product features, and was designed from the top down. They had everything in place for desktops, and added the Cloud.
It’s back to ‘Horses for Courses’. Finding the right thing for the right job.