Showdown in the Cloud: How Google Apps and Office 365 Measure Up

cloud services for small business
Google Apps vs. Office 365
Although Google Apps have been on the scene as a cloud computing service since 2006, Google has started to receive some competition from a relative newcomer: Office 365, introduced by Microsoft in July 2011. So how exactly do these two cloud service providers measure up?

The first, and most basic, difference between Google Apps and Office 365 is their customer base. Google Apps serves a variety of people, with platforms specifically tailored to the needs of businesses, government agencies, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations. And of course anyone with a personal Gmail account is using yet another version of Google Apps. Office 365 provides cloud-based computing only for businesses.

Beyond variety, installation also separates the two competitors. When installing Google Apps, users can follow a set up wizard, which takes them through the installation piece-meal to make the process extremely simple. When Office 365 customers are installing their service, they do not receive comparable assistance, which makes the already complicated installation process even more difficult.

As far as pricing, customers will experience much different costs depending on which service they choose. Google Apps for Business runs at $50/user/year, and all other Google Apps platforms are priced even lower, while Office 365 runs at $6/user/month. However, this 365 price is for the most basic plan. Anyone looking to use Office 365 Professional Plus will pay $12/user/month for a small business or $24/user/month for an enterprise. In general, the pricing plan for Google Apps is much less complex than that for Office 365.

Both Google Apps and Office 365 provide their users with access to tools for email and creating documents. But the systems each service uses for these features are vastly different. With Google Apps, users will use Gmail for email and IM/video chat and Google Documents for creating and sharing documents. Gmail and Google Docs are two of the many apps geared toward improved communication and collaboration that come standard with the suite. With Office 365, users will have features from Exchange, Sharepoint, and Lync, for email, document sharing, and IM, and Microsoft Web Apps for creating documents.

Gmail and Exchange share a number of the same basic features, but Gmail also includes tools that are unique to Google Apps. For example, Gmail provides users with 25GB of storage, which is 50 times the industry average, a Google-powered search, which allows users to quickly locate previous conversations, and threaded emails, which group emails of the same subject together to eliminate inbox clutter.

In terms of creating documents, Google Docs and Microsoft Web Apps also have their differences. With Google Docs, users can create a variety of files including documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, and then edit and store these files in the cloud. Owners of documents can easily collaborate with others by pressing the “share” button and choosing the people with whom they would like to share the file. While Office 365 users can use Microsoft Web Apps, which is the online version of Microsoft Office, the service actually operates much better in conjunction with Microsoft Office installed on the desktop. This local installation limits the accessibility to documents from multiple locations.

Because Google Apps is hosted 100% in the web browser and runs without any additional hardware and software, whereas Office 365 runs best with a version of Microsoft Office installed on the desktop, the IT demands and costs associated with using Google Apps are lower than those of Office 365.

A major reason to move to the cloud is to gain more access to your emails and files, but what good is this feature if you can’t access your information because of an unreliable system? This is why Google Apps boasts a 99.9% uptime guarantee, meaning their customers will always be able to access their accounts without having to worry about system failures. In contrast, Microsoft’s predecessor to Office 365, Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS), is known for its long, and often, system crashes.

The larger variety of communication and collaboration tools available to more people, lower costs, and increased reliability that come with the more-experienced Google Apps inch Google’s cloud computing service ahead of Microsoft’s in the cloud showdown.

This blog post is brought to you by Cloud Sherpas. Cloud Sherpas is a leading Google Apps cloud service provider. As a Google Apps Authorized Reseller and Google Enterprise partner, we have migrated over one million users across all major industries from legacy, on-premise messaging systems to Google Apps, helping organizations adopt cloud computing to innovate and dramatically reduce their IT expenses. Get to know our company by checking out our Facebook page at