Office 365 vs. Google Apps: The InfoWorld review
With Office 365 now available in final form, here's what you need to know to decide if Office 365 or Google Apps (or neither) is right for your organizationFollow @woodyleonhard
Figure 1: The setup wizard, integrated into the administrator's control panel, makes it very easy to get started with Google Apps for Business.
The wizard has an interesting series of steps that show you how to test Gmail using a "real" email account -- say, the email address you're using right now -- without disrupting the current flow of mail. If you're using Outlook or some other email package, and you can tell your mail server to send duplicate copies of your inbound messages to a different server, that's all you need. In my case, I wanted to test with my regular email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, which I normally handle through Outlook. I followed the instructions in the Google Apps setup wizard and had my mail server send a copy of inbound emails to email@example.com. Bingo. Any mail sent to my email address appeared in both my regular Outlook inbox and in my Google Apps Gmail test inbox. I could test with live data without affecting the normal flow of email. Working in a similar fashion, you can gradually move people over to Gmail without upsetting their current email procedures, and both the "legacy" and new Gmail accounts will work in concert.
The Google Apps setup wizard is always one click away, using the admin control panel. It remembers your location in the setup sequence, allowing you to leave, then come back and pick up where you left off.
By contrast, setup in Office 365 isn't nearly as easy. Log in with an admin ID, click on the Admin tab, and you're presented with a dozen options (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Office 365's setup is complicated -- but so is the package.
Part of the reason Google's approach seems streamlined by comparison is the old apples-and-oranges thing: There's simply so much more to set up in Office 365.
When you add new users in Office 365, they're immediately given email inboxes, a default Team Site, and instant messaging. Beyond that, you have to carve out your custom environment. Will you implement single sign-on or require users to sign on once locally, then again in the cloud? If so, there's a complex series of steps to get single sign-on working. Do you want Active Directory services to apply both locally and online? If so, you have to set up syncing Active Directory between your on-premises server and the Office 365 server. You have to switch domains over to the Office 365 server; manage SharePoint permissions; and get Lync configured. You also need to push updates for Office 2010 or 2007 onto all of your users' machines, so they can connect with the Office 365 servers and services. That's just to get started.
If you're moving from Microsoft's BPOS to Office 365, the transition shouldn't be difficult. But if you have an on-premises Exchange Server(s), Office 365 setup is going to be a big job, particularly if your servers have been extensively customized. You can, however, selectively migrate email from your own Exchange Server to the Office 365 Exchange Server. Move one user or a small group of users at a time, and they won't even know it's happening. Look up Email Coexistence in the Administrator Introduction.