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
Moving from Exchange Server to Google Docs can be trying, too. Last month, in InfoWorld's Cloud Computing blog, Desmond Fuller posted an excellent firsthand account of his transition from an old Exchange Server installation to Google Apps for Business. With 100 users, the transition wasn't easy: "The migration ... was surprisingly difficult and problematic, and we got little help from Google."
In my InfoWorld Test Center scores, I give Google Apps setup a 9 and Office 365's a 7, assuming you're moving from an environment without Exchange Server. If you're moving from Exchange Server, much depends on how much tweaking you've done to your server. If you're moving from BPOS, Office 365 should be a 9.
Features: Leviathan vs. lightweight
Comparing the features of Office 365 with those of Google Apps immediately returns us to the apples-and-oranges cliché. Feature supremacy all depends on what you intend to use and how you intend to use it. Office 365, combined with Office on the desktop, handles a universe of demands, from tricked-out email to professional presentations simulcast on meeting attendees' smartphones; from full team collaboration on a complex financial model to shared details about customers or suppliers, to voice systems far more advanced than PBX.
Google Apps, on the other hand, gives you a hodgepodge of tools for administering your company's online email, storing and sharing files, sharing calendars, free long distance phone calls, team collaboration on documents, online forums, and much more. Google Apps delivers all of that at about one-fifth the price of Office 365, assuming you already have (or don't need) Office on the desktop. The demands on technical personnel are much smaller with Google Apps, as well.
The online versions of all of the apps -- Office Web Apps and Google Docs -- don't even come close to the full desktop versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. If your needs are very simple, online Word or Google Docs can whip up a memo or white paper, but if you need any sort of advanced formatting, forget it. As mentioned earlier, Microsoft's online Word does a better job of rendering graphics than Google Docs, but opening a complex document in any of the free apps, making changes, then saving it can cause all sorts of problems. The online versions of Excel, both Microsoft and Google, have trouble with any sort of graphing. And presentations in Google's online app are a far cry from PowerPoint.
Most companies have a core of employees who need the features in Microsoft Office. Casual users may only need the online apps. You may be able to save quite a bit of money if you don't need Office on every desktop.
If you currently have Office 2007 or 2010 on all of your machines, but aren't using Exchange, SharePoint, or Lync, Office 365 opens up all sorts of functionality. Renting Office 365 brings all of the features of Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync -- basically the same features you could get by setting up your own servers -- but Microsoft handles the back end in the cloud. Some of the high points: