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
- Although Gmail looks and behaves quite differently from Outlook Web Access (see Figure 4), it provides all of the major OWA functions, some of the minor ones, and adds a couple of unique features, including a thread-prioritizing scheme, plus a host of add-ons via Google Labs. Google Chat -- with video -- is directly accessible through Gmail.
- Google Calendars can be controlled by the administrator, but only to restrict the extent that information is shared outside of the domain. Users have control over who can see their calendars inside the domain. Contacts are handled inside Gmail in a way that's not nearly as robust as in Outlook.
- Google Apps doesn't have a telephone component per se, but the free Google Voice has many of the features you would expect from a VoIP system -- a single forwarding number, unlimited free domestic calls, call screening and blocking, SMSes, and conference calls -- in addition to transcribed notifications from inbound voice calls.
- Google Apps doesn't have fancy, customized Team Sites, but Google does have a feature called Cloud Connect that provides sharing and collaboration tools for Microsoft Office applications -- Word, Excel, and PowerPoint -- and works on files stored in Google Docs. Multiple users can edit the same file simultaneously. Last week, Google announced an extension to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that lets you open and save documents directly in Google Docs. Also, integration with Box.Net brings many SharePoint features to Google Docs.
- Google Groups offers a few features that are vaguely reminiscent of SharePoint capabilities, including online forums, managed mailing lists, and group-accessible storage.
Figure 4: Gmail doesn't look or behave like Outlook Web Access, and some people find the change disconcerting.
As long as you have Outlook installed on your PC, working on email without an Internet connection presents no difficulties for Office 365. But with Gmail, you have to run Google Sync to download your messages to your PC before you lose your Internet connection, then run it again to bring everything back once you're plugged back into the grid.
If you don't plan on paying for Microsoft Office on every desktop, the relative benefits of the two packages changes considerably. It's much easier to use Office 365 with the (free) Office Web Apps, and to use Google Apps for Business with the (free) online Google Docs, so any evaluation of the relative merits of Office 365 and Google Apps has to take into account the features in Office Web Apps vs. the online Google Docs.
That's problematic, as the online versions of Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint -- as well as Google's online word processor, spreadsheet, and slideshow programs -- are changing constantly. For example, Office Web Apps added a rint function to Excel just last month.
On balance, Office 365 gets a 9 for features, and Google Apps a 7 -- assuming you will work in an environment with some version of Microsoft Office on every desktop.