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
Everything's going to the cloud, but only the hopelessly naïve would believe it's a stairway to heaven. Given the current economic situation, there's lots of incentive to rent only what you need, rather than buy enough to handle the heaviest workload. There are also plenty of reasons to reduce the general level of expertise needed to keep your systems working. But it's by no means certain that the cloud can deliver in either department -- and perform in a secure, reliable way.
Can your company save money by paying Microsoft or Google to take on what you'd otherwise attempt in-house? What kinds of problems can you expect? What benefits? Will either of these solutions make sense for you, or is the grass always greener on the cloudy side?
[ InfoWorld's Galen Gruman tested Office 365 on mobile devices, Macs, and Linux; see where it works. | Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud computing in InfoWorld editors' 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay up on the cloud with InfoWorld's Cloud Computing Report newsletter. ]
Clash of the clouds
Before we attempt to answer those questions, one thing must be stated flatly: Office 365 and Google Apps are vastly different products. Office 365 is meant to be used with a locally installed version of Office (preferably Office 2010), whereas Google Apps lives 100 percent in the browser. To use a hackneyed metaphor, we're talking apples and oranges. With so many feature variables between the two products, blanket pronouncements don't make a lot of sense.
Nonetheless, with the production release of Office 365, the cloud era of desktop productivity software officially kicks into high gear. Office 365 works with Microsoft's Web App versions of desktop Office applications -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote -- so theoretically, you can use it without a locally installed version of Office at all. But most people won't. The real Office 365 ploy is this: Sick of maintaining Exchange and SharePoint servers? No problem. Pay Microsoft and it will run those servers for you -- and throw in the fancy new Lync communications server.
Office 365 represents the first time Microsoft has bundled desktop software (Office 2010) with an online service into a single subscription-based offering. But if you have another source of licenses for Office (2010, 2007, or otherwise), or if you want to run just the Office Web Apps (not likely), you can get an Office 365 license without paying for Office.