There was a time when it seemed Microsoft had offices and schools everywhere using Microsoft Office products. But in the past decade, Google’s Workspace (formerly G Suite) has grown as a true competitor. Where once there was almost no question of which programs to use, now we ask ourselves, “Should my business be using Office 365 or Google Workspace?”
Here at Atiba, we’re experts on both and can help you get set up with either.
With so many similarities, it’s a tough question. Let’s go through and break down what each offers, what’s similar, what’s different, and a few personal insights.
Editor’s Note: On October 6, Google changed G Suite to Google Workspace. While not much has changed, Google does offer a few more pricing options.
How’d We Get Here?
Most people’s early computing years were spent using Microsoft Office products. We used Word for our essays, PowerPoint for our presentations, and learned the basics of Excel. Google Workspace products, up until the last few years, were more based on personal use. There are plenty of businesses that used Google Workspace, but Google started to dip its toes into the business world on a more regular basis.
You’d think by having the world’s most popular search engine that Google would be hitting you across the face with Workspace every five seconds. Maybe it was a habit, maybe it was because Microsoft Office was loaded on seemingly every PC. But as more and more people are turning towards Google Workspace as an option for their business, we have to start weighing out the pros and cons of each service.
How They Compare
While the core applications offered on the platforms are the same (see the infographic below for the full list), the design philosophy for the products is pretty different.
Both platforms are subscription-based and offer cloud and web programs (Microsoft also offers a robust desktop version). Both are comprehensive platforms with almost any tool you’d need in a modern office including word processing, spreadsheets, and video conferencing. Regardless of the platform you choose, you’ll have what you need to do effective, quality work.
However, the products are suited to different users. For those who value collaboration and speed, Workspace products often come out on top. Microsoft offers a product that is better for those who work independently and value complexity.
To be clear, both approaches have plenty of merits.
What exactly are these merits?
Office 365 and Workspace: Side by Side
While this infographic does a solid job of breaking down their main differences, how does it feel to use them? We can talk all day about what they offer, but what about functionality and use?
What’s it Like to Use Them?
One of the most recognizable services from Workspace is Google Docs, their rival to Word. From an opening glance, the setup is quite similar.
All your options are located at the top of the page. The core tools are all pretty similar and even the layout of where to find things, their groupings, and their icons were similar. It’s pretty easy to make the switch.
This was no accident. We often hear the phrase “if you can’t be ‘em, join ‘em” but sometimes tech takes an “if you can’t beat ‘em, copy ‘em and change a few details” approach.
It’s easy to find your way around and navigate because most people are used to Word. Even if you’re not sure where something is, you have an idea where you can go about finding it. There could be an argument that the choice by Google to make things so similar was a shortcoming of the product, maybe unoriginal. But it makes adoption less painful and faster. So, it’s an understandable choice.
It’s also much easier to implement browser extensions or tools into Workspace. Extensions like Grammarly or SEO writing assistant tools work much better on the Workspace platform.
This doesn’t mean that Word lacks in tools, however. There are plenty of tools to choose from in the store but they might not always be the ones you’re looking for.
If you want a comparison of where the two products differ, check out the difference in the number of templates offered. Word offers dozens of templates of almost every kind. Clippy was a popular figure who would often offer assistance when writing certain documents.
The templates are more varied and more adaptable to almost any need. It’s another place where the type of user matters. Some people find all the template options overwhelming and cluttered. While others use templates as a springboard. Regardless, the tone of the product is set on that first page where you’re given the option of how to start a new doc.
Comparing the Spreadsheet Options
The spreadsheet tools were also pretty different. Excel has always had a strong foothold in the realm of spreadsheets and to this day, it still rules supreme. It doesn’t take long to see the limitations of Google Sheets compared to Excel. There are significantly fewer chart options to choose from and the templates are significantly limited as well. It’s the template situation all over again. Microsoft was overflowing with options to choose from, Workspace had only the essentials.
Just like Google Docs, you can find Google Sheets within Google Drive.
While Excel can feel completely overwhelming when you’re new to it, once you’re familiar with the program you’d be surprised how reliant you can become on all the features. Even doing basic tasks like creating a budget estimate for something as simple as a family vacation is just easier to complete in Excel.
On the flip side, Google Sheets was all about efficiency and clarity. It was just the numbers without a lot of other stuff in the way.
Email, Calendars, and Contacts
Let’s not assume that less is just less though. Google’s philosophy of getting extra out of the way is well executed in their email service.
They have thoughtful sorting and prioritizing functions in Gmail that makes working through messages efficient. While Outlook doesn’t have some of the clever email features of Gmail, it does integrate contacts and calendars. Based on the user, that integration might be key to effectively navigating a workday or workweek. Again, the choice for which platform becomes your approach to work.
When it comes to the small plans, it’s very clear the Microsoft 365 comes out on top. You’ll instantly get 1 TB of storage with their Business Essentials Plan as compared to Google’s minuscule 30GB. To make matters slightly worse, Google counts your emails as part of that storage.
While that may seem small at the start, all of those attachments, images, and other files will eventually begin to clog up your storage, forcing you to purge your inbox once every six months or so.
Upgrading definitely gives Workspace the advantage here and provides a bit more bang for the buck. With Workspace’s Business plan, you’re going to get unlimited storage. Yes, let the power flow through you!
Microsoft, however, keeps you hamstrung to the 1 TB of storage on the majority of their plans. While 1 TB sounds like a hefty amount of storage (it is), you might be surprised how quickly you go through that data if you’re regularly uploading documents, images, videos, and other files. If you’re just using it for regular documents and spreadsheets, then 1 TB should be more than enough.
What if you’re someone running a very small business or going solo?
Unfortunately, both Google and Microsoft don’t do you any favors. To unlock unlimited storage, you’re going to have to have more than five users with both. That hurts those who are just starting and looking for such an option.
The Desktop Applications Factor
We saved the elephant in the room for the last part. Microsoft’s offerings are so well-known because you’ve likely been using them since grade school. Booting up the family computer to finish your essay on Word or making the world’s best PowerPoint is something that almost every student had to go through.
Does that still carry over today?
The biggest benefit to Microsoft is the ability to install their applications on your desktop, laptop, or tablet and use them offline. Even though cloud computing is a mainstay amongst businesses, it is nice to have offline offerings.
That does mean you will have to manage these applications on your computer like downloading, installing, and updating.
Google does offer options to work offline, but it is not as seamless as downloading the apps you’re familiar with.
Look and Feel
Google has worked hard to ensure that their apps and services are user-friendly and have a smaller learning curve. Most people would say that Workspace tools are much cleaner, less cumbersome, and simpler to navigate.
However, many of your employees have likely grown up on Microsoft so they might prefer to go directly with those tools. If you’re unsure and want input, ask your team members about which they prefer (if they have a preference). It wouldn’t hurt to double-check!
A Small Secret: You Can Always Use Microsoft 365 and Workspace Together
Many of us here at Atiba, and businesses worldwide, actually use both Microsoft 365 and Workspace at the same time.
There are both pros and cons of each service that we’ve listed above and some people like to take the best of both worlds. For some, Google Docs is much easier to use than Word but Excel is more robust than Google Sheets.
Workspace even has an option to download your documents in certain types, including those within the Microsoft 365 package.
Now, we don’t recommend paying for both services, but Google does offer a free account and up to 15 GB of storage. Why not mix and match? It can be your online application buffet.
What About the Price?
We can’t go this far without talking about the pricing options of Workspace and Office 365.
Here is where the streamline vs. individuality choice is enormously evident. While Workspace offers three package options with simple pricing and features, Microsoft 365 is broken into three main groups with subgroups. Each of those options is priced differently and there are options to add a la carte features.
While it gives the user a chance to buy exactly what they need, it also means you might find yourself wading through charts and feature lists, weighing cost and options for a long time. It’s just one more way Microsoft creates options but also complexity.
Here is the price breakdown for both:
- Basic-$5 per user per month with 30 GB of cloud storage
- Business-$10 per user per month with unlimited cloud storage
- Enterprise Plus (previously called Enterprise)-$29 per user per month with unlimited cloud storage
- Business Essentials-$6 per month per user
- Business-$10 per month per user
- Business premium-$15 per month per user
Annual Commitment Costs
- Business Essentials-$5 per month per user
- Business-$8.25 per month per user
- Business premium-$12.50 per month per user
- Enterprise E1-$8 per month per user
- Enterprise ProPlus-$12 per month per user
- Enterprise E3-$20 per month per user (unlimited storage)
- Enterprise E5-$35 per user per month (unlimited storage)
All of these plans come with a hefty 1 TB of storage and 50 GB of email storage for each user.
So which one is the most cost-effective? Unfortunately, finding out which one is cheaper depends on several factors. How many users do you have? How big is your business? Are you planning to grow anytime soon?
The one caveat we can make out right now is that Microsoft requires an upfront, one-year commitment while Google will let businesses or users pay by the month. That may make it hard for some startups when you’re trying to manage costs and maybe taking these two platforms for a test run of sorts.
So, let’s wrap with a summary almost as broad as the initial distinction. Like so many things, it comes down to what your individual business needs and values. If your goal is to find a product (or product suite) that helps your team work together and produce quickly, Workspace might be your best bet. It’s a platform that streamlines what and how to focus on the who and done of work.
However, if you’re willing to give a little on the collaboration process in exchange for lots of powerful features that help create, enrich, and personalize your work, you may find that there’s a richness to Microsoft’s complexity. The right answer for you depends on what your needs are.
Like so many tech questions, which platform to choose comes down to what you like, want, and need. If you need more help deciding what the best platform is for your work, Atiba is here to figure out which best suits your business. Not only can we help you weigh all the offerings of the platforms against your wants and needs, but we can also help you set up and transition.
Atiba’s Half Geek, Half Human team is ready to dive in and find the right fit. Reach out to us today for a free quote!