Cloud Match Up: What You Need to Know About Google Apps and Office 365

using the cloud to save money

As an increasing number of businesses move to the cloud, seeking to take advantage of universal access and decreased IT costs, the number of cloud service providers also seem to be multiplying.  But two cloud computing platforms – Google Apps and Office 365 – have made names for themselves in the cloud industry.  Despite the fact that both of these platforms are very popular, they are significantly different from one another.

One of the most basic differences between these two platforms is their history and service.  Google Apps was first introduced in 2006, making it a veteran in the cloud industry.  Currently, Google Apps is available in four different platforms designed for businesses, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and governmental agencies.  Additionally, anyone who has a personal Gmail account uses the free version of Google Apps.  Office 365 is significantly younger than Google Apps, as it was first launched in July 2011 as a cloud computing option only for businesses.

As you look more in-depth into each of these cloud computing platforms, the differences only grow.  The first step to using the cloud is to move from your legacy system to a cloud service provider.  When you move to Google Apps, this occurs with a simple Google Apps migration that you can do on your own with the assistance of a set-up wizard or, for more personalized support, with the help of a Google Apps Authorized Reseller.  When you choose to make the move to Office 365, you can also make the switch on your own, but Microsoft’s set-up wizard is not nearly as simple as Google’s.  Additionally, Microsoft recently released a transition guide for customers using BPOS, its legacy system.  This guide details how current Microsoft customers can move to the cloud with Office 365.


using the cloud to save money

So once you’ve made the switch and your business is operating in the cloud, how much will this actually cost you?  The Google Apps pricing plan is actually quite simple: Google Apps for Business runs for $50/user/year, with all other platforms priced lower (education and nonprofit are $0/user/year).  All Google Apps platforms come standard with the entire apps suite.  Although Office 365 is only available for businesses, it has a number of different platforms, each with its own price.  The lowest-priced platform, which is available for businesses with fewer than 50 employees, runs for $72/user/year.  The platform at this price, however, does not include the entire suite, as it is missing some applications like Office Web Apps.  Microsoft customers can purchase additional services for their plans, but as the number of add-ons increases, pricing can become quite confusing.

The basic functions of Google Apps and Office 365 are actually similar: both platforms enable users to send emails and create documents, but that’s where the similarities end.  When it comes to communicating with Google Apps, you can send emails with Gmail and communicate instantly with chat built right in, while users communicating on Office 365 use Exchange and Lync.  Even more different, though, are the document-creating capabilities of these cloud platforms.  On Google Apps, users utilize Google Documents to create, edit, and share files.  Google Docs allows users to create a number of different files, including word documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.  Users can share their files with others simply by clicking a button, and can then collaborate with others by editing in real-time and making comments.  Google Docs, like all other applications in the suite, is based entirely in the web browser.  On Office 365, users utilize Office Web Apps for document creating, editing, and sharing.  Office Web Apps is the online version of Microsoft Office, so users can also create a number of different files.  However, Office Web Apps is different than Microsoft Office because it does not have many of the capabilities as its offline counterpart.  Due to this difference, Office Web Apps users are advised that the program works best with a version of Microsoft Office installed locally.  Using Office Web Apps with Microsoft Office is a plus because it increases the features at your disposal, but this also decreases the universal access users have to their files.

The fact that Google Apps runs completely within the web browser while Office Web Apps works better with a locally installed version of Microsoft Office points to perhaps one of the main differences between these cloud service options.  Google Apps is an entirely-cloud based solution.  This means that it runs completely within the web browser, not requiring any additional hardware or software to run in its entirety.  Because of this, along with the fact that Google automatically sends out system updates, using Google Apps can significantly decrease IT costs.  In contrast, Office 365 is a hybrid-cloud solution.  This means that in order to properly run Office 365, businesses need desktop management tools and on-premises servers that will require licensing and updates.

Finally, while both Google Apps and Office 365 operate on a 99.9% uptime guarantee, this promise has a different meaning to Google than it does to Microsoft.  Google Apps’ 99.9% uptime includes planned service and updates, and this is a guarantee that Google regularly meets or exceeds.  Office 365’s 99.9% uptime does not include scheduled service outages, and Microsoft has recently had problems with unscheduled downtime for Office 365 users.

It’s plain to see that even though Google Apps and Office 365 are both popular cloud computing options that allow users to complete the same basic functions, they have some key differences that set them apart from one another.  For anyone looking to make a move to the cloud, these differences are essential in deciding which cloud platform is right for you.

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