Office 365 Business or Google Apps for Work?

17th February 2016

A Comparison between Office 365 Business & Google Apps for Work



Have you decided that a cloud based productivity solution is right for your business, but unsure whether to choose Office 365 Business or Google Apps for Work? Microsoft and Google are the biggest players in the cloud productivity industry, offering services to suite businesses of all sizes. This article will aim to give an overview and comparison of each service and focus on what most will see as the main features and considerations, but it must be noted that not everything that each service offers can be covered in one article. For this, you can view Microsoft’s in-detailed service descriptions for Office 365 or Google’s website for Google Apps for Work. Office 365 Enterprise plans will also not be taken into consideration but are worth researching for larger corporations with more advanced needs.

Disclosure: Simply Mail Solutions are a Microsoft reseller providing Office 365 Business packages. However, this article will aim to be unbias and give you the facts available to make your own decision.

Cloud Productivity Suites

Business owners and IT Managers today have various options to choose from when considering a productivity platform for their company. Tools that improve productivity for businesses are abundant in today’s tech world, with platforms advancing their capabilities each year. Once more, the shift to cloud based platforms is increasing year-on-year, and people are increasingly looking for cloud based solutions that integrate tools like email, file sharing, and document creation/editing.

The two biggest players in the market are Microsoft’s ‘Office 365’ and Google’s ‘Apps for Work’ that are most widely known in the IT community. Both are subscription based ‘packages’ that encompass many cloud-based tools. It is worth noting at this stage that there are alternatives. You could use various services for each of your needs (for example a hosted Microsoft Exchange email account, a cloud storage solution, and Apache OpenOffice), but this article will focus on the comparison between the two main offerings in the marketplace that offer the simplest and most powerful productivity tools for businesses.

The main benefits that both bring are primarily based around online working (so users can access from anywhere, giving a greater flexibility), the economic benefits of migrating to the cloud (as no in-house server infrastructure is required, and customers benefit from economies of scale due to the size of cloud infrastructure that both Microsoft and Google bring), and the communication and collaboration tools (allowing users to easily share, communicate, and collaborate on projects).

Assess Business Needs

First of all, it is important to establish your business’s needs in terms of productivity tools that would be useful (which may vary on people’s job roles or the industry that you work in); how many user licenses are required; the budget that you have for a new platform; the security needs of the business; the migration needs that you will have (documents or email data); and even the training that you foresee will be required for users of the new platform.

You can only create preferences for the features and benefits that each service offers if you have a full understanding of your requirements first, so this is a critical part of the process if looking to implement a cloud productivity suite.

Feature Comparison

The below table gives an overview of the main features available in both packages at the time of writing.

Features Office 365: Business Essentials Office 365: Business Office 365: Business Premium Google Apps for Work: Base Google Apps for Work: Premium
Email Storage 50GB Exchange account None 50GB Exchange account 30GB (shared across Gmail and Google Drive) 1TB (shared across Gmail and Google Drive) for accounts with fewer than 5 users. Unlimited storage (shared across Gmail and Google Drive) for all others
Email Features Accessed online using Outlook on the Web None Accessed online using Outlook on the Web or using installed copy of the latest Microsoft Outlook Web access and compatible with other platforms such as Outlook Web access and compatible with other platforms such as Outlook. Comes with Google Vault archiving
Cloud Storage 1TB OneDrive for Business 1TB OneDrive for Business 1TB OneDrive for Business 30GB (shared across Gmail and Google Drive) 1TB (shared across Gmail and Google Drive) for accounts with fewer than 5 users. Unlimited storage (shared across Gmail and Google Drive) for all others
Communication Tools Instant Messaging & HD video conferences (Skype for Business). Yammer corporate social network None Instant Messaging & HD video conferences (Skype for Business). Yammer corporate social network HD video meetings HD video meetings
Document Creation/Editing Online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, OneNote Online & installed versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, OneNote Online & installed versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, OneNote Calendar, Docs (word processing), Sheets (statistics), Slides (presentations) Calendar, Docs (word processing), Sheets (statistics), Slides (presentations)
Price £3.10/user/month £7/user/month £7.80/user/month £3.30/user/month £6.60/user/month

A note on price: an important consideration for many (and understandably so), but firstly ensure that you are getting the right package that you require before considering price. If you need to upgrade at a later date, or find yourself purchasing extra services to meet demand, you will be spending even more money in the long-run. The table above calculates Office 365 pricing using the annual commitment payment plans divided by 12. Rolling monthly options are also available at a slightly higher cost (Office 365 pricing information).

Main Differentiators

One of the main differences between the Microsoft and Google offerings is the ability to choose a package with Office 365 that includes installed versions of Office. Whilst Google Apps is purely online based, users that have installed copies of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel can work offline (for example when they are in spots with no Wi-Fi like on planes). Also, some users just prefer to work on the installed versions of these kinds of productivity suites, although this may just be down to ‘old habits’ and unfamiliarity/lack of trust in online based working, so more of a cultural change would be necessary.

This brings us onto the fact that many users are familiar with working with Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint packages as it has been the ‘go-to’ package for many users over the years. An impressive 1.2 billion people use Microsoft Office around the world. This point is especially important if the company has been operational for a while, as opposed to a younger company whose employees are of a younger demographic and used to other online productivity services (although even the younger employees will likely be familiar with Microsoft’s tools also).

Google arguably wins on simplicity, which is why Apps for Work seems to perform well in the SME market and Microsoft better in the larger organisations. However, this could be a negative point for many as simplicity can sometimes be limiting by nature.

Another consideration is the fact that Office 365 packages include Yammer, which is a social corporate network, mostly useful for large businesses looking to cross-collaborate and communicate between different geographies and departments. If you want more details on the platform, you can read this page: ‘What is Yammer?

Finally, we come to the price differences between the two. and one of the biggest considerations for many businesses. Business Essentials is slightly cheaper than Google Apps for Work ‘Base’ package and you get more storage space (1TB cloud storage and 50GB email storage). Google Apps for Work ‘Premium’ package is tempting at £6.60, with unlimited storage and email archiving, but for just £1.20/user/month more, you could enjoy the benefits of having installed copies of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint if this is an important consideration for your business.


Although it is still relatively early days, it was reported late last year that Office 365 is ahead in terms of adoption rates amongst businesses. But this shouldn’t necessarily guide your judgement. Ensure you assess your business’s needs correctly with a focus on what would be most beneficial for the users (for example, you could set-up focus groups or online surveys to explore the pros and cons of each service) whilst balancing the resources available in the IT department and the existing infrastructure,. Only then can you make a decision as to which package you feel is best suited and within budget.

If you decide that Office 365 is the right option for your business, then you need a supplier who can assist you with both on-boarding and ongoing 24/7 support. SMS offer these things with no additional charge when you subscribe to any of our packages (including our Office 365 Business options), and you can also choose our optional email migration service to assist you with data transfer.

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