Know the Features Before You Move: Google Apps v. Office 365

I’m a huge fan of Google Apps for Business. It is one of the main products I recommend as a technology consultant. It has it’s quirks but I have been pretty happy with it; it syncs to all of your mobile devices, syncs to Outlook and the same folders and subfolders structure in Outlook is replicated in the Google Gmail interface.

Along came Office 365. Because of the Microsoft name, I thought that this product was a Google Apps killer. However I think both products have their merits. Consider the following for each of these products:

Access on the Go

Office 365 gives people Microsoft Office everywhere they go – even on a tablet. This is true Microsoft Office. Not the “MS Office lite” we have been used to in the past. It also gives us full compatibility with desktop versions of MS Office and allows for licenses to be installed on five devices and tablets. For the same price as Google Apps for Business, you can get email with Office 365. For an additional cost, you can download the Microsoft Office software platform, a law office standard. Google Docs (Google’s version of MS Office) is far behind MS Office. Google Apps can’t even touch it. Office 365 wins.

Mac Compatible

Office 365’s OneDrive for Business doesn’t sync with a Mac. I know that Apple and Microsoft don’t like each other but to have a flagship product that doesn’t really work on a Mac is a deal killer for some. At the beginning of 2014, the message was – “OneDrive for Business is not compatible with Mac OS X”. Someone at Microsoft must have realized that they were missing a huge share of the market and now Microsoft has recognized that they need to work on a Mac. At least now the message is: Google Apps for Business wins (for now).

Sync and Integration

Many cloud-based products are not syncing with Office 365 – yet. If you are considering a cloud-based practice management system, be sure to check the integrations to see with what product they sync. Not all products sync with both Google Apps and Office 365. This will change as Office 365 becomes a more mature product, but many more products are syncing with Google Apps right now. Check before you commit to a new product for your firm. Google Apps for Business wins (for now).

Web Interface

The new Outlook Web Access on Office 365 is really good. Microsoft beefed up their web access version so it looks a lot like the Outlook. The interface is certainly improved and is much better than it used to be. Google Apps’ interface is the Gmail interface – some like it and some hate it. The great news is that both can sync to Outlook if you prefer. Google Apps for Business and Office 365 – Tie

Admin/UI Friendly

The administrator console in Microsoft Office 365 should be easy but can be very difficult to find simple items. They have hidden a lot of tools that used to be readily accessible in server-based Exchange. Tasks like changing a primary email address or forwarding email used to be easy are now almost impossible unless you want to call for help. Google Apps for Business wins.

Customer Service

Speaking of calling for help, you have to give this one to Google. Their support is phenomenal. With the Office 365 support, you have to go through three or four levels of support in order to get someone on the phone to answer your question.  Google has changed how they provide support but I always speak to a tech that can solve my problem without being passed around. Google Apps for Business wins.

Multiple Email Addresses

Another surprising win for Google is the use of multiple email addresses. While both products offer the ability to receive email from multiple email addresses like info@yourdomain.com  or rsvp@mynichepractice.com, with Microsoft, you need a separate license to send from each of those email addresses. Consider this example: Your firm maintains multiple domains – one for each “niche” practice. With Microsoft, you would need a separate license to send and receive email from your “niche” customers. With Google, as long as that address is listed as an alias (aka forwarding address), you can send and receive on behalf of that email address. Google Apps for Business wins.

In the end, both products are really good. However, as you dig into the details, you may find one feature that will sway you towards one product or the other. Do some investigating and dig into those details before you make that leap, so you will not regret your decision in the end.

About Pegeen Turner

Pegeen Turner
Pegeen Turner is the President of Legal Cloud Technology, a legal technology firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her firm works with small and medium-sized law firms as they start-up, as well as firms that need help maintaining and integrating legal technology into their practice. In addition, she helps firms understand the risks of cloud computing and how to incorporate cloud computing into their practice. Email | Website | Twitter

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  • Good article on the comparing Office 365 vs Google apps. Check out my blog post and infographic on Office 365 vs Google Apps for Non-Profits. http://cgnet.com/office-365-vs-google-apps-one-will-better-fit-non-profit/

  • Ross Fawcett

    You might want to review that multiple mail address issue. I’ve been working with Office 365 for some time now and it is absolutely possible to send as multiple email addresses.

    The most common way for the customers I work with has been to use a shared mailbox which you do not need to license (max 5gb) and then granting the primary user access to send as/send on behalf that mailbox. The user then simply updates their from field in their mail client.

    The gotcha is you must make sure that you setup those permissions correctly because Office 365 will check that a user is allowed to send as another domain/user that is also on Office 365. Which makes sense to avoid people being able to fake the sender address, at least within the Office 365 platform.

    These permissions also apply to SMTP, so should you be using an authenticated relay you must ensure that the account being used for the relay also has permission to send as that shared mailbox.

    There are also other ways to attach this email as an alias etc but the shared mailbox works well in allowing the end user to separate the two email addresses and not flood their own mailbox.

    And lastly, you must keep in mind that a shared mailbox can not be accessed directly, e.g. by logging in via OWA etc. Only a licensed user can access a shared mailbox. However you can do this both within OWA and Outlook as you would opening any other mailbox.

  • Emmanuel Dreux

    If you need a migration solution to migrate all your data (mailboxes, sharepoint sites, Google Sites, Google Drive, onedrives) between Google apps and Office 365, here is a SAAS solution: http://www.cloudiway.com/products/cloudiway-emails-migration/
    and the doc: http://kb.cloudiway.com/category/migration-scenario/office-365-to-google-apps-migration/

  • Dick Visser
  • You missed a HUGE issue here with Mac Compatibility. You can’t Sync Contacts or Calenders with Outlook for a Mac. This is a deal-breaker for many firms. I recently had a client switch away from Google Apps for Business to Office 365 because they couldn’t accept calendar invites from Clients using Outlook on a Mac.