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.
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).
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.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.