Office 365 vs. G Suite: The dilemma of choosing between the behemoths and the benefits of Office 365

Office 365 vs. G Suite: The dilemma of choosing between the behemoths and the benefits of Office 365

Those who remember Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) understand why there was such an interest in the release of Google Apps vs Office 365. Since their initial release, Google Apps has bloomed into G Suite and BPOS has evolved into Office 365. Both of which are capable of hosting a cloud based collaboration solution for companies of any size. If both offerings are similar or have the same features, who should I choose? Are the G Suite offerings really as built out and operational as Microsoft? Is Microsoft better than G Suite? Determining which provider is best for your organization depends on multiple contributing factors that should be thoroughly researched and considered based on the priorities of the organization.

In the G Suite vs Office 365 war, they tend to appeal to completely different types of organizations based on the size, employee age, appetite for change, bias of Microsoft or Google, technology aptitude, etc. Larger organizations may already have an enterprise agreement (EA) with Microsoft or need a hybrid infrastructure with their current Exchange infrastructure. Small organizations may prefer G Suite who are looking for a transformational change and rapid shift to the cloud. Organizations looking to shift from Microsoft to G Suite should consider user adoption (e.g. will users be okay with shifting away from Microsoft Office and Outlook), minimal disruption, and providing all the technical capabilities for employees to be productive. Additionally, organizations should assess the risk of migrating from on premise Microsoft offerings to G Suite, rather than Office 365. A transition from on premise Microsoft to Office 365 will have a more seamless user experience compared to a drastic change with G Suite.

No matter the product, it is important and crucial for any decision maker to identify requirements, key pain points, business impact, as well as G Suite vs Office 365 features and offerings. Without proper research and planning, an organization could find themselves in a costly situation for years to come with unhappy users. The commitment to G Suite or Office 365 will be a multiyear commitment due to the complexities and cost to change once implemented.

Comparing G Suite to Office 365 features
To help organizations evaluate the two products, below is a compiled list of some key features organizations should consider as part of their assessment. The matrix below only compares the enterprise versions of G Suite and Office 365 to ensure organizations are choosing a secure platform with critical technical capabilities commonly required by companies. Since Google and Office 365 cannot be compared on a price point per license, the E3 license with Office 365 and the Enterprise license from Google best represents a standard enterprise license.

Office 365 E3 G Suite Enterprise
Mail 100GB/Mailbox Unlimited
Archive Mailbox Unlimited N/A
Shared Mailbox 50GB/Mailbox Unlimited
Site Mailboxes 50GB/Mailbox N/A
Group Mailboxes 50GB/Mailbox N/A
Maximum mail size 150MB 25MB
Mailbox permission limits Unlimited 25
Active Directory Integrated Yes Yes
Desktop applications Microsoft Office N/A
Cloud Storage OneDrive for Business 1TB/user Google Drive 1TB/user (4 or fewer users)

Unlimited (5 or more users)

Team sites SharePoint Google Sites
Collaboration Groups, Teams, Yammer, Document Sharing, Multi-Edit Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides
Offline Capabilities Yes Only in the Chrome browser, mobile apps and Chrome OS
Mobile Workforce Skype, Social Media, Collaboration, Document Management, Email Chat, Collaboration, Documents Editing, Email
Mobile Device Management Intune, Advanced Threat Protection 3rd Party
Digital Rights Management Azure Rights Management, Active Directory RMS Google RM
Telephony Integrated with current provider or through Skype for Business N/A
On premises hybrid Exchange 2013 or later N/A
Integrated DLP Exchange Online Protection Google Apps add on
Integrated Hygiene provider Exchange Online Protection, Advanced Threat Protection N/A
Remote command line PowerShell N/A
Team Communication / Chat Skype for Business Hangouts Chat
Video conferencing Skype for Business Hangouts Meet
Desktop application sharing Skype for Business Hangouts Chat
eDiscovery Office 365 Security and Compliance Google Vault
Audit & Reporting Security and Compliance Google Admin Portal
Browser Supported IE 10 and above, Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Safari IE, Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Safari
Logging and monitoring Within the Office 365 or SIEM integration Within the G Suite Portal


Choosing a platform 

As you can see, on paper both platforms offer similar features, with Office 365 slightly beating Google with a few extra features. However, just because they both seem to have similar features doesn’t mean that the offerings are as good as they sound. For this reason, Office 365 is the clear winner, and here is why.

First, let’s start with the most visible functionality and try to avoid areas where substantial differences do not exist. Outlook and Microsoft Office have a monopoly in the market for email management, document creation, and document management. With the G Suite offering, you are given the Google document suite with Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. without Outlook or an alternative. G Suite does offer the ability for Outlook integration but is not native and you must use G Suite Sync for Microsoft Outlook (GSSMO). Additionally, the rich features and capabilities provided by Microsoft Excel, Docs, and PowerPoint surpass the functionalities of Google Sheets, Docs, and Slides. These features are not only limited to Microsoft Office but also apply to SharePoint with a variety of document management features including (but not limited to)

  • Metadata tagging of document to help organize and search documents quickly
  • Ability to check-in/check-out document to prevent multiple users editing the document
  • Ability to create approval workflows to manage document submission and changes

From collaboration perspective, the G Suite has a limited set of applications that can support organization’s collaboration needs. Google provides the basic email, chat, and document collaboration capabilities but lacks some of the newer social networking functionalities like persistence chat, integration with other applications, and improved information discovery and sharing. To give you an example of additional features provided by Office 365 that enhance the Office 365 collaboration capabilities include:

  • Microsoft Teams – a chat-based workspace that provides users a modern digital workspace that supports persistent and threaded chat with the ability to seamlessly integrate with other Office 365 applications.
  • Groups – a shared workspace where members (internal and external) within a group can share and collaborate via email, conversations, documents, and events related to a specific project.
  • Yammer – communication channel for faster and smarter way of connecting and collaborating with team members to discuss ideas and crowdsource answers from employees.
  • Modern Team Sites – modern SharePoint capabilities that empowers organizations to automate business processes and intelligently share and collaborate on content from anywhere and on any device.
  • Delve – Office 365 offering that allows employees to discover information across all Office 365 applications that is personalized to specific users.
  • Planner – project and team planner used to organize projects by creating project plans, organizing project teams, assign individual tasks, and managing team progress.
  • Power BI – modern reporting tool that can help organizations transform complex data into interactive creative reports that can be shared across the business.

Features that are not as visible to the users but are business critical include features like security, compliance, administration, and integration with other services, etc. For example, eDiscovery in Gmail stores exports for litigation searches in the Google mbox format and need to be viewed in a text editor like Notepad or using Mozilla Thunderbird. If you wanted this export in a PST format or to open them in Outlook it would require a 3rd party tool. While on the other hand, Office 365’s limitations or constraints have been minimized based on industry standards for eDiscovery searches and exports. Another example is logging. For those organizations with a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system can use plugins, like LogRhythm, for Office 365 to capture user and admins event logs. G Suite logging is only available in the admin portal and is not as robust as Office 365. When the day comes, don’t draw straws to explain to the CISO or Legal that the logs they need do not exist because a feature is only half baked.

Both platforms are in a battle for the market. Microsoft is fighting to retain the top spot while Google is playing catchup and trying to find ways to sweeten the deal with things like unlimited mailboxes and Drive storage. However based on compatibility issues between Google’s Docs and Sheets with Microsoft’s Word and Excel, removing Office may not be an option. Microsoft Office is included with Office 365 for up to 5 PC’s per user account, which could be a winning deal for Office 365. If an organization feels that Google is the better option, reviewing the users that will need Office and the compatibility with those who do not have Office could be a deal breaker. It is steps like this that any organization needs to take and ask themselves, “What are the deal breakers?”. If Google is chosen for the mail platform, outside of the additional cost for Microsoft Office, things like contractual terms or government regulations will play a key role in the decision process.

Based on our experience in working with different industries using G Suite or Office 365 cloud platform, three key pain points common among all organizations are:

  • User Experience – Users find some functionalities of Office 365 difficult to use but like the fact that its integrated with Microsoft Office. While others like the simplicity of G Suite but still want to ability to use Office and Outlook.
  • Administration and management – IT Administrators find Office 365 to have a full set of tool like PowerShell, while G Suite is sometimes too simple and has limited administration management.
  • Hybrid integration – There is minimal limitation that come with a Microsoft product like Office 365 and hybrid infrastructure is recommended. Google on the other hand does not have an on premises solutions and per Gartner Google does not directly support a hybrid but Google APIs provide possibilities to integrate with some on premises solutions.

Change management is something that was not called out in the bullets above but should be an integral part of any company transformation. In a switch from G Suite to Office 365 or vice versa, user visibility and impact will be high throughout the entirety of a implementation and migration project. Things like stakeholder involvement, communication, timelines, and organization management are drivers for a successful implementation and migration.

Understanding that cost may be a deciding factor to tip the scale when choosing Office 365 vs G Suite. Organizations should do a cost modeling with different combinations of the features provided by the two cloud platforms. The model should incorporate details on what features should be applied to specific users and roles within the organization.

Difficulties arises when a decision was made to implement one platform over another and gaps in functionalities are identified driving organization to consider migrating away from the selected platform. As a firm, we have worked on multiple assessments, migration strategies, and performed design and content migrations away from existing G Suite implementations to Office 365. Our cloud advisory team has helped many organizations prevent many migration and change management mistakes as well as recover to build a strong foundation for a collaboration platform for the future. For further information regarding our Cloud Advisory Services or additional inquiries please contact Chuck Kirchner or Kaumil Dalal.

Part 2 of this blog we will address the approach and risks when migrating G Suite to Microsoft Office 365.

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