The increasing popularity of cloud computing has brought with it countless benefits for small business owners. Among the largest is the rise of productivity solutions that allow you to share documents and spreadsheets, while improving your email efforts and maximizing your storage capabilities without having to worry about an on-premise solution.
But within this cloud productivity market, you have a number of options that can easily seem confusing. Microsoft’s Office 365, for example, has engaged in a fight for supremacy in the space with Google Apps, a similar solution that claims to offer many of the same capabilities. Which works better for your small business? The below evaluation can help you answer that question, using 6 distinct variables.
1. Range of Features
Naturally, the first variable to consider should be the actual programs that are part of each suite. Both alternatives offer a relatively similar range of products, from word processing to presentations and cloud storage.
Office 365, however, does come with a couple of additions to which Google has no alternative. More specifically small businesses can take advantage of Publisher as a solution to design print materials, in addition to the basic (and well-known) Access database. Both can easily help you improve the way you run your small business, giving Office a crucial advantage in this area.
2. Email Capability
In this feature, it’s Outlook vs. Gmail for business. You’re probably familiar with both, so the adjustments are not major in either case. Which works better for your business depends entirely on your comfort level and needs.
Ultimately, both are relatively similar products. Outlook does have a more easily integrated calendar feature compared to Google, which can help you better manage your business time and scheduling coordination. In addition, Gmail’s offline access is limited to the past month, while Outlook offers unlimited offline access to retrieve old messages and work on new ones.
3. Storage Possibilities
Both Office 365 and Google Drive offer cloud storage solutions that allow you to keep all of your documents and file easily accessible for everyone in your business. Which works better for a small business like yours? Again, much of that answer comes down to preferences.
CNet has created a great comparison of the most popular cloud storage solutions available for small businesses. OneDrive, Microsoft’s product, integrates seamlessly with email and is compatible with most mobile and desktop operating systems. If your business runs on Windows PCs, it will typically be your best choice.
4. Collaboration Opportunities
Ultimately, one of the biggest advantage of any comprehensive cloud productivity suite is its ability to allow your business to collaborate on different projects and edit multiple files at the same time. So naturally, the individual alternatives’ options should be a crucial point of consideration in choosing between Office 365 and Google Apps.
Shared spreadsheets, for example, need to be editable by more than one user at the same time. Just as importantly, users should be able to track changes by their peers, add and respond to comments, and more. Office 365 offers all of those capabilities. In addition, the individual programs come with a live chat option that allows you to connect and discuss with your project team members and co-workers in real time while working on an individual document.
Cost matters. Small businesses tend to run on a tight budget, which can make it difficult to choose a software solution that does not prevent you from getting the capabilities you need to successfully run and grow your business.
Fortunately, Office 365 offers a variety of pricing plans that are affordable. For as little as $5 per month per user, you can take advantage of the Business Essentials plan, giving you most of the above-discussed functionality. Google Apps for Business used to be free, but now cost the same, taking away a formerly crucial advantage over Microsoft’s product.
Finally, it’s important to find a software solution that grows with your business as it expands. The business essentials plan may make sense now, but what if you continue to add users and start to need more storage or features? In that case, flexibility is key. The more individual plans the suite offers, the easier it becomes to make adjustments as necessary.
With Google Apps, that flexibility is almost nonexistent. The business plan is standard, with little room for deviation. Compare that with Office 365, which has a number of upgrade possibilities that are important to consider for the future. Should you need to expand your capabilities, these options are easily available for your business.
7. Ease of Transition
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of a quick transition to the new system once it’s implemented. Chances are that your small business cannot afford to spend time and money on learning an entirely new system while they accomplish their day-to-day tasks and continue to help your business succeed.
This final point is perhaps the biggest advantage Office 365 can offer. The suite is built on programs that most of your employees (and yourself) are already familiar with. Everyone knows the capabilities and features of programs like Word and Excel, and these features are identical in the cloud solution. Meanwhile, the same is not always true for Google’s alternative.
Of course, transition also matters in how easy it is for your business to install and get started with Office 365. That’s where finding a reliable partner who can help your business transition smoothly to the new software becomes crucial. To take advantage of the many benefits that Office 365 provides for your business, contact us. We’d love to help you transition to the new system and maximize your success on the platform.