Photo: davidAigner via flickr
Disclosure: Cloud Sherpas is a Google Apps reseller
Microsoft Office 365 is a valiant attempt by the Redmond-based software giant to transition its office productivity suite to the cloud. Of course, Microsoft has been the dominant desktop software vendor for many years, but the cloud is uncharted territory for the vendor — and Google Apps has emerged a formidable threat to Microsoft’s stranglehold on the email and collaboration market.
At Cloud Sherpas, we’re well familiar with Google Apps, having migrated over one million workers to Google the past three years. And while our clients strongly favour Google Apps, every organisation has different wants and needs. We think the majority of businesses will ultimately choose Google Apps, but to help enterprise IT make an informed decision, we’ve identified 10 reasons why we believe Google is the superior approach:
1. Price: The least expensive option in Office 365 is $6/user/month, and this baseline subscription is only available to businesses fewer than 50 people. Furthermore, this subscription at $6/user/mo. does not include many platform essentials such as Office Web apps, which are required to take advantage of anywhere-access cloud capabilities within the suite. Though Office 365 does tout their cost-effective $6/user/month base plan, what they don’t say is that this plan is only available to a select number of people who will eventually find they need to pony up more cash to be able to use the suite in the way it was intended.
Once prospective users get past the initial $6/user/month pitch, they’ll see that Office 365 offers four main pricing plans with options for add-ons. The plans and add-ons can be mixed and matched, resulting in dozens of plan options that can become unmanageable and, quite frankly, confusing.
Google Apps offers a straight-forward pricing scheme: $50/user/year. With this $50, users receive everything they need to be able to effectively and efficiently operate within the Google platform. Google Apps does not require any desktop software (unlike Office 365) or add-ons to function effectively and efficiently. When users purchase Google Apps, they know they’re receiving everything they need, and will not need to upgrade or purchase pricey add-ons in the future.
2. Extensibility: Because Office 365 is built on top of a legacy client-server technology, third-party or internal applications cannot be securely integrated. This proprietary attitude will hurt Office 365, as Microsoft must be trusted to create all applications that users need. Most organisations realise that email is the lifeblood of how office knowledge works, and there are strong needs to programmatically integrate this content with other systems within the organisation.
Conversely, Google’s commitment to standards-based protocols, open data formats, and world-class security allows the Google Apps Marketplace to provide hundreds of integrated applications that can be instantly provisioned to your domain. Google Apps administrators can browse the Marketplace to find exactly what their domain needs, be it CRM, social collaboration or enhanced management tools such as Sherpa Tools, the #1 ranked admin tool in the Google Apps Marketplace.
3. Security: Office 365 is a hybrid cloud. Information is stored in data centres and on local
Google Apps offers a true cloud model, and with this model comes the inherent security of the cloud. Google’s multi-layered security strategy keeps information safe at each stage of data storage, access and transfer. Data will never be lost because a user’s hard drive crashed, a computer was stolen or on site data was compromised by fire or floods. Keeping your data in the cloud means keeping your data safe— 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
4. Mobility: Office 365 was designed to work primarily with Windows desktops. As a result, its integration with other devices including iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys is poor. The so-called “cloud” solution lacks easy-to-use browser-based interfaces and is all together inaccessible from tablets. Office 365 requires plug-ins and software that make it virtually impossible to create a unified user experience across multiple platforms.
Google Apps has only one requirement: a modern browser. Whether you’re on your home laptop, work computer, cell phone or even tablet, the Google Apps user experience remains consistent. Google Apps is accessible from almost any device including iPhones, BlackBerrys, tablets and, of course, Android devices.
5. Reliability: Because Office 365 is Microsoft’s first “cloud” venture, the reliability of the platform is still unknown. Furthermore, Microsoft does not make their uptime statistics available to the public and does not factor planned maintenance and outages into their promised 99.9% uptime statistic.
Google does include planned maintenance and outages into their 99.9% uptime promise and makes statistics public through the App Status Dashboard, which details all outages lasting more than 10 minutes.
Furthermore, Google recently announced on the Official Google Enterprise Blog that uptime in 2010 was 99.984%, which is less than seven minutes per week. This number contrasts greatly with Microsoft, as Exchange users experienced more than 300 minutes of downtime in 2010. Google’s transparency and proven reliability keep 3 million businesses happy on Google Apps.You can view Cloud Sherpas’ uptime here.
6. Collaboration: Office 365 was built on a retrofitted platform (Office 2010) in which collaboration was an afterthought. This lack of collaboration integration is certainly apparent in Office 365’s functionality within both the Excel Web App and Word, as the collaboration experience is disjointed and lacks real-time updates.
Google Apps was built from the start with collaboration in mind, as the multi-tenant platform allows for real-time collaboration across all applications— integrated from the very beginning. While Office 365 collaboration tools come as add-ons or in pricier plans, all collaboration abilities are included in Google Apps’ flat annual $50/user pricing plan.
7. Maintenance: Because Office 365 is constructed on the legacy platform of Office 2010 and continues to store data and software on the desktop, Office 365 requires software upgrades, patching and unknown hours of wait time for end-users while maintenance is completed.
Google Apps is a true cloud solution without any software for end-users or administrators to maintain. Because all data is stored in the cloud and all upgrades come through the cloud, there is nothing to maintain, patch or upgrade— ever.
8. Sociability: Office 365 is based on the Office 2010 platform, which was developed long before social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter took hold. It therefore comes as no surprise to us that Office 365 offers little in the way of expected social interaction such as video for all users regardless of pricing plan. Furthermore, since Office 365 suffers from the legacy client-server architecture as previously mentioned, the ability to integrate web-scale social services will continue to be highly limited.
Google knows that sociability is the foundation of collaboration. Innovative features, such as integrated chat and commenting in docs, bring familiar tagging and online social interactions to the Google Apps suite. Google has exhibited proven success in the social arena, as creative, social and media apps such as Picasa and Blogger work flawlessly within the Google Apps system to bring social enhancement to professional collaboration.
Recently, Google has begun to roll out its social networking tool, Google+, and is committed to integrating this social system into the Google Apps stack. Google+ aims to change the way people– and businesses– interact on the web. Integrating this social platform with functions like mail, calendar and docs will allow businesses to connect with their user-base in an entirely new way. Read more about Google+ on the Google Blog and Tech Republic.
9. Innovation: Because Office 365 is built on the framework of Office 2010 (on Windows servers), meaning that Microsoft will need to update its entire platform every time a new feature is added, it is unlikely that Microsoft’s “cloud” endeavour will be updated any more frequently than the traditional Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft released zero new features in 2010.
Google runs their platform on a proprietary operating system that allows for incredible flexibility. New features are often available to Google’s entire user base within 24 hours of release without downtime or maintenance. Google Apps released 218 new features in 2010.
10. Value: All in all, Google Apps offers incredible value. For $50/user/year, businesses receive an exceptional suite of tools without having to maintain, patch or upgrade. Google Apps offers a true cloud solution while Office 365 only mimics it.