Updated: April 10, 2019
Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) and Microsoft Office 365 are the two most popular cloud-based suites of business productivity applications on the market. Among the best known applications within these suites are email, calendar, documents, spreadsheets, presentations and online storage.
Google and Microsoft continue to add their own flavors of additional components to their respective suites. For example, Google Workspace includes Forms, Drawings, My Maps and new Google Sites. Google Jamboard and Voice for Google Workspace (2019) are paid extras. Included extras at no additional charge are Google Chat and Google Meet.
Microsoft Office 365 plans variously include Sway, Yammer, Skype for Business, Office 365 Video and Microsoft Teams.
History & High Level Differences
The original Microsoft Office was launched in 1990. Google Workspace (formerly Google Apps for Business) was launched in 2007. The decision for many companies that were established before 2007 is whether to remain with Microsoft or switch to Google.
Perhaps the biggest difference between these two suites is that Office 365 is primarily marketed as a set of locally installed applications for PC and Mac. Office Online (cloud versions of applications) offered as available functionality. On the other hand, Google Workspace is a set of cloud applications, with an option for working on documents, spreadsheets and presentations while offline.
The Gmail component of Google Workspace is an online email application. For offline access, Google developed a native Chrome capability.
Gmail can also be accessed via locally installed email clients such as Outlook, eM Client (for Windows users), Kiwi for Gmail (for Mac users) and OS X’s Mail app. Microsoft Office 365’s primary email offering is locally installed Outlook. There is an option to use Outlook Web, which more and more users are taking advantage of.
According to Gartner, Microsoft is more popular in regulated industries. Google is more popular among companies with revenue of less than $50 million. However, enterprises are beginning to adopt Google Workspace.
Both Google Workspace and Microsoft Office For Some Users?
If an organization chooses Google Workspace, there may be certain users who, by habit or by necessity, want locally installed Microsoft Office components on their PC or Mac. One example is someone who wants to keep Outlook because it has been a part of their life for ten, fifteen or more years.
Another example is someone who uses Excel spreadsheets with complex macros or very large Excel spreadsheets that cannot be imported into a Google Sheets format or replicated in Google Sheets. For those users, there could be a supplemental subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal.
There are two ways to open other-than-highly-complex Excel spreadsheets in Google Drive without an Office license.
Microsoft Office 365 and Google Workspace Plans
Microsoft Office 365 Plans
There are three Office 365 plans:
- Office 365 Business Essentials
- Office 365 Business Premium
- Microsoft 365 Business
Office 365 Business Essentials is the “cloud only” offering of the three. Prices for Office 365 range from $5 per user per month to $20 per user per month.
Google Workspace Plans
There are four Google Workspace plans:
- Business Starter
- Business Standard
- Business Plus
The Business Starter plan is $6 per user per month. The Business Standard plan, which includes additional storage and administrative options, is $12 per user per month. Enterprise is quoted by Google sales.
Which is Best for Your Business?
We recommend taking an analytical approach to making the decision about Google Workspace vs Office 365. Some questions to ask yourself are:
What are the subscription costs of the two main options based on our needs?
How many of our employees grew up Google? How many employees grew up Microsoft? How many employees grew up both?
What percentage of our users have a business need or even just a force-of-habit need to have Office 365 applications installed on their PC or Mac?
What are the costs involved in supporting and maintaining desktop software and are these costs of significance?
Are we firmly committed to converting to the cloud, or do we want to ease into the cloud?
If we are firmly committed to the cloud, which solution has what we believe to be a functionally superior set of web and mobile applications — Google Workspace or Office 365?
Example Business Cases
Here are two example business cases and what direction each case might point an organization in.
- A 5 year old company
- Outsourced IT services
- 50 employees
- 40 employees grew up Google
- 5 of the employees who grew up Google require locally installed Microsoft Office 365 Business licenses
- 30 of the employees who grew up Google need nothing more than a Chromebook
- 10 employees grew up Microsoft
- 5 of the employees who grew up Microsoft require locally installed Microsoft Office applications
On the surface, this case points more toward going Google and subscribing to five Microsoft Office 365 Business licenses for the employees who want or need Microsoft Office.
- A 50 year old company
- 200 employees
- 4 Internal IT staff
- 150 employees grew up with Microsoft
- 100 of the employees who grew up Microsoft require locally installed Microsoft Office applications
- 50 employees grew up with Google
- 10 of the employees who grew up with Google require locally installed Microsoft Office applications
This case may point more toward staying Microsoft and getting the users who grew up Google to adapt to using Microsoft Office.
On the other hand, executive management or IT leadership may choose a direction that’s based on an entirely different set of factors.
A thorough analysis, which should include interviews with stakeholders and representative end users, will help you to determine the best long term direction for your business.
Peer to Peer Software Reviews
Reviewers on TrustRadius give Google Workspace a slight edge over Microsoft Office 365.
Gartner company Nubera shows peer to peer software reviews for Google Workspace vs Office 365 on its GetApp site. The site implies that data is also sourced from Gartner companies Software Advice and Capterra.
As of March 2019, Google Workspace had over 6,700 reviews and a 4.62 out of 5 rating from users. Here is the full list of Google Workspace reviews.
As of March 2019, Microsoft Office 365 had over 5,800 reviews and a 4.54 out of 5 rating from users. Here is the full list of Office 365 reviews.
MORE: Why businesses make the move from free Gmail to Google Workspace