Google Docs versus Office 365
The era of cloud computing has begun. Two of the largest players, Microsoft and Google, have service platforms that offer the ability to move away from office-oriented servers and place storage and collaboration online. With documents, emails and other communications online, users can access and share their business information from PCs, Laptops, tablets and smartphones. The efficiency of that type of access is unquestionable in the digital age, but saving costs and fewer IT headaches can also be much-appreciated bonuses. There are also communication services like instant messaging, PC-to-PC phone calls and other communication tools available. Google Docs and Microsoft’s Office 365 both provide options for storing some or all of your individual or business needs on an online productivity suite, but which is the more appropriate for your needs — Google, the golden child of the internet age, or the stalwart Microsoft that remains the most popular software for business use? The answer lies in which specific features and tools are essential to a specific company or independent professional.
Both Google Docs and Office 365 are web-based platforms, requiring internet access for functionality. Unsurprisingly, reviewers have reported that each works best with its own browser, Chrome and Internet Explorer respectively. Each offers real-time collaborative, web-based word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents creation and storage. Each suite allows access to contacts via email, calendars, instant messages, and phone, which provides the ability to set up meetings, schedule appointments and share contacts. Both companies have made mobile phone accessibility a part of the planning, which is excellent news for those on-the-go professionals. Each company has a track record of rolling out improvements in response to the market, so users can expect popular functions to be integrated into each platform as time goes by.
The differences between the two productivity suites comes in the depth of the features, the level of connectivity and the costs of associated with each version.
- Document Features: One significant difference between the two services comes in the integrity of the formatting in documents that Microsoft provides. Google Docs have been available since 2006 but they still do not always maintain the specific formatting of individual documents from user to user, or when moving from your desktop to the online version. Colors change, fonts shift and other small errors of this sort continue to be reported by users. Information stays intact, but the look of documents can change from user to user. Conversely, Microsoft has seemingly solved the issue of document integrity. Although Google Docs are very similar to the familiar Microsoft Office suite, there is also an advantage to the widespread use of Word, Excel and PowerPoint in terms of learning curve. Generally, speaking folks who have worked in an office are already aware of the style and interfaces of the Microsoft offerings. Last but not least, Google Docs can only be worked on while online, whereas the Microsoft programs can be moved back and forth between online and desktop versions as long as the user has an installed version of the program on their computer.
- Collaboration: Google makes collaboration with others a quick and easy process. Users can chat and phone directly from any Google account. Google also makes the creation of groups an on-the-fly process for sharing or editing documents together, and doesn’t require lengthy set-up. On the other hand, sharing with Microsoft requires a Team Site, a lengthier process. Granted, not everyone has a Gmail account, but even that process is quick, easy and free. Also, reviewers have reported better mobile accessibility on the variety of Apple, Android, Blackberry and other mobile devices. Microsoft still works on those platforms, but has received its highest marks for the Windows mobile access which has a relatively low percentage of the mobile market. Yet, Microsoft enables better collaboration of a different sort. Lync enables multiparty online meetings, whiteboard sharing and videoconferencing. Those types of connections are not part of Google Docs, but with the widening use of Google Plus (not yet integrated with Docs), they may be in the very near future.
- Cost: Google Docs is free to any person with a Gmail account. Businesses can use the Apps at a monthly cost of $5 per user, or an annual subscription of $50 per user. Microsoft’s costs are higher, starting at a $6 monthly fee per user for organizations of 25 or less. The enterprise version which includes live tech support and the Office Professional suite can run as high as $24 per month for each user. Both companies guarantee 99.9% uptime with offers of fee credits for downtimes, but Google includes standard system maintenance in their percentage, whereas Microsoft does not. Both companies have many server locations to prevent long outages, but sometimes in business an hour can make all the difference in the world.
Cloud computing is certainly a promising business tool for all types of businesses, from the solo freelancer to the small family company to large-scale enterprises. The important factors to consider are the type of collaboration your company needs to get the work done. If it is only information and relatively small library of documents that need sharing, then Google can provide a low or no cost option. Alternatively, if full-fledged collaboration with professionally realized documents is in order, then the Microsoft costs are worth the investment. In any case, every productive professional should start exploring and testing the cloud computing options and test its potential for getting the job done.