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More organizations are having their employees work remotely (at least partially) and collaborate online than ever before, making cloud-based productivity tools a must-have to keep teams and information organized. The two leading services that offer the most comprehensive, feature-rich solutions at price points that are affordable for smaller and mid-sized organizations are Google Workspace and Microsoft 365.
Developed by two of the world’s largest tech companies, both products have top-of-the-line productivity software to help in running your operation, whether it’s just you, or a team with thousands of employees. The tools they offer, named Google Workspace (formerly called G Suite) and Microsoft 365 are both subscription services that provide a suite of productivity and communication solutions which allow you to collaborate and store files in “the cloud.”
Both tools provide features including:
- Business email
- Shared calendars
- Document, spreadsheet and presentation creation and sharing
- Video conferencing, messaging, calling
- Online file management and storage
- Security features
- Team collaboration tools
Likewise, Google and Microsoft have similar applications for most of the features.
|Communication & Conferencing
While both companies provide the same solutions, there are differences between their two products. Here we’ll compare Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 to help you decide which will be best for you.
Google Workspace (G Suite)
Google was born online. That means its products, unlike Microsoft, were created to work in the cloud. What’s more, with over 1.8 billion active users, chances are you and your colleagues are already familiar with the tools.
Google Workspace Pricing
Like most Google products, their pricing plans are straightforward. They include:
- Starter Plan: $6 per user per month
- Standard Plan: $12 per user per month
- Plus Plan: $18 per user per month
- Enterprise Plan: Customized pricing, quoted by a sales representative
Applications Provided by Google Workspace:
- Apps Script – rapid application development platform
- Calendar – time management and scheduling
- Chat – direct messages and team chat rooms
- Voice – calling
- Cloud Search – AI-powered search assistant
- Currents – internal communications tool
- Docs – word processor
- Drive – file storage
- Forms – survey software
- Gmail – email
- Keep – note-taking service
- Meet – video meetings
- Sheets – spreadsheet program
- Sites – web page-creation tool
- Slides – presentation program
- Vault – information governance
- E-Discovery – seek and find information
The key differences between the plans they offer are the amount of storage, Meet calls, Cloud Search, and AppSheets (for app development).
- Storage starts at 30 GB per user on the Starter plan, and increase to 2 TB, 5 TB and unlimited storage in the upgraded plans.
- Video calls include up to 100 participants on the Starter plan and 150 and 250 on other plans.
- All plans except Starter have access to smart Cloud Search functionality with extensive search options.
- Only those on the Enterprise plan receive access to Google’s no-code app creations AppSheet tool.
Many businesses are already using Microsoft products such as Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word, making it more difficult to get them to switch to an entirely new system. Retraining employees to use different tools, though the change may be slight, can be time-consuming and unproductive.
Microsoft pricing is less straightforward than Google’s offering. In addition to their three plans, they also have Enterprise plans for larger organizations, an App plan, which includes the apps but not desktop tools and an email-only plan (F3).
Microsoft 365 Pricing
- Basic Plan: $5 per user per month
- Standard Plan: $12.50 per user per month
- Premium Plan: $20 per user per month
- E3 Plan: $32 per user per month
- E5 Plan: $57 per user per month
- F3 Plan: $8 (for frontline workers)
- Apps: $8.25 per user per month
Both Google and Microsoft have special pricing for educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and U.S. government agencies.
Applications Provided By Microsoft 365:
- Outlook – email and calendar
- Word – word processor
- Excel – spreadsheets
- PowerPoint – presentations
- OneNote – note-taking collaboration
- Publisher (Windows PCs only) – desktop publishing
- Access – database management system
- SharePoint – online team sites
- One Drive – file storage
- Microsoft Teams – video calls, chat, groups, content and file sharing
- Lists – track information
- Forms – survey software
- Bookings – schedule and manage customer appointments
- Yammer – social networking within organizations
- MyAnalytics – productivity tracking data tool
- Skype for Business – instant messaging and video calls
- Power BI – interactive visualizations and business intelligence interface
All Microsoft 365 plans include either cloud-based features and the ability to download desktop apps on up to 15 devices per user.
The Basic, Standard and Premium Plans include 1 TB of storage, while F3 includes Office for Web and mobile apps only and 2 GB inbox storage. The E3 and E5 plans include unlimited OneDrive storage for subscriptions of five or more users.
The Microsoft 365 Apps package includes the desktop apps (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and cloud storage, but none of the other collaboration features.
How Google and Microsoft Compare
Both Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 have an extensive array of solutions. Let’s compare them across the most common uses for productivity tools.
Google is a cloud-based tool; however, they do have options for working offline.
If you use Google’s Chrome browser and enable file syncing, you’ll be able to access and edit Google docs, sheets and slides offline for later upload and syncing. You won’t have real-time collaboration, but it’s better than nothing. You can also enable offline mail for Gmail. Sent messages will hold in an outbox until you connect to the internet again.
With Microsoft 365, working offline is much more seamless with their desktop applications and OneDrive, which automatically syncs files, making it significantly better in this department.
Both providers include business email domain names, anti-malware protection, group aliases and spam filtering and protection.
The $5 per month Microsoft 365 Basic plan includes a 50 GB inbox and 1 TB file storage. Google’s Starter plan, by contrast, costs $6 per month and caps total storage, including email, at 30 GB.
The next level of plans equals out more at 2 TB, 5 TB and unlimited storage, respectively for Google, while Microsoft is capped at 1 TB of file storage and 50 GB for the inbox, unless you have an enterprise plan. However, their email archive system can save a lot of space, making 1 TB more reasonable.
So it seems that while both offer what should be sufficient email storage for typical users, Microsoft is more generous with their most basic plan while Google is more generous with its higher-end plans.
Communication and Collaboration
Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 offer a bevy of communication and collaboration tools. The hard part is deciding which apps are better suited for different tasks.
Both services allow concurrent document editing while online. With MS OneDrive, you can collaborate using the desktop apps, which can help with bandwidth issues. Instead of having multiple document versions, or tracked changes, collaborators can simply see who is editing in real time. This is more user friendly than Google’s document collaboration which takes place entirely in the cloud and can sometimes time out or lag, as with all cloud tools, while you are in the middle of using it.
Microsoft Teams offers a more immersive experience with all their communication tools easily accessible from 1 dashboard. However, if you are using the familiar Gmail inbox, launching any of the Google tools is 1 click away.
Lastly, at least from my expensive experience using both services, Google’s tools run more quickly, reliably and with better call quality than Microsoft.
So while they both have advantages, I’m going to vote in favor of Google on this one.
As mentioned above, the Microsoft 365 Basic plan includes 1 TB file storage while Google’s Starter plan gives just 30 GB, including email. If you are someone that stores images and videos on this account, the space Google offers on its lowest plan is nearly untenable. They do allow you to upgrade your storage space to 100 GB for $19.99 per year, which is a viable option if you don’t need any of the features they offer in their more expensive plans, but do need more storage.
That being said, while I am not someone that stores images, video and audio files, I am a very heavy email user, and not one of those “inbox zero” guys either. This is where I am 7 years into my Google inbox usage. So I personally don’t consider the Starter plan offered by Google Workspace to be limiting.
Upgrading to the Standard plan for double the price offers 2 TB of storage in addition to a lot of other great features. So that’s also a possible solution.
As for Microsoft, for users storing many images and videos, 1 TB may not be enough long term. However, if your storage needs are mostly just documents, 1 TB should be sufficient and work well for the vast majority of use cases.
The good thing with either of these products is that you can start a lower plan and upgrade later without losing any information.
From a storage perspective, both companies offer plans to meet your needs, it’s just a matter of choosing the right package. So I’ll call this one a draw.
Both Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 provide video conferencing functionality via Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, respectively.
Microsoft 365 allows 300 participants to call in and up to 10,000 users for live events through the Teams app. Google Meet, by contrast, only allows 100 on the Starter plan, 150 on Standard and 250 on the Plus plan.
Here, Microsoft has more to offer as their conferencing solution is simply on a larger scale, though I find call quality to be better with Google. So we’ll give Microsoft a narrow advantage on this one.
In Conclusion, it’s Complicated
Which provider you’ll choose depends on the programs you prefer and are familiar with, the type of files you’re most likely to store, and the number of users you need to collaborate with.
If you aren’t familiar with the products from either service, Google Workspace is the easier provider to learn with their simple interface and pared-down tools. But their simple tools may not offer all the features you want or need.
If collaborating on complicated spreadsheets, documents and presentations with other team members, Microsoft is a clear choice. Their desktop applications are better all around. If you work on complicated files independently, my recommendation is to purchase an MS Office software license to use on your desktop along with a Google Workspace Starter plan, then upgrade that plan if, and when it’s needed.
Google Workspace Vs. Microsoft 365 Comparison Chart
|Starter Plan Storage – Emails/Files
|30 GB Total
|50 GB/ 1 TB
|Productivity Apps (docs, spreadsheets, presentations)
|Google Docs, Sheets, Slides
|Word, Excel, PowerPoint
|Team Communication Tools
|Google Meet, Chat, Voice
|Upgraded Storage Cost
|5 TB $18 monthly
|Unlimited $32 monthly
Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with either product. Both require learning curves to understand the functionality of cloud sharing and collaborating. They each offer a variety of solutions to tackle any job, task, or project. With either one, you’ll be able to collaborate and store files in the cloud, making teamwork easier and more seamless.