Regardless of what your business does or what industry it is in, some part of your workforce needs productivity tools to get things done. Historically these have always been bundled software tools and referred to as an office suite. The office suite has evolved over the years and these days are deemed productivity and collaboration tools.
This change is even represented in changes in the naming conventions for the top 2 providers, Microsoft and Google. In the last few years, Microsoft’s “Office 365” product has been rebranded as “Microsoft 365.” Similarly, Google changed its product name from “G Suite” to “Google Workspace.”
Today, both offer a vast collection of cloud-based tools that are focused on productivity and collaboration. Both ecosystems are powerful in their own right, and boast making your business more productive and profitable. Yet they both function completely differently.
If you’re choosing a toolset for your business, which one should you choose?
Here we will face the two giants head-to-head, so you can see which is the right solution for you.
The M365 and Google Workspace showdown will be rated across six categories:
- Cybersecurity & Support
- Productivity & Collaboration
- Cloud Storage
- Ease of Use
The basics of Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace
Before we delve deep into the details, let’s summarize both products so you are familiar with them.
Microsoft 365 is the current product suite that developed out of the Office 365 and Office app system familiar to most office spaces. It includes all the long-running office apps such as Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, OneDrive, and Exchange. There are a host of additional apps added, the big names being Teams and SharePoint.
Google Workspace developed out of the G Suite system, the cloud-based rival to Microsoft’s Office. It contains similar apps; Docs, Sheets, Slides, Keep, Drive, and Calendar. Rivaling Teams and SharePoint, Google added Meet and Sites respectively.
At first glance, both product lines have all the same types of apps so are relatively equal. That is generally true, but the approaches by both companies make for some fundamental differences. Overall you’ll find Google’s apps very light and streamlined, while Microsoft’s are heavier and busier, but with greater functionality.
The biggest difference is that Google’s product was built from the cloud, and intended for the cloud. Everything is saved to the cloud. Overall there is no desktop application or offline use. That isn’t 100% technically true, as the administrator can set offline access for some apps, but they are still only available through your browser and possibly limited in nature (email is limited to 30 days, for example).
Over the past 5 years, Microsoft has upped its cloud game with web versions of all of its major tools. From a critiquing standpoint, those web releases didn’t launch strongly. However, that isn’t the case today, where there is very little difference between using the workstation app version compared to the web app version. They built out their infrastructure well, allowing their cloud environment to mature into a robust suite of apps, available to work on any device, with very strong administrative options such as conditional access and share permissions.
While Google initially seemed to have an advantage by using collaboration in the cloud as their strength, Microsoft has adjusted in turn to have a sophisticated cloud environment but also with the power of strong desktop apps. Microsoft definitely has the powerhouse advantage here.
Cybersecurity & Support
Cybersecurity is a major concern in this day and age. Every app (and its access) should be secure at all times. Thankfully, both Microsoft and Google are two of the “big tech” companies and do not slouch when it comes to security.
Both Microsoft and Google provide:
- Enterprise-Grade Encryption
- Cloud Security
- Data Loss Prevention
- Two Factor Authentication (2FA)
- Spam and Malware Prevention
- 99.9% Uptime
This is a great list of security features, but there are some variances to point out.
Microsoft 365 offers 24-hour support for all plans. They also support multi-factor authentication (MFA) not just two-factor (2FA).
Every M365 account comes with basic cloud security, but they also offer higher-grade security for a higher priced Business Premium tier. Their premium security includes Microsoft Defender for Business, Advanced Security, and Cyberthreat protection.
Google provides standard support for all accounts, but none of them are 24/7. If you want enhanced support then you must upgrade at an additional cost.
Just like Microsoft, Google offers a tiered security package. Business Starter or Standard users receive their standard security and their Business Plus tier. The premium security includes Enhanced Security, Vault, and Advanced Endpoint Management.
Productivity & Collaboration
Both M365 and G Workspace are chock full of productivity tools, and they only get more advanced and fleshed out as time goes on. It really seems to be a prime example of how competition fuels innovation. One company will release a product or feature, only to have the other release a similar one in their suite shortly thereafter.
Both product suites allow for live co-editing of documents across the major “office” apps; word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation. Google started this trend, and their technology is simpler – making it very stable. M365 is a bit trickier to configure, but if your network environments are properly set up there won’t be any noticeable differences in usage.
The main apps of M365 are available across desktop, mobile, and web. Some of the less mainstream apps don’t have availability on all 3 platforms, but they typically are available on the platform that makes the most sense.
There are also alternatives to working with these apps by linking/embedding them in others. For instance, Planner is a light project management tool. It’s only available as a web or mobile app. There is no desktop instance. However, you can embed Planner in Teams so you can access all the projects from there.
On that note, this brings up the app ecosystem of M365. This is one of the great strengths of M365, the ability of the apps to work together (or separately) as needed. It has a wide range of access, allowing users to switch between apps seamlessly. A file can be shared within Teams, which can then be opened in Word, and then emailed in Outlook. There is no complexity to that workflow. It’s very fluid and natural. If you attempt that within a browser-based ecosystem, it tends to feel clunky.
As far as collaboration is concerned, Microsoft’s two-pillar approach is built upon Teams and Outlook. Teams is appropriately named as it brings your entire team (and multiple teams) into one place. It has the power of direct messaging, clearly influenced by Slack, with the ability to factor in calendars, meetings, and phone calls. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. As I mentioned, you can incorporate other M365 apps (and even 3rd party apps) into it, allowing you to group your tasks, projects, meetings, calendar, notes, and forms into a single point of access.
Likewise, Outlook has been the business standard in email applications for decades. But besides just handling your email, calendar, and contacts – Outlook integrates with the M365 apps naturally. Pulling in the To-Do app and giving the ability to share emails to Teams or OneNote naturally keeps your data within one ecosystem.
Google’s apps either run through your browser or in a mobile app. Based on this infrastructure, they are very streamlined and lightweight. This is slick and fast, as long as you are working on one document at a time. If you have a few apps in separate browser tabs then it tends to feel a little clunky. To be fair, multitasking multiple documents always tends to start feeling clunky at some point but the experience is definitely different compared to having multiple M365 apps open on your desktop.
As far as communications, Gmail performs very well. The interface options are fully browser-based or a mobile app. There is no option for a dedicated desktop app. For some that is fine, but from what we’ve seen, most businesses don’t want that user experience. We’ve had many instances of users accessing their Gmail inside of Outlook. Yes, they pay for both licenses for that ability.
Meet functions decently for videoconferencing. However, Meet is lacking in functionality compared to its competitor Teams. Teams is a far more robust tool, there really isn’t any comparison.
Cloud storage is included for all users in both app suites, albeit in different capacities. Most importantly though, both offer cloud redundancy – meaning that not only are your files automatically synced to the cloud, but there is another copy in the event of a server failure on their end.
The Microsoft cloud storage is called OneDrive. Every business plan includes 1TB (1,000 GB) of storage per user. OneDrive will sync files across all devices so they are accessible on all computers, mobile devices, and browser interfaces.
For added collaboration, you can use SharePoint. For simplicities sake, you can think of personal cloud storage as OneDrive and team cloud storage as SharePoint. While you can share files and folders within OneDrive, for business collaboration SharePoint has better functionality for designating teams and projects.
To be clear on some details, M365 Business licenses grant users 1TB of OneDrive storage for files, and a separate email storage of 50GB. This is an important distinction when comparing it to Google.
Google offers its cloud storage called Drive on in a tiered structure. Business Starter grants 30GB of storage, while the Business Standard and Business Plus tiers have 2TB and 5TB respectively. If you wish to have what they call shared drives (i.e. shared folders) or target audience (i.e. teams/groups to share with) then you need to have either the Standard or Plus tier.
Google Drive storage includes all data stored under your account. This not only included your files in Drive, but also all pictures from the Photos app, mail and attachments from Gmail, and any other data from other apps. There is no separate email mailbox storage as there is with Microsoft.
Ease of Use
This category gets interesting. Ease of use is really where productivity can soar (or fall flat). Both Microsoft and Google have created suites of apps that perform well – but the experience between the two is radically different. Neither one is clearly better nor worse, they are just different.
Because Microsoft apps offer more features, there is a lot of complexity to their interface. If you are being thrown in the deep end, so to speak, it might be a little overwhelming to learn how everything functions in their apps. The flip side to this coin though, is that Microsoft Office has been the de facto office suite for decades. Most of the workforce has been exposed to their apps, along with changes, over the years. Even the younger workforce has been exposed to their apps in school. I’m sure they exist out there, but I have never met a person that has never used a Microsoft app before. I don’t think this will likely be an issue.
That’s not to defend Microsoft completely. They don’t excel at everything. Namely, in their simultaneous collaboration (where multiple people edit a document at the same time) their usability can stand for improvement. Yes, it functions fine, but it doesn’t feel as smooth or easy as it should be. Essentially, you can feel that their apps are well-developed, but the collaboration features were added later so aren’t quite as mature.
Where the usability excels is in the file structure. File types stored in file folders are easy to navigate and easily understood. It’s an old concept, but it executes well across local and cloud networks without issue.
Workspace apps are extremely streamlined. They are easy to learn and easy to use. The collaborative aspects are excellent, as it was built around this concept. Most of the time, it just works without issue. This is where their apps shine the brightest, and rightfully so.
The apps are lightweight though. Many features are hard to find, and others are missing completely. This tends to be a real shock for anybody already familiar with M365. Some missing features have workarounds (e.g. the Google Apps Script add-on grants Macro and VBA type functionality to Sheets whereas it is a built-in feature in Excel) so there may be solutions out there, but we are talking about ease of use here so that just adds complexity that isn’t needed.
I think one big shortcoming is in Google’s file structure. It is challenging and confusing for the average user to understand how and where files are organized with Workspace.
Google seems to have a certain workflow designed, and if that fits with how you work then it is a fantastic set of products and easy to use. If you don’t naturally have that workflow, or are a power user that demands more features, the experience is constantly frustrating and nothing close to easy.
Picking the right tools for your team is important, but one of those critical tools is the ability to manage your employees. Administrative control is another area where both product suites have it but take disparate approaches to it.
The history of Microsoft has been built around building software for business. It may be their productivity apps or it could be their operating system, file structures, disk drive format, or any number of things they have done in the past 40 years. That being said, they have a vast history of building administration into their products. M365 does not break that tradition.
M365 administrators can customize to meet the needs of their business. They can establish password policies, configure access control, create roles, and much more. That’s just with Business Standard. With Business Premium, additional abilities are available, such as remotely wiping lost/stolen devices, automatically deploying apps to employees, and managing policies and information rights.
The entire administrative system is quite robust, offering great control and security over company data and its access.
Google Workspace, just like everything else it does, offers a simple and streamlined experience. There really isn’t much to be said about administration when there isn’t much there. Mind you, with the majority of their apps being browser-based and never installed, they can get away with having less on the admin side of things. But the lack of control is a glaring difference when compared to the competition.
That doesn’t mean there are literally no controls though. File sharing permissions can be set on a team level, specific apps can be disabled from use, you can include custom templates across your team, and the entire workspace environment can be customized to display your company logo.
Hopefully you read through the entire comparison and didn’t just scroll to price directly. If you did, I get it – none of it matters if the price isn’t right (but you should go back and read every section).
As of this writing, the pricing for both is as follows:
Microsoft is always changing its plans, not just in pricing but in how they are executed. The pricing here reflects an annual subscription with auto-renew turned on.
- Microsoft 365 Business Basic: $6 per user per month
- Microsoft 365 Business Standard: $12.50 per user per month
- Microsoft 365 Business Premium: $22.50 per user per month
Business Basic is not suitable for most businesses. It includes only web and mobile apps, with no desktop apps available. There is also an “Apps for Business” tier that I didn’t list, which includes desktop apps only, but doesn’t include email hosting or support custom domains.
There are also Enterprise grade tiers at higher prices with more robust features, but I won’t get into those here.
In broad strokes, most businesses will want to choose between Business Standard and Business Premium depending on how their data usage and threat protection needs. Some access control features are in Premium as well.
Deciding on the right license is confusing, which is why when we manage our clients we take on that aspect of the administration as well, ensuring the right license is applied to the right employee every time.
Thankfully, Google has a simpler price structure. It is as follows:
- Business Starter: $6 per user per month
- Business Standard: $12 per user per month
- Business Plus: $18 per user per month
All Enterprise plans are custom quoted.
All Google Workspace plans allow a custom domain and access to all the Workspace apps. There are some differences in security and management controls in the Plus tier, but the main differences come down to cloud storage and video conferencing.
The deciding factor usually comes down to the amount of cloud storage needed and the number of participants in a meeting.
Comparing the two product suites, the tiers match close enough to be considered apples to apples. Clearly they compete enough to have similar tiers.
Google Workspace Business Starter is a great bargain, but for the same price, Microsoft 365 Business Basic gets you far more cloud storage (1TB vs 30GB) and far more participants in meetings (300 vs 100). The only drawback to M365 Business Basic is that it is only web and mobile based (with no desktop) – but that is exactly what Google Workspace is on every tier.
As far as the mid and top tiers are concerned, Microsoft 365 is slightly more in both categories but only mildly so. The M365 suite comes with so much more than the Google Workspace suite, that for virtually the same price it’s hard to recommend Google Workspace as the better option for either.
Final Summary & Our Recommendation
I admit it, we are a little biased. As a Managed Service Provider (MSP) our entire business revolves around managing technology for our clients. Microsoft’s administrative controls are so robust, it makes it possible to configure M365 to work with our customer’s business. Remember, if your technology isn’t working for you, it’s working against you.
Administration (and bias) aside, the M365 suite is just far more powerful across the board. You get more tools, more options, more features….just more. It outshines Google Workspace in nearly every important category. In the few items that Google Workspace performs better, M365 is still competitive.
In addition, when you pair a robust productivity suite like Microsoft 365 with a top-tier IT service provider like Xentric, we help you navigate the entire process and configure your suite to truly make your business more productive.
This is a lot to digest, so if you have any questions or need any assistance with managing your productivity suite, feel free to reach out at any time.