Office 365 vs G Suite (or, as it used to be known, Google Apps)…which is better? This is a question that many businesses, particularly startups, have trouble answering.

In this post I’m going to try to help you decide which is best for your business, by putting the two product suites head to head in a detailed comparison review.

Read on to see how G Suite and Office 365 fare against each other in the key areas of pricing, features and ease-of use. We’ll explore all the pros and cons of each product in depth and explain why, and when, you might want to use one over the other.

If you find the review helpful, I’d be really grateful if you could share it or leave a comment.

Right, so what do Office and G Suite actually do?

 


 

What do Office 365 and G Suite do?

Office 365 vs G Suite are a suite of productivity tools that let you perform common business tasks ‘in the cloud’. Office 365 also provides a comprehensive range of desktop applications.

Both Office 365 and G Suite allow you to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations and collaborate with team members whilst doing so; they also provide video conferencing functionality and cloud storage.

(As an aside, both these productivity suites have undergone name changes in recent years. Up until recently, G Suite was called Google Apps for Work, and many of its users still refer to it simply as as Google Apps. With regard to Microsoft’s offering, before it evolved to offer cloud-based apps and became known as Office 365, people used to refer to it as ‘Microsoft Office’).

 


 

Pricing – how do G Suite and Office 365 compare?

G Suite

Choosing a G Suite plan is relatively straightforward, as there are only three plans available:

  • Basic: $5 per user per month
  • Business: $10 per user per month
  • Enterprise: $25 per user per month

On the ‘Basic’ $5 plan, you get

  • Business email addresses (yourname@yourcompany.com)
  • Video and voice calls (via Google Hangouts)
  • Secure instant messaging via Hangouts Chat
  • Shared online calendars
  • Online documents, spreadsheets and presentations
  • 30 GB of online storage for file syncing and sharing
  • Google sites (a tool for building simple websites or intranets)
  • Security and admin controls
  • 24/7 phone, email and chat support.

On the ‘Business’ $10 plan, in addition to the above you get

  • Unlimited file storage (or 1 TB if your organisation has less than 5 users)
  • ‘Low code’ tools for developing bespoke apps for your business
  • Advanced search functionality using Google’s new Cloud Search technology (this functionality makes it easier to locate files within G Suite and also provides a Google Now-style experience which makes suggestions regarding what your team need to do next)
  • Audit and reporting insights for Drive content and sharing
  • eDiscovery covering emails, chats, docs and files
  • Email archives / message-retention policies

On the ‘Enterprise’ $25 plan, you get all the features of the ‘Basic’ and ‘Business’ plans plus

  • data loss prevention for files and email
  • integration with third-party archiving tools
  • S/MIME for Gmail (improved encryption for emails)
  • advanced admin controls and security
  • additional reporting on the security of your G Suite deployment
  • additional reporting on email usage via analytics tool BigQuery

Unlike the free version of G Suite, none of the above plans involve display of advertising content while you work.

For many users, the most significant difference between these plans will involve file storage. With the G Suite ‘Basic’ plan, users are restricted to 30GB of file storage; but – as long as there are 5 or more G Suite users in your organisation – there are no limits on the ‘Business’ plan (if you have a ‘Business’ plan but have less than 5 users on it, file storage is restricted to 1TB per user).

It’s important to note that Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Drawings – i.e. documents created using Google’s set of apps rather than third party applications – don’t count toward your G Suite file storage limit. Nor do files shared with you by other Google Drive users.

Power users and big organisations are likely to find the e-Discovery features that the ‘Business’ and ‘Enterprise’ plans come with handy – these lets you archive all communications in your organisation according to rules you define. This may be useful if for legal reasons you need to store an extensive communications history and dig up old emails sent to or from your team.

I suspect that prospective G Suite users will be a little alarmed to see that data loss tools are only included with the most expensive Enterprise plans. If you want to back up a ‘Basic’ or ‘Business’ G Suite plan, you’ll need to invest in a third party tool such as Backupify.

Microsoft Office 365 pricing

The pricing options for Office 365 are more complicated, because there are home, business, enterprise and education versions available — and within that, a whole load of sub-versions.

There are two ways to look at this plethora of pricing options: on the plus side, there’s a lot of flexibility, but on the down side, it’s rather confusing trawling through all the plans to work out which one is best suited to your requirements.

For the purposes of this review, I’m going to focus on the ‘Business’ and ‘Enterprise’ plans, which are:

  • Business Essentials – $6 per user per month *
  • Business – $10 per user per month *
  • Business Premium – $15 per user per month *
  • Enterprise E1 – $8 per user per month (requires annual commitment)
  • Enterprise ProPlus – $12 per user per month (requires annual commitment)
  • Enterprise E3 – $20 per user per month (requires annual commitment)
  • Enterprise E5 – $35 per user per month (requires annual commitment).

* These plans work out at $5, $8.25 and $12.50 per month respectively if you commit to a year’s service upfront.

As touched on above, there are a lot of different options to get your head around with the above 7 plans, but a few important things to note are as follows:

  • The ‘Business’ plans let you pay on a rolling per-month basis; the ‘Enterprise’ ones do not – you have to pay upfront for a year. This means that if your workforce tends to shrink or grow throughout the year, the ‘Business’ plans might be more suitable for your organisation.
  • The ‘Business’ plans all limit the maximum number of users to 300; by contrast, you can have an unlimited number of users on the ‘Enterprise’ plans.
  • All plans provide you with with the desktop versions of the Microsoft Office product suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc.) except for the ‘Business Essentials’ and ‘Enterprise E1’ plans, which only provide the online ones. So if a key motivation behind choosing Office 365 is to avail of the desktop apps as well as the cloud features – a big advantage of using Office 365 over G Suite – make sure you avoid those particular plans.
  • Not all of the Office 365 plans provide users with an email account – if you want to use Office 365 as your email service provider, you’ll need to steer clear of the ‘Business’ and the ‘Enterprise Pro Plus’ plans.
  • Similarly, the ‘Business’ and ‘Enterprise ProPlus’ plans don’t feature calendar functionality.
  • The three ‘Business’ plans listed above come in a bit cheaper if you commit to paying upfront for a year.

So which is cheaper, Office 365 or G Suite?

So which works out cheaper in the Office 365 vs G Suite fight?

The most directly comparable G Suite and Office 365 plans are arguably

  • the G Suite ‘Basic’ ($5 per user per month) and Office 365 ‘Business Essentials’ ($6 per user per month) plans

and

  • the G Suite ‘Business’ ($10 per user per month) and Office 365 ‘Enterprise E3’ ($20 per user per month) plans.

In essence there is a $1 per user per month saving to be made at the lower end of the pricing bands by plumping for the G Suite ‘Basic’ plan over Microsoft’s ‘‘Business Essentials’; but at the more ‘enterprise’ level, the Office 365 ‘Enterprise E1’ plan comes in at $10 higher per month than the G Suite ‘Business’ plan (and you’ll have to pay upfront for the year for the Microsoft product too).

This doesn’t really tell the full story however, because there are so many variables and potential tradeoffs at play here.

Although the above plans are broadly comparable, there are still big differences in important areas such as email storage, file storage and archiving to consider; so coming up with an answer to the ‘which is cheaper, Google Apps vs Office 365’ question is probably best answered by taking a more in-depth look at the features of each product and seeing how well they fulfil your business needs.

Let’s drill down into these features.