G Suite vs. Office 365: Which is best for your business?

G Suite and Office 365 have much in common. Both are subscription-based, charging businesses per-person fees every month, in varying tiers, depending on the capabilities their customers are looking for.

The suites also offer the same basic core applications. Each has word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, email, calendar and contacts programs, along with videoconferencing, messaging and note-taking software. Each has cloud storage associated with it.

But the question many businesses, particularly startups, have a lot of trouble answering is, G Suite (Google Apps) vs. Office 365 – which is better?

In this blog, 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 in the key areas of:

  1. Pricing

  2. Features

  3. Ease-of use

  4. Working Offline

  5. Security

  6. Service and Support

G Suite vs. Office 365: Pricing

G Suite

Choosing a G Suite plan is fairly straightforward, as there are only three plans available.

  1. Basic: 6 USD per user per month – comes with the full suite of applications and 30GB of storage. (Nonprofits can use G Suite Basic free of charge.)

  2. Business: 12 USD per user per month – includes all that, plus unlimited storage and archiving, enterprise search capabilities, additional administrative tools, and a low-code application environment

  3. Enterprise: 25 USD per user per month – includes all of what the Business version offers, plus even more administrative controls

Office 365

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

There are two ways to look at this wide range 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 Office 365 plans which are geared towards small business and enterprise users. These are as follows:

Small business / SMEs

  1. Office 365 Business Essentials: 5 USD per user per month

  2. Office 365 Business: 8.25 USD per user per month

  3. Office 365 Business Premium: 12.50 USD per user per month

(The above prices apply if you pay upfront for a year; you can also pay on a monthly basis, in which case the above plans cost $6, $10 and $15 per user per month, respectively)

Enterprise

  1. Office 365 E1: 8 USD per user per month

  2. Office 365 ProPlus: 12 USD per user per month

  3. Office 365 E3: 20 USD per user per month

  4. Office 365 E5: 35 USD per user per month

The main things to note about these options are as follows:

  1. All the Office 365 Enterprise plans require an annual commitment. By contrast, the G Suite plans can be bought on a per-month basis, which may suit some organisations — those with regular changes in the number of staff, or those using contractors and associates — a bit better.

  2. The Office ‘Business’ plans all limit the maximum number of users to 300; by contrast, you can have an unlimited number of users on the plans geared towards enterprise users.

  3. 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 ‘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.

  4. 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 ‘Pro Plus’ plans.

  5. Microsoft’s new video collaboration service — ‘Microsoft Stream’ — is only available on the Enterprise plans.

So which works out cheaper, Office 365 or G Suite?

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

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

and

the G Suite ‘Business’ ($12 per user per month) and Office 365 ‘E3’ ($20 per user per month) plans.

In essence there is a small saving to be made at the lower end of the pricing bands by plumping for Microsoft’s ‘‘Business Essentials’ over the G Suite ‘Basic’ plan (although you will need to bear in mind that the Microsoft product requires an annual commitment); but at the ‘enterprise’ level, the Office 365 ‘E1’ plan comes in $8 higher per month than the G Suite ‘Business’ plan (and again, 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 a lot of variables and potential tradeoffs at play here.

G Suite vs. Office 365: Features

Office 365 and G Suite both offer a set of web applications which have (sometimes rough) equivalents in both product suites, namely:

  1. Word = Google Docs

  2. Excel = Google Sheets

  3. Powerpoint = Google Slide

  4. Outlook Online = Gmail

  5. Microsoft Teams = Google Hangouts

  6. Microsoft OneDrive = Google Drive

Word processing: Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word

Deciding on whether your business would be better off with Google Docs or Microsoft Word is fairly straightforward: Which is more important to your users: easy-to-use collaboration or the greatest range of document creation and editing features? For collaboration, Google Docs is better. For as fully featured a word processor as you’ll find anywhere, you’ll want Word.

By saying Word has superior features, I don’t mean a bunch of tools that your business may never use. I mean great capabilities that make your workflow easier and more productive. If you’re creating a report, brochure, resume, or almost any other kind of document, Word offers an excellent set of pre-built templates so you can get writing fast, knowing that your document will have a solid, useful design. For example, Word has nearly 50 different report templates, while Google Docs only has five. Word also offers more chart types and styles for embedding into documents.

But Google Docs outshines Word when it comes to live collaboration. Collaborating is seamless and has been built into it from the ground up, while in Word it’s more difficult to use, not as comprehensive and feels tacked-on rather than an integral part of the program.

Spreadsheets: Google Sheets vs. Microsoft Excel

Do users in your company mostly work alone on spreadsheets, or do they frequently collaborate with others? The answer to that will determine whether Excel or Google Sheets is better for your business.

For those who primarily work by themselves, Excel is the clear winner. As with Word, its wide selection of templates offers an embarrassment of riches. For example, there are more than 60 templates just for different types of budgets. Whether it’s a business budget or a special-purpose budget, such as for a marketing event, you’ll likely find one that fits your needs and that can be easily edited. By contrast, Google Sheets has only three different budget templates.

Excel also offers far more chart types than Google Sheets — 17 in all — including popular ones such as column, line, pie, bar and area; more complex ones such as radar, surface and histogram; and some that are known mainly to data professionals, like box & whisker. And many chart types have multiple subtypes — for example, among the bar charts you’ll find clustered bar, stacked bar, and son on, and each of those has two variations. Google Sheets has only seven main types of charts. It’s also simpler to create charts with Excel than it is in Google Sheets.

Google Sheets far outpaces Excel in real-time collaboration, though. As with Docs, collaboration is baked directly into Sheets. Not only does it have more powerful tools, but they’re naturally integrated and easy to access. The same holds true for editing and commenting on spreadsheets.

Presentations: Google Slides vs. Microsoft PowerPoint

As with word processing and spreadsheet apps, whether Google Slides or PowerPoint is best for your business comes down to a single point: Do you prize collaboration or powerful features in a presentation program? If collaboration is king in your company, Google Slides is better. For every other reason, PowerPoint is.

For example, PowerPoint’s QuickStarter feature makes quick work of starting a presentation. Choose the topic of your presentation, and QuickStarter walks you through creating an outline, starter slides, templates and themes. Google Slides has no equivalent.

Similarly, with PowerPoint, it’s easier to add graphics, transitions, animations and multimedia. It has more chart and table types as well. And it has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to giving the presentation itself, with innovative capabilities such as Rehearse Timings, which times how long you take on each individual slide as you rehearse a presentation. That way, you won’t get bogged down on any individual slide, and you can practice giving each slide its just due. Google Slides has nothing like it.

However, Google Slides rules when it comes to collaboration, with far outstrips the kludgy and awkward capabilities built into PowerPoint. And because Slides offers fewer capabilities than Excel, it’s slightly easier to create slides in it, because it doesn’t pack as many features into the interface.

Email: Gmail vs. Microsoft Outlook