Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 are the two most popular cloud-based suites of collaborative business productivity applications on the market. The best-known applications within these suites are email, calendars, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and cloud storage.
Google and Microsoft continue to add their own flavors of additional components to their respective suites.
For example, Google Workspace includes Forms, Drawings, My Maps, Chat, Sites, and Google Meet. Google Jamboard and Google Voice are paid extras.
Microsoft 365 plans variously include Lists, Forms, Visio, Bookings, and Microsoft Teams.
Google Meet and Microsoft Teams are both robust video conferencing applications.
History & High-Level Differences
The original Microsoft Office was launched in 1990. Google Workspace (formerly Google Apps for Business) was launched in 2007. The decision for many companies that were established before 2007 is whether to remain with Microsoft or switch to Google.
Perhaps the biggest difference between these two suites is that Microsoft 365 is mainly used as a set of locally installed applications for PC and Mac. The cloud versions of Microsoft’s office applications are adaptations of desktop versions.
On the other hand, Google Workspace, which was born in the cloud, is a set of cloud applications that have an option for working offline on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Google constantly adds new features to Workspace apps.
The Gmail component of Google Workspace is an online email application. For offline access, Google developed a native Chrome capability.
Gmail can also be accessed via locally installed email clients such as Outlook, eM Client (for Windows users), Kiwi for Gmail (for Mac users), and OS X’s Mail app. Microsoft 365’s primary email offering is locally installed Outlook. There is an option to use Outlook Web, which more and more users are taking advantage of.
Microsoft 365 vs Google Workspace: Business Types
According to Gartner, Microsoft is more prevalent in regulated industries.
Google Workspace enjoys its greatest popularity among companies with less than $50 million in revenues. Enterprises have been slow to adopt Google Workspace. Microsoft continues its dominance in large organizations.
Marketing agencies tend to adopt Google Workspace, as Google is a predominant part of online marketing. Software startups also seem to favor Google Workspace.
Redlining of Microsoft Word documents is deeply ingrained in the legal profession. Law firms tend to be Microsoft 365 users.
On the west coast of the United States, there is a home-field advantage. Google has more relative adoption in California. Microsoft has more relative adoption in the Pacific Northwest.
Both Google Workspace and Microsoft Office For Some Users?
If an organization chooses Google Workspace, there may be certain users who, by preference or by necessity, want locally installed Microsoft Office components on their PC or Mac.
One example is someone who wants to keep Outlook because it has been a part of their work life for ten-plus years.
Another example is someone who uses Excel spreadsheets with complex macros or very large Excel files that cannot be imported into a Google Sheets format or replicated in Google Sheets. For those users, there could be a supplemental subscription to Microsoft 365 Personal.
For lighter spreadsheet use, there are two ways to open Excel spreadsheets in Google Drive without a Microsoft Excel license.
Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace Plans
Microsoft 365 Plans
There are several Microsoft 365 and enterprise Office 365 plans:
- Microsoft 365 Business Basic
- Microsoft 365 Business Standard
- Microsoft 365 Business Premium
- Office 365 E1
- Office 365 E3
- Office 365 E5
- Microsoft 365 E3
Microsoft 365 Business Basic is the “cloud-only” offering. Pricing for Microsoft 365 & Office 365 ranges from $5 per user per month to $32 per user per month. On March 1, 2022, Microsoft raised its prices for the first time in a decade.
Google Workspace Plans
There are four Google Workspace pricing plans:
- Business Starter
- Business Standard
- Business Plus
The Business Starter plan is $6 per user per month. The Business Standard plan, which includes additional storage and administrative options, is $12 per user per month. A Google salesperson quotes Enterprise pricing.
Which is Best for Your Business?
We recommend taking an analytical approach to making the decision about Google Workspace vs Microsoft 365. Some questions to ask yourself are:
What are the subscription costs of the two main options based on our needs?
How many of our employees grew up using Google products? How many employees grew up using Microsoft products? How many employees grew up both?
What percentage of our users have a business need or even just a force-of-habit need to have Microsoft 365 applications installed on their PC or Mac?
What are the costs involved in supporting and maintaining desktop software, and are these costs high?
Are we firmly committed to converting to the cloud, or do we want to ease into the cloud?
If we are firmly committed to the cloud, which solution has what we believe to be a functionally superior set of web and mobile applications — Google Workspace or Microsoft 365?
Example Business Cases
Here are two example business cases and what direction each case might point an organization in.
- A 5-year-old company
- Outsourced IT services
- 50 employees
- 40 employees grew up Google
- 5 of the employees who grew up using Google products also require locally installed Microsoft 365 Business licenses
- 30 of the employees who grew up using Google need nothing more than a Chromebook
- 10 employees grew up using Microsoft
- 5 of the employees who grew up using Microsoft apps require locally installed Microsoft Office applications
On the surface, this case points more toward standardizing on Google and subscribing to five Microsoft 365 Business licenses for the employees who want or need Microsoft Office.
- A 50-year-old company
- 200 employees
- 4 Internal IT staff
- 150 employees grew up with Microsoft
- 100 of the employees who grew up using Microsoft products require locally installed Microsoft Office applications
- 50 employees grew up with Google
- 10 of the employees who grew up with Google require locally installed Microsoft Office applications
This case may point more toward staying with Microsoft and getting the users who grew up using Google apps to adapt to Microsoft Office.
On the other hand, executive management or IT leadership may choose a direction based on an entirely different set of factors.
A thorough analysis, which should include interviews with stakeholders and representative end-users, will help you to determine the best long-term direction for your business.