Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) and Microsoft 365 are the two most popular cloud-based collaborative business productivity suites.
The best-known applications within these suites are email, calendars, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, online meetings, and cloud storage. Here are some rough equivalents.
Google and Microsoft continue adding new tools and components to their suites.
For example, Google Workspace includes Drawings, My Maps, Chat, and Sites. Google Jamboard and Google Voice are paid extras.
Certain Microsoft 365 plans include Bookings, Planner, Lists, and Access.
Google Meet and Microsoft Teams are both robust video conferencing applications.
History & High-Level Differences
Some companies established before 2007 had to decide 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.
Regarding security and defense against cyber attacks, Microsoft has a bigger target on its back than Google.
Just as Windows has always been a more attractive target than macOS due to relative market share, cybercriminals prefer to focus on businesses that use Microsoft 365.
The cloud incident readiness and response company Mitiga went as far as to say that weaknesses in Microsoft 365 multi-factor authentication (MFA) “effectively nullify the added security allegedly provided” by MFA.
These weaknesses have increased the number of 365 business email accounts being taken over by bad actors who use a technique called session cookie theft in combination with a successful phishing attempt.
According to Gartner, Microsoft is more prevalent in regulated industries.
Google Workspace enjoys its most significant 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 seem to favor Google Workspace.
Redlining Microsoft Word documents is deeply ingrained in the legal profession. Law firms tend to be Microsoft 365 users.
There is a home-field advantage on the West Coast of the United States. Google has more relative adoption in California. Microsoft has more relative adoption in the Pacific Northwest.
Both Workspace and 365 For Some Users?
If an organization chooses Google Workspace, certain users may want locally installed Microsoft Office components on their PC or Mac by preference or necessity.
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. There could be an additional subscription to Microsoft 365 Personal for those users.
There are two ways to open Excel spreadsheets in Google Drive without a Microsoft Excel license for lighter spreadsheet use.
Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace Plans
Microsoft 365 Plans
There are several Microsoft 365 plans
- Microsoft 365 Business Basic
- Microsoft 365 Business Standard
- Microsoft 365 Business Premium
- Microsoft 365 Apps for Business
Microsoft 365 Business Basic is the “cloud-only” offering. Pricing for Microsoft 365 ranges from $6 per user per month to $22 per user per month.
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 decide on 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 SaaS 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
- 20 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 manufacturing 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 365.
On the other hand, executive management or IT leadership may choose a direction based on an entirely different set of factors.
A thorough analysis, including interviews with stakeholders and representative end-users, will help you determine your business’s best long-term direction.