Head to Head: Google Apps vs Microsoft Office 365

Reviews 5 Aug, 2011

Google Apps for Business and Office 365 are different approaches to providing email, collaboration and document editing tools for a business. Mary Branscombe compares the enterprise versions of both and her conclusions may surprise you.

Verdict: 

Office 365 isn’t a new version of the Office desktop suite; it’s a cloud service offering the key server-based versions of desktop applications – Exchange mail server with Forefront malware and spam protection, SharePoint document management (which can also power a public-facing Web site) and Lync Online for communications (presence, instant messaging and audio and video calls).

This is similar to the BPOS cloud service Microsoft has been running, but it has newer versions of the server-side software that are multi-tenant and (Microsoft claims) better suited to running as a cloud service. You also get online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook and some subscriptions even include the full Office Professional Plus suite. There’s also an Office 365 marketplace for third-party tools that work with the service.

Office 365 is commonly seen as competing with Google Apps so we decided to look at them both.

Google Apps for Business includes Gmail with Postini spam and malware filtering and basic smartphone management, Calendar and Contacts, Google Docs (including spreadsheets and presentations), Chat, Groups mailing lists, Sites (for both intranet and public Web sites).

There's a control panel for managing users and what they can do with the Google Apps tools. You can also control user access to various other Google services like Picasa (which may get more important as Google combines personal and Google Apps accounts into a single account type) and add third party services from the Google Apps Marketplace.

Office 365 is commonly seen as competing with Google Apps so we decided to look at them both to see how similar the services really are and how they compare to each other.

Specifications: 

MICROSOFT OFFICE 365 SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Operating system: Windows XP SP3 or later; MacOS X Leopard 10.5 or later; Windows Server 2003 or later

Office client: Office 2007 SP2; Office 2008 or later; Lync 2010

Administration and Office Web Apps: a modern web browser

Active Directory-based features: single forest

GOOGLE APPS SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Modern web browser

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