Head to Head: Google Apps vs Microsoft Office 365

Mary Branscombe compares the enterprise versions of both and her conclusions may surprise you...

Mobile management

With Google Apps for Business, you can manage Android devices (as long as they run Android 2.2 or later). You can set a policy that enforces a password of a particular strength and wipe lost devices and users can remotely locate or lock their phone or make it ring. You have to manage rolling out device security as it requires an app users download from Android Marketplace, but turning on device security stops them using Android Marketplace until the app is installed (there's a direct link to get around the chicken and egg problem here).

There's also a connector to allow you to manage BlackBerry users of Google Apps from a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and options for applying password and other device policies to smartphones using Google Sync or Exchange ActiveSync, which can end up as a confusing mix of management options.

Fine control of smartphone security in an interface that will be familiar to any Exchange administrator.

Fine control of smartphone security in an interface that will be familiar to any Exchange administrator.

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Office 365 has a more unified and comprehensive approach. Exchange Online gives you the same mobile device management as Exchange Server using ActiveSync Policies which work to some extent on virtually all smartphones including Android, iPhone. BlackBerry and Symbian as well as Windows Mobile and Windows Phone. You can enforce strong passwords and encryption, control individual device features (like Bluetooth), configure sync options like whether attachments can be downloaded on a phone and wipe devices automatically if the password is wrong too many times. You can also block or quarantine specific mobile devices from connecting. Users can even block or wipe their own phones.

Winner: Office 365's unified and comprehensive approach to smartphone management makes it the clear winner here.

Document management

Google Docs has no equivalent to SharePoint Online. Sites is a nice simple tool for creating internal or external Web pages and with Google Docs, you can control whether users can publish or share documents outside the business and whether documents default to being private or public. Otherwise sharing is an ad hoc thing that users control.

SharePoint Online combines workflow, document management and Web publishing – and it looks professional straight away.

SharePoint Online combines workflow, document management and Web publishing and it looks professional straight away.

SharePoint Online combines Web page authoring for external sites with a full document management tool with libraries, lists, templates, discussion tools, shared calendars, RSS feeds, workflow, check in and check out options and version control plus powerful search options. Your Team Site includes pages for every user where they can blog, share links and documents or access their files on the move. Taking advantage of all the options is more complex but it's also far more powerful.

Winner: Office 365 has much more capable sharing features, but these are correspondingly more complicated to manage. If you need them though, then it's worth bearing with.

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