When it comes to office productivity software, businesses have two big brands to choose from: Google and Microsoft. Both of these companies also recently rebranded their office productivity suites, Google G Suite became Google Workspace and Office 365 became Microsoft 365, which makes this a good time to go over their different approaches to business productivity, their pros and cons, core applications pricing structure, and find out which is the best office productivity suite in 2021.
In a nutshell,
- Google Workspace is an excellent, low-cost option for small businesses that need lightweight and user-friendly applications that prioritize collaboration.
- Microsoft 365 is a better option for small businesses that need more than just the basic office productivity tools, such as automation, data protection, and granular access controls. It’s also our recommended productivity suite when security and compliance is a major concern.
Let’s take a closer look at how these two productivity suites stack against each other.
- Google Workspace (formerly Google G Suite)
- Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365)
- Comparing Features
- Comparing Included Applications
- Pricing and Plans
- Implementing the Right Productivity Suite in 2021
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Google Workspace is a cloud-based office productivity suite that, compared to Microsoft’s offering, has a very different approach to productivity. Instead of giving users a lot of customizability and options, Workspace takes a more focused approach, providing a lightweight and user-friendly experience with only the core features included out of the box. There is an option to add more functionality through Add-ons and plugins.
This also means that Workspace has only web-browser and mobile apps, not standalone desktop apps. As a result, Google Workspace apps are “online-only” by default. Users do have an option to mark files for offline usage, allowing them to alter files without being connected to the Internet (changes are synced when connected to the internet).
Microsoft 365 takes a different approach to office productivity by giving users all of the tools they could need with an extensive range of customizability options. Applications that are part of the Microsoft 365 suite have more templates, formatting options, add-ons, integrations, and overall greater functionality, compared to their Workspace counterparts.
Although the base plans of both suites are comparable, Microsoft has a clear edge near the top end (granted, it costs more). In addition to all of the basic productivity applications, Microsoft 365 also packages powerful device management, security, and data recovery and loss prevention tools.
However, more isn’t always better. In fact, neither productivity suite is definitively better than the other - it’s more subjective than that. Some businesses may prefer the lightweight and easy-to-use Google applications while others may need the customizability that Microsoft has to offer.
Both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace have relatively affordable entry-level plans for businesses at $6.40 and $7.80 per month/user respectively.
Additionally, both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace offer only the browser versions of their applications in their entry-level plans (Microsoft’s desktop applications are available in higher-tier plans).
Both of these platforms and their respective applications are powered by an extremely powerful and reliable cloud infrastructure with dozens of data centers around the world. There’s virtually no downtime and your data is secure with either of these vendors.
Customer service will likely be one of the major deciding factors and fortunately, both Microsoft and Google are well known for their great customer service. Both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace users get access to 24/7 phone and email support in addition to a vast library of guides, documentation, and thriving community support.
Additionally, both of these platforms have dedicated applications for video conferencing, cloud storage, word processing, spreadsheets, and email providers. So the basics are covered no matter which suite or plan you choose.
Both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace are cloud-based productivity suites which means they take partial responsibility for data security and threat management.
Furthermore, these vendors are in the top 3 cloud service providers with hundreds of internal security protocols that are also applied to your business.
In addition to this built-in security, both of these suites have additional tools and services dedicated to improving SMB security.
Following are the security features offered in Google Workspace:
Data Protection: Google enforces a 2-step verification system, ensuring only the right personnel get access to company data. For additional security, Google Workspace also supports hardware security keys.
To protect against data loss, administrators can also set up data loss prevention policies for both Gmail and Google Drive to ensure that sensitive data stays within the company.
Monitoring: Google cloud services have an in-built logging and monitoring system that uses artificial intelligence to detect suspicious logins and trigger security protocols before notifying administrators.
Google also has a wide range of in-built anti-spam and anti-phishing mechanisms that can autonomously protect users and also be used to deploy custom account security policies.
Integrations: Google Workspace only includes 2 applications dedicated to security. First is Google Vault which is a dedicated archiving and data loss prevention application with features such as auditing, eDiscovery, and easy data sharing. The second security application included is Google Endpoint for easy endpoint management on Android, iOs, Windows, Chrome OS, macOS, and Linux. Additionally, you also get Google Admin for greater control over users and security settings.
That’s not all though. The Google Cloud platform has a service ecosystem containing over 100 applications and services, more than a dozen of which are dedicated to security alone. Using Workspace means you can easily integrate these security services into your IT security system with time which can significantly toughen your defenses.
In addition to all of the features that Google Workspace has such as multi-factor authentication, support for security keys, enterprise-grade monitoring, logging, and auditing, data protection, and S/MIME encryption, Microsoft 365 has the Microsoft Defender which is Microsoft 365’s all-in-one security suite that adds autonomous anti-malware, anti-phishing, anti-spam, and auto-heal capabilities to your productivity applications. Microsoft 365 also has Intune, a powerful device management and protection tool.
Microsoft 365 also has numerous other security-focused tools and it’s generally accepted that Microsoft 365 is more security-focused with its enterprise-grade security applications. Google Workspace is still a very safe option for SMBs but in our experience, Microsoft 365 has the edge.
Editor’s Note: It’s important to remember that many of the additional features and security services mentioned are not included in the base tier plans in either of these productivity suites.
Both Microsoft and Google comply with a range of global security standards. Below is a list of the compliance certifications that each productivity suite comes with:
- ISO 27001
- ISO 27018
- SOC 2
- SOC 3
- EU Data Protection Directive and GDPR
- South Africa’s POPI Act
- ISO 27001
- ISO 27018
- SOC1 Type II
- SOC2 Type II
- EU Data Protection Directive and GDPR
User Access & Administration
There is no clear winner here due to how similar each suite is in terms of compliance policies and certifications but the extensive security applications do give Microsoft 365 a slight edge in terms of how these policies are implemented.
It’s important to note that these certifications only mean that each productivity suite is capable of compliance, and are not compliant right out of the box. In other words, neither Google nor Microsoft will apply the relevant policies and it’s up to the companies to apply internal company policies to their data using the tools and services built into these suites.
One of the main benefits of having a cloud-based productivity suite is the ease of collaboration.
Both Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 have key features such as real-time collaborative editing of documents. They also have their own cloud storages that make it easier to store and share files on the go.
However, if collaboration outside of your team is one of your top priorities then Google Workspace is certainly the better choice. It is fully optimized to run on computer browsers and is very lightweight meaning it can run on any computer with an internet connection. The interface and core features are also more focused on making collaboration easier. Users can access the tools with a free Gmail account.
Google Workspace indeed makes collaboration and remote working easy, however, if more features and more security are what you’re looking for, Microsoft 365 would be a better fit.
Cloud storage is going to be the most important factor for many businesses and second only to collaboration for others. The utility and convenience provided by having documents on the cloud are immense and as a result, you’ll likely be using up a lot of cloud storage very quickly.
Cloud storage is included in both productivity suites but the entry-level plan in Google Workspace only offers 30GB of storage whereas Microsoft 365 offers 1TB (per user) in all of its plans. Google Workspace has higher-tier plans that offer 2TB, 5TB, and unlimited storage but cost more than double ($12 for 2TB).
However, the lack of storage in the entry-level plan doesn’t make Microsoft 365 the obvious choice. The collaborative capabilities of Google Workspace might be worth the reduced storage capacity if:
- You are a small team and only need to share documents
- You are planning on buying additional cloud storage later
- You might switch to a higher-tier plan later
That said, Microsoft 365 is the clear winner in terms of cloud storage thanks to its economical plans and low-cost add-on storage.
What Google Workspace applications lack in additional functionality, they make up with a much more user-friendly interface. Google’s approach is to only keep the core features which makes their application lightweight and simple to use.
In contrast, Microsoft 365 has a far greater number of features across their range but that also makes their applications more resource-intensive and might feel overwhelming to young employees who are used to minimal applications.
App layouts and designs can be changed but for now, Google Workspace is certainly ahead of Microsoft 365 in simplicity, but Microsoft wins in range of features.
If process automation is one of your business goals (and it should be), Microsoft 365 is, for now, the only viable option. It has a wide range of workflows and security protocols that can be automated right out of the box as well as support for custom process automation. Learn more about easily achievable IT automation for small business here.
Certain services in the Google Cloud ecosystem support process automation and can be subscribed to separately but none are included in Workspace.
Microsoft's automation features can help organizations automate workflows such as:
- onboarding new employees using PowerBI
- ordering preconfigured computers from reputable suppliers and shipping them direct to remote employees, complete with company security settings and Line Of Business applications installed using InTune and AutoPilot
- automating document review and approval across teams using SharePoint
- and so much more
Following is a comprehensive breakdown and comparison of core applications in both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace as well as lists of non-core apps in each productivity suite.
Microsoft Teams vs Google Meet
Both Microsoft Teams and Google Meet can host up to 250 participants right out of the box but Teams can hold up to 10,000 participants with the higher-tier subscriptions. The closest thing Meet can do is live stream the meeting to up to 100,000 viewers.
Both Teams and Meet also have the capability to share screens, documents, and also record (and save) the meeting to their respective clouds.
Both are easy to schedule and hold regular meetings, although Teams encrypts all of the meetings, which adds an additional layer of security.
Microsoft OneDrive vs Google Drive
Cloud storage is often overlooked when in fact, it’s one of the most important tools in any modern business’s arsenal. A Business Basic (entry-level) Microsoft 365 account gives you 1,000GB of OneDrive storage whereas Google Workspace Business Starter gives 30GB of Google Drive storage (shared with Gmail as well).
Microsoft Word vs Google Docs
Google Docs can only be accessed through a browser (optimized for Chrome) or through the smartphone application. On the other hand, Microsoft has a very feature-rich standalone desktop application (optimized for Windows) and smartphone apps that can run without the internet.
Google Docs can be saved/downloaded as Word files but the formatting isn’t guaranteed to convert without errors. Similarly, Word documents can be opened in Google Docs but again, the formatting may not be flawless. This means choosing the application that your team is already used to working with can save a lot of time and effort.
Additionally, if you’re going to be working a lot without internet connectivity (remote conditions, for instance), Word is the obvious choice.
Microsoft Excel vs Google Sheets
Anyone who can create spreadsheets in Excel should be able to adapt to Sheets relatively quickly, and vice versa. Because at the core, Excel and Sheets are the same - they share the same formulae, the same format, and all of the key features.
The differences emerge when we look at additional functionality. For instance, Excel is still king when it comes to pushing spreadsheets to their limits. It has better statistical analysis and data visualization capabilities as well as a far greater number of templates, charts, and diagrams.
On the other hand, Google Sheets is easier to use and also easier to learn for first-time users.
Email Providers + Calendars
Microsoft Exchange vs Google Gmail
Both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace have their own email services and shared calendars. Microsoft uses Exchange Online, which is built primarily for Outlook accounts while Google has Gmail, built for Gmail accounts.
With the base tier plan, businesses get 50GB and 30GB mail storage with Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace respectively. However, there is a major caveat, the 30GB in Workspace is shared between Google Drive and Gmail while the 50GB in Microsoft 365 is separate from the 1TB OneDrive storage.
Both email providers have a very similar feature set which includes a shared calendar. The only major difference is the integrations. Since Gmail is much more popular than Outlook, it can be integrated with more external services automatically. Of course, data security and privacy controls and terms of service should always be reviewed to ensure data safety and compliance with any requirements one may have.
In addition to the core productivity apps, Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 offer a range of other tools, features, and services.
Following are the additional applications included in Workspace, some of which are locked under higher-tier plans:
- Google Chat
- Google Keep
- Google Forms
- Google Sites
- Google Currents
Microsoft 365 included applications list is much longer, again, some of which are locked under higher-tier plans.
- Access (PC only)
- Advanced Threat Analytics
- Cloud App Security
- Enterprise Mobility + Security
- Microsoft 365 Defender
- Microsoft Defender for Endpoint
- Microsoft Defender for Identity
- Microsoft Defender for Office 365
- Microsoft Editor
- Microsoft Lists + Microsoft To Do
- Microsoft Stream
- Microsoft Viva
- Power Apps
- Power Automate
- Publisher (PC only)
- Microsoft Endpoint Manager
- SharePoint + SharePoint Syntex
- Workplace Analytics
Google Workspace has four relatively simple to follow plans. Each plan is available on a monthly subscription with no annual commitment. All of the core productivity (Docs, Sheets, Drive, Gmail, Meet, Chat, and Slides) applications are included in each plan.
The following table summarizes the prices and features of each Google Workspace plan:
|Plans||Price per month/user||What’s included|
|Google Workspace Business Starter||$7.80||
|Google Workspace Business Standard||$15.60||
|Google Workspace Business Plus||$23.40||
|Google Workspace Enterprise||$34.00||
There are more choices on Microsoft’s side but it’s also slightly more complicated to understand.
Microsoft has divided its plans into two types: Business and Enterprise. Business plans are better-suited for small-medium businesses with limited productivity and security needs. However, some of the most comprehensive security and productivity features are locked behind the more expensive Enterprise packages.
There are Home, Government, Non-profit, and Education plans available as well but we’ll only look at Business and Enterprise plans.
The following table summarizes the prices and features of each Microsoft 365 plan (updated prices for 2021):
|Plans||Price per month/user||What’s included|
|Microsoft 365 Business Basic||$6.40||
|Microsoft 365 Apps||$11||
|Microsoft 365 Business Standard||$16||
|Microsoft 365 Business Premium||$25||
|Office 365 E1||$10.20||
|Office 365 E3||$26||
|Office 365 Enterprise E5||$46||
Many people like Gmail/Google Workspace for its clean interface and agility (simplicity) but Microsoft offers a more complete and full solution for not only security but also for automation of data sharing, digital loss prevention, automatically onboarding a new employee with a fully automated computer setup and user access and privilege rules, etc.
For some businesses, Google Workspace will still be a better choice if they do not need the additional security or automation but do value simplicity. However, as businesses grow, they may find Google Workspace limiting. It’s possible to migrate between productivity suites but at that point, it’s much better to let experts take over and set up everything for you including security protocols, automated workflows, and access control to ensure you do not have any issues in the future.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can make the most out of your productivity suite of choice, reach out to TUCU Managed IT Services Inc - one of Canada’s top-rated IT security and productivity firms - for a free consultation today.
TUCU offers cloud services and support including Google Workplace setup services, Microsoft 365 setup services, Azure and Cloud infrastructure services and comprehensive cyber security and support. Let's talk.