News Analysis: A quick comparison of the two major cloud-based office suites shows both products will work effectively. But Microsoft Office 365 requires less effort and commitment to set up as a cloud office-productivity suite.
By the time you read this,
Microsoft will have released its
long-awaited Office 365
cloud-based office-productivity suite to general availability. The product
is intended to compete directly with Google Apps for Business, which has been
out for a while.
As the product was being
readied for market, Microsoft asked the analysis arm of my company, Wayne Rash & Associates
, to examine both
products and give an independent, unbiased view of how they compared.
both products have been changed
to some extent since the comparison, the
study is still valid because the overall approach has remained the same for
both companies. In addition, Google has certainly been aware of the approach of
Office 365 and has added or
upgraded features accordingly
. As a result, it's clear that if you want to
take cloud-computing approach for your office-productivity applications, you
can reliably use either one of the products.
But there are significant
differences. The most basic, and perhaps the most important to most companies,
is that Google Apps provides an alternative to Microsoft Office that allows you
to continue using Microsoft Office for some functions. Microsoft Office 365
provides a cloud-based version of Microsoft Office.
This is not a small matter. Where Microsoft provides Exchange as part of its
cloud offering, Google provides Gmail, and the way the Google Apps are
integrated, you cannot have a fully functional version of Google Apps for
Business without Gmail.
In fact, Google Apps for
Business is so tightly integrated with Gmail that before you can do more than a
test implementation, you must convert at least part of your mail system to
Gmail, and you must place a Google-specified entry into your Website's metadata
or into its DNS (Domain Name System) record. Failure to do this will prevent
Google Apps for Business from working for you. For many businesses, entering
the metadata or DNS records isn't a problem. But for other businesses, it may
take days or longer to arrange this. Or it may not be possible-depending on who
is responsible for your Website. You're also required to put a mail redirection
entry into your DNS record.
Microsoft Office 365
requires none of these steps. You can keep your existing email application as
long as you want and use the cloud-based version of Exchange in parallel, or
not use it at all. Companies already using a hosted Exchange provider will not
need to change.