Once you're past the
implementation part of using either of these cloud-based suites, there are
still differences, but to some extent, whether they're better or worse depends
on your needs. The Google management interface is rather terse, but once you're
experienced in using the interface, that may be a good thing. The Microsoft
Office 365 management interface is more verbose and more complex than Google's,
but it also has greater functionality. Effectively, Office 365 managers have
more granular control than do Google Apps managers.
Both suites now feature
cloud-based collaboration features. Google has just added Google Cloud Connect
as a multiuser collaboration feature designed for Microsoft Office software.
Microsoft offers a cloud version of SharePoint. Both allow multiple people to
work on the same document at the same time. Google makes a point about not
needing SharePoint deployment on its pages. But with Office 365, SharePoint is
already deployed. All you need to do is use it.
Where users will see the
biggest difference is in some areas of performance. While you can use Microsoft
Outlook with either Gmail or with Office 365's version of Exchange, there are
other areas where being able to use a locally-based application such as Word or
Excel may be preferable. Because most businesses of any size already have
Microsoft Office on their computers, employees can create documents locally and
save them to SharePoint. Using Google Apps means you're using Google Docs, and
depending on your Internet connection, you can have some latency-induced
performance issues. I've noticed substantial delays in working with Google Docs
Of course, if you're using
Office 365's cloud-based version of Word or Excel, you'll see similar latency
delays. Despite the improvements in the Internet, there are still days when things
seem to slow to a crawl and that affects either of the cloud-based suites. The
difference is that with Office 365 you may not have to depend on the cloud when
things aren't going well. Of course, you can also create documents in Office
and then send them to Google Docs if the Internet gets too slow for efficient
use. But I've noted a few instances when Office documents weren't faithfully
reproduced in Google docs, and occasionally, they were so garbled that they
So now that Office 365 is available, you can try this for yourself by going to http://www.office365.com and choosing the
version that fits your business the best. You can do the same thing with Google
Apps for Business by going to http://www.google.com/apps. Companies already using Office will probably
find it easier to incorporate Office 365, but the only way to know for sure is
to try them out.
Editor's Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Microsoft Office 365 is now generally available to the public.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÃÃÃs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.