Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Great Battle Of Giants : Microsoft 365 against Google Apps

Microsoft has just launched its hosted productivity apps service, Office 365, which brings together Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online. This suite has been targeted at small and midsize businesses, which represent nearly two-thirds of global job growth, but don't have the money to make big investments and complex IT Infrastructure.

This has direct competition from Google Apps, which has been around for nearly 4 years. Although, they may look like competitors, on closer examination, Office 365 and Google Apps turn out to be two different products. Office 365 is meant to be used with a desktop installed version of Office (preferably Office 2010), whereas Google Apps is 100 percent in the browser and doesn't require any desktop installation. So comparing them, as to which one is superior, sounds like comparing apples and oranges. However, there are certainly some differentiating factors, that will help organization, especially SMBs, make a choice, as to which cloud, they want to live with in future.

Here is a brief feature-wise pricing details for Google Apps and Office 365
  • Google Apps (free version) -- Gmail, Calendar, Docs and Sites. All with your domain name. Also other Google apps like Reader, Blogger, Picasa. Up to 10 accounts, 7GB limit each for Gmail, various other limits for other apps. You can buy more storage, though.
  • Google Apps for Business -- Everything in the free version plus 25GB limit on email. Google Video for Business and Google Groups for Business. BlackBerry and Microsoft Outlook Interoperability. SSO, forced SSL, custom password strength requirements. 99.9% uptime guarantee SLA and 24/7 support. $50 per user/per year or $5 per user/per month.
  • Google Apps non-profit -- same as Business deal, $30 per user/per year
  • Office 365 Plan P -- Email, calendar, contacts, personal archive, and 25 GB mailbox storage with 25 MB attachments. Online document viewing and basic editing capabilities with Office Web Apps. View files from mobile devices. SharePoint Online. Instant messaging, presence, online meetings, desktop sharing and PC-to-PC audio/video calls with Lync Online. Antivirus/antispam with Microsoft Forefront Online Protection for Exchange. Up to 50 users. $6 per user/per month
  • Office 365 midsize businesses and enterprises -- Plan P and a whole lot of other features$10-$27 per user/per month
Google Apps has ~ 3 million users, but Microsoft boast of ten times as many for Office web apps and as many as 750 million users worldwide, making use of its Desktop based Office Productivity Suite. So just going by sheer numbers make MS the clear-favorite in this great battle of giants. When it comes to pricing, Google Apps does score over Office 365, but the difference is somewhat minuscule (Google Apps for Business at $5 per user/per month or $50 per user/per year while $6 per user/per month Office 365 for Business) and not a significant one, so as to hand over Google Apps a major advantage over Office 365. So looks like the real contest is only between Google Apps Free Version and Office 365 Plan P. 

Office Apps is definitely a better option for individuals and organization seeking an elaborate, formal and polished face on communications. However, For organizations, where most of the work happen online, Google Apps seems like a reasonable choice. Office Apps is a better choice, where individuals have got used to using Office Productivity Suite and are not really comfortable moving data to the cloud.

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