Over the years, the working environment has greatly increased. From the traditional means of sharing information, files and certain documents to the actualisation of what the internet can do for people. It was a beautiful evolution and currently, the office environment is evolving with new and improved technologies always invented for the use of work.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, the king supreme of the business world was Microsoft Office. Its office suite was at a peak, as it offered more options than its competitors, WordPerfect and Lotus SmartSuite.
This continued till 2006 when Google introduced Google Docs & Spreadsheets, a collaborative online word processing and spreadsheet duo that was combined with other business services to form the Google Apps suite, later rebranded as G Suite, and now as Google Workspace. Although Google’s productivity suite didn’t immediately take the business world by storm, over time it has gained both in features and popularity, boasting 6 million paying customers, according to Google’s most recent public stats in March 2020.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has shifted its emphasis away from its traditional licensed Office software to Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), a subscription-based version that’s treated more like a service, with frequent updates and new features.
So, if you’re new to both office technologies, this article is for you as we explore the similarities and differences between Google Workspace and Microsoft 365.
Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365
Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 have quite a lot in common. Both are subscription-based, meaning that they charge businesses per-person fees monthly. These charges vary depending on the capabilities that users are looking for. Google Workspace on the other hand is a web-based software that can also work offline for users. This is its uniqueness while Microsoft 365 is based on installed desktop software, it also provides (less powerful) web-based versions of its applications and users.
Both Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 work effectively with a wide range of devices. Google Workspace works in most browsers on any operating system, and Google also offers mobile apps for Android and iOS. Microsoft provides Office client apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android, and its web-based apps work across browsers.
The suites also offer the same basic core applications such as word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, email, calendar, and contacts programs, along with videoconferencing, messaging, and note-taking software. Each has cloud storage associated with it. But those individual applications are quite different from one suite to the other, as are the management tools for taking care of them in a business environment. And both suites offer scads of additional tools as well. So it can be exceedingly difficult to decide which suite is better for your business.
As a result of these, the concept of pricing [subscription] comes in. This is in line with our focus on how they can work both for businesses.
Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 Subscriptions
The subscription plan for both suites is quite different. You must bear both in mind when picking a suite for you. Individuals can use several of the online apps from both suites — including Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides as well as Microsoft Word Online, Excel Online, and PowerPoint Online — for free, but businesses should look to the paid Workspace and Microsoft 365 subscriptions for necessary security and management features.
Google Workspace pricing options for business
Google Workspace comes in four commercial versions: Business Starter, Business Standard, Business Plus, and Enterprise. Business Starter, at $6 per user per month, comes with a full suite of applications and 30GB of storage per user. At $12 per user per month, the Business Standard plan includes all that, plus 2TB of storage per user as well as archiving, enterprise search capabilities, and additional administrative tools. Business Plus at $18 per user per month includes everything the Business Standard version offers, plus even more administrative controls and business tools.
Enterprise has everything that Business Plus does, as well as more administrative controls and a low-code application builder. You’ll have to contact Google for pricing details for Enterprise.
Google Workspace business plans
For more detailed information on its subscription plan, check out Google’s page comparing pricing plans. Also, note that some features available in higher-level Google Workspace plans are available for purchase as standalone services. Additionally, Google offers specialized versions of Workspace Enterprise for healthcare and life sciences, retail, manufacturing, and government organizations, and there is a range of free and paid Workspace versions for nonprofits and educational institutions.
Microsoft 365 pricing options for business
Microsoft 365 business subscriptions are more complicated and range from $5 per user per month for Microsoft 365 Business Essentials, the most basic version for small businesses, to $35 per user per month for Microsoft 365 E5, the most feature-packed version for enterprises. Confusingly, Microsoft renamed all of its small business plans from Office 365 to Microsoft 365, but at the enterprise level, it offers both Office 365 and Microsoft 365 plans.
In addition, many Office apps and services are available on an à la carte basis [meaning, by the card]. Some companies prefer to pay for a lower-level plan and then pay for one or two of these items as add-ons rather than paying for a higher-level comprehensive plan.
The suite of Apps: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365
Every business has different needs, and yours may place greater value on certain apps than others. For some companies, word processing and email might be the most important apps in an office suite, while others might need a powerful spreadsheet program above everything else.
To help, we’ve compared the major office apps in Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 so you can zero in on the apps that are most important to your business and let their strengths and weaknesses guide your overall decision. We’ve included only the highlights below; if you want more details about each app, we’ve linked to Computerworld articles that offer in-depth comparisons.
Word processing: Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word
Deciding on whether your business would be better off with Google Docs or Microsoft Word is fairly straightforward. Which is more important to your users: easy-to-use collaboration or the greatest range of document creation and editing features? For collaboration, Google Docs are better. For as fully featured a word processor as you’ll find anywhere, you’ll want Word.
By saying Word has superior features, I don’t mean a bunch of tools that your business may never use. I mean great capabilities that make your workflow easier and more productive.
For example, if you're creating an article, resume, report or any kind of document, Word offers an excellent set of pre-built templates so you can get writing fast, knowing that your document will have a solid, useful design. Word has 300 different business templates alone, while Google Docs only have 55 total templates of all kinds, including personal, business, and educational ones. (Microsoft claims Word has thousands of templates, but we couldn’t count them all.) Word also offers more chart types and styles for embedding into documents.
But Google Docs outshines Word when it comes to living collaboration. Collaborating is seamless and has been built into the app from the ground up, while in Word it’s more difficult to use, not as comprehensive, and feels tacked on rather than an integral part of the program.
For non-live collaboration — editing and marking up documents for review by others — Word has always been the gold standard, but Google Docs have come a long way and now is nearly as good as Word. Word’s editing tools have slightly finer-grained controls, but apart from that, they’re about even.
Spreadsheets: Google Sheets vs. Microsoft Excel
Do users in your company mostly work alone on spreadsheets, or do they frequently collaborate with others? The answer to that will determine whether Excel or Google Sheets is better for your business.
For those who primarily work by themselves, Excel is the clear winner. As with Word, its wide selection of templates offers an embarrassment of riches. For example, there are more than 80 templates just for different types of budgets. Whether it’s a business budget or a special-purpose budget, such as for a marketing event, you’ll likely find one that fits your needs and that can be easily edited. By contrast, Google Sheets has only three different budget templates.
Excel also offers far more chart types than Google Sheets — 19 in all — including popular ones such as column, line, pie, bar, and area; more complex ones such as radar, surface, and histogram; and some that are known mainly to data professionals, like box & whisker. And many chart types have multiple subtypes — for example, among the bar charts you'll find a clustered bar, stacked bar, and so on, and each of those has two variations. Google Sheets has only seven main types of charts and a handful of individual charts that can’t be categorized. It’s also simpler to create charts with Excel than it is in Google Sheets.
Google Sheets far outpaces Excel in real-time collaboration, though. As with Docs, collaboration is baked directly into Sheets. Not only does it have more powerful tools, but they’re naturally integrated and easy to access. The same holds for editing and commenting on spreadsheets.
Presentations: Google Slides vs. Microsoft PowerPoint
As with word processing and spreadsheet apps, whether Google Slides or PowerPoint is best for your business comes down to a single point: Do you prize collaboration or powerful features in a presentation program? If collaboration is king in your company, Google Slides is better. For every other reason, PowerPoint is.
For example, PowerPoint’s QuickStarter feature makes quick work of starting a presentation. Choose the topic of your presentation, and QuickStarter walks you through creating an outline, starter slides, templates, and themes. Although Google Slides does offer an Explore tool that suggests layouts as well as images and other content related to your slideshow topic, it is in no way equivalent to QuickStarter.
Similarly, with PowerPoint, it’s easier to add graphics, transitions, animations, and multimedia. It has more chart and table types as well. And it offers sophisticated options when it comes to giving the presentation itself, with innovative capabilities such as Rehearse Timings, which times how long you take on each slide as you rehearse a presentation. That way, you won’t get bogged down on any individual slide, and you can practice giving each slide it is just due. Google Slides has nothing like it.
However, Google Slides rules when it comes to collaboration, which far outstrips the kludgy and awkward capabilities built into PowerPoint. And because Slides offers fewer capabilities than Excel, it’s slightly easier to create slides in it, because it doesn’t pack as many features into the interface.
I have used both Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 and have enjoyed using them. In my opinion, Microsoft 365 has a more robust suite of apps that encourages productivity, while Google Workspace's apps foster collaboration.
However, I would recommend Microsoft 365 because it offers an array of productivity tools that can be used in the office.
Interestingly, the introduction of the AI-powered Copilot to Microsoft 365 and 3D Avatars to the Teams platform in May as a means of making work easier and better for users is a good advantage over Google Workspace.