G Suite vs Office 365 - What's the best productivity suite for business?

When people think of an office productivity suite Microsoft and Google tend to spring to mind. And for good reason: while there are other alternatives on the market, they remain the most popular tools for business users.

Both offer similar functionality - such as word processing, spreadsheets and file storage - but differ in many respects. For example, Microsoft offers both desktop and cloud deployments of its Office suite, while Google's G Suite - formerly Google Apps - is cloud-only.

So, if you're currently looking for a new productivity suite or are using either Office 365 or G Suite and want to know if the grass is greener on the other side, this guide is for you. We'll break down the key areas and offer a balanced review of both products.

Plus, we'll add in our own verdict at the end if you're looking for advice.

Buy Microsoft Office 365 Business here.
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Should I buy Office 365 or G Suite?

Selecting an office suite for your own personal device is one thing but making a decision that will impact a whole team or company is much harder.

It's not just the features that are important, but the price and how easy it is to roll out across whole departments and for larger businesses, territories.

Choosing between the two companies ultimately depends on the needs of your individual business. Price, storage and ease of use will be big deciding factors, and making that decision isn't always straightforward.

For smaller companies with little legacy infrastructure, a fully cloud-based office suite will be a less daunting choice, while other, larger businesses may find the transition period a lot harder.

Both options from Microsoft and Google provide cloud and on-premise suites, so it isn't as straightforward as cloud vs on-premise like it once was. Although, there is still a clear distinction between the companies in their online word processors and spreadsheet applications.

You'll find that Google takes a real-time collaboration approach, while Microsoft can play on the fact that most people will know how to use its products, so learning and transition time will most likely be less. All things businesses should consider before making the leap.

To help you make your decision, we look at which office suite is the best for business users, assessing the word processors, email clients, spreadsheet programs and collaboration tools of both companies.

Read next: Nine free and open source Microsoft Excel alternatives business users should consider

Overview

If you want a snapshot of both companies, read on for our overview. If not, skip past to the analysis of individual features.

G Suite is Google's productivity suite, comprising of a range of applications, the most widely used of which are its Slides presentation app, Sheets spreadsheet editor, Docs word processor and file storage platform Drive. It also offers excellent integration of third-party apps which can be downloaded from the Google Web Store.

Microsoft Office 365 also comes equipped with a range of well-known tools. This includes cloud-native versions of the popular Word, Excel and Powerpoint apps, as well as email client Outlook and cloud storage platform OneDrive, along with other features such as Skype and Microsoft Teams, its instant messaging and collaboration tools.

If you're wondering what the difference between Office 365 and Microsoft's current office software, Office 2019 is, it's relatively simple. Office 2019 is Microsoft's on-premise productivity suite, Microsoft Office 365 is the cloud-based version, which is paid for on a subscription basis.

We'll be looking primarily at Office 365 as a subscription service, however, most of the features we review are part of Office 2019, so it is also worth reviewing if you are choosing between an on-premise service and G Suite's cloud-based programs.

Both Office 365 and G Suite come packed with lots of additional features, not mentioned here, but these are the main ones that the majority of business users will look for when choosing a new productivity suite.

In terms of deployment options, G Suite can be accessed via the internet and shortcuts can be made for the desktop. There is no downloadable software.

On the other hand, Microsoft's Office suite has historically been downloaded to the desktop and accessed offline via Microsoft's software on your PC or laptop. However, in an attempt to take on Google's cloud suite, Microsoft Office 365 packages contain both, so users can choose and switch between the desktop and an online version of Office.

Another area where the two suites differ somewhat is in design and usability. Some businesses will prefer the simple and clean feel of G Suite, while others will be drawn to the more feature-heavy Office365. For example. Microsoft's flagship programs, Excel and Word are packed with useful features, but this can make navigating its desktop software tricky for light users. However, if you like the overall feel of Microsoft's applications, perhaps try its online version of Word or Excel as this offers a more simplistic suite.

G Suite apps are simple and while it lacks some of the features and functions of Office 365, you can download browser add-ons for most tasks that aren't internally supported by Google Docs, Sheets or Slides.

Word processing

Google Docs takes a minimalist approach to word processing by providing a simple document creator, unlike Microsoft Word which enables heavy-duty document creation.

As mentioned, Microsoft's flagship Word desktop processor is feature-rich and able to do a massive range of things, that Google Docs can't. However, for some, a lot of the features offered by Microsoft will go unused and are not necessary. In fact, sometimes Word can seem over-complicated and bloated with features.

Google really outperforms Microsoft's desktop version of Word with its real-time document editing and sharing capabilities. For example, Google Docs users can access a document, make changes or suggest edits and each change will be flagged or highlighted, and even send notifications to other members of the shared document. Microsoft Word, can't perform those actions to the same degree. What it can do is offer suggested edits via the 'review' tab, although this is not real-time or as simple as Google's efforts.

What it can do is offer suggested edits via the 'review' tab, although this is not real-time or as simple as Google's efforts.

Google Docs users can even look back at previous edits, so no information is lost or overwritten.

For those looking for convenience, Google's Docs is the better of the two. Docs will automatically save work, integrate common add-ons and can be accessed from any device with an internet connection.

Microsoft Word offers a familiar interface and is packed with features that can handle huge documents and files. The desktop version of Word is better suited to those that require substantial document editing and processing. While it might not be as responsive, or collaborative as Google Docs, people are familiar with its design and features, so moving to Microsoft is often a simple process, in this respect.

Microsoft also announced in September 2018 the launch of some new, AI powered features for the Microsoft Office 365 suite. One of these is Microsoft Search, which works by combining the capabilities from Microsoft Graph and AI technology from Bing to deliver tailored search results for any Office document or file across the organisation, all without leaving the work flow.

In addition, Microsoft's newly launched 'Ideas' pane allows Office to make intelligent recommendations for design, images and layout, depending what you're working on, meaning that simple processes can be sped up.

While it might not be as responsive, or collaborative as Google Docs, people are familiar with its design and features, so moving to Microsoft is often a simple process, in this respect.

Spreadsheets

Microsoft's Excel is superior to Google's offering when it comes to spreadsheet tools. It is made for complex number crunching and sizeable data imports and exports. Microsoft announced in September 2018 the addition of AI-powered enhancements in Excel, which aim to help employees transform data into insights and offer improvements in functionality, for example, speedier 'lookup' functions.

This isn't to say that Google Sheet's is a total write-off. While Sheets won't be able to handle to sheer amount of data that Excel will, it does still offer good functionality, providing only light tasks are being performed.

Sheets is able to create graphs, calculate auto-fill sums and through eligible add-ons, Sheets can create maps and convert simple data into meaningful insights.

However, it does lack the power of Excel, so for those who use an office suite primarily for number crunching, you're better off going with Microsoft.

Email client

Both Microsoft Office 365 and G Suite offer strong email clients with Outlook and Gmail, respectively. However, their pricing structure and features do differ greatly.

If we specifically look at Microsoft Office 365 Business Essentials, users will receive 50 GB of mailbox storage, 1 TB of file storage and access for up to 300 users. Microsoft does offer a premium business option, but we thought that the Business Essentials package was the most comparable to G Suite's Business plan.

With Google, you'll get a lot more, however as always, it's only an online package. G Suite Business users will receive unlimited mailbox storage, 1 TB of cloud storage and unlimited user access.

Aesthetically, both clients look very different. Google's is simple and functional. While Microsoft's desktop client is feature-heavy and this can sometimes slow down your machine, depending on its age. Although, it's worth noting that Business Essential users will also have access to a browser client.

Read next: Best email provider for business

Gmail's speed and search functionality is something that Outlook can't quite match, with users being able to navigate the online client with relative ease. Outlook users can also create countless 'rules', which can perfectly tailor how your incoming and outgoing emails are managed.

Google is also harnessing AI to roll out Smart Compose to G Suite users soon. Already available to consumers, this feature will suggest autocomplete options for commonly used phrases, or personal information such as addresses, based on the user's previous behaviour.

Both email clients provide calendars that are linked to their accounts and to others in the workplace. Gmail and Outlook calendars can also keep a record of meetings, schedule meetings, and even book meeting rooms, once this function is properly set up. Users of either can now view calendars directly within their inbox too.

Microsoft Outlook's web email client does give Gmail a run for its money. It's stripped back approach means that it's easy to use, even for first-time users and the search and sorting capabilities are quick and responsive.

In April 2018 Google launched what it calls the "biggest update yet" and a "ground-up rewrite" of Gmail, with added security controls and smart features for reducing clutter the design priorities.

New features include email nudging, snoozing, one click unsubscribe and full offline functionality.

For a full rundown of the new features read: Everything you need to know about the "biggest update yet" to Gmail

There are also added security controls aimed at protecting against phishing attacks and protecting sensitive data. Now if a message is deemed by Google's algorithms as potentially malicious it is marked red, and lesser risks are presented as yellow.

There is also now a 'confidential mode', designed to protect sensitive data in case of an attack. Basically users can now send an email in confidential mode and set a threshold for how long the content remains, as well as the power to manually revoke an email.

Collaboration tools

No business suite would be complete without collaboration tools and Microsoft and Google offer two solid options.

Microsoft Teams is an instant chat-based workspace that lets users create group chats, send private messages and send files instantly. Teams is very similar to Slack in that you will be notified if your name is directly mentioned in a chat (or channel). You'll also see a red flag or exclamation point next to the message you're mentioned in to get your attention.

In September 2018, Microsoft announced the addition of some features in Teams including a 'background blur' tool for video conferencing facilitating increased focus on faces, and an intelligent transcribe function which creates a searchable word document of Teams meetings.

Google's alternative, Google Hangouts offers instant messaging, group chats and built-in screen sharing. However, like with most comparisons made between Google and Microsoft's products, Google's minimalist approach means that Google Hangouts does miss out on some of the features that Teams has on offer.

For example, Microsoft Teams allows users to create multiple channels which anyone can join, one for marketing perhaps, another for sales, whereas, Google Hangouts can only create group chats which have to be set up by someone and only that person can add more people.

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