What's the best online app solution for your business?

Moderated by Lawrence Dignan | April 23, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: The two contenders: Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Business. Which is your organization's best bet? Ed Bott and Chris Dawson debate the pros and cons of each.

Ed Bott

Ed Bott

Office 365


Google Apps

Christopher Dawson

Christopher Dawson

Best Argument: Office 365

Closing Statements

Microsoft knows what businesses need

Ed Bott

Handing over control of your company’s email and collaboration infrastructure is a big decision that shouldn’t be made lightly.

Both Microsoft and Google have built impressive online offerings backed by massive infrastructure. Google, as my esteemed colleague points out, believes you should “live in the cloud, promote collaboration in the cloud, and operate in the browser.”

Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world, where the cloud disappears at inconvenient times, often when you need it most. And those browser-only apps are improving steadily, but they’re still second-rate.

With 20 years of experience in collaboration software, Microsoft knows what businesses need, and Office 365 delivers that enterprise-class product to businesses of all sizes.

This is Microsoft’s core business, and they’re in it for the long haul. For Google, this is still a sideline. Maybe it’ll be around next year, maybe it won’t. I know which company I’d bet my business on.

Different way of doing things

Christopher Dawson

Office 365 is an incredibly useful means of accessing your documents from the browser. Fidelity is good, integration across Microsoft ecosystems is good, and this represents a solid choice for organizations heavily invested in Microsoft infrastructures. The leap to the cloud, after all, is not something that comes easily, especially for large enterprises.

However, Office 365 doesn't give us much that we can't achieve with Microsoft Office and Dropbox. Google Apps, on the other hand, represents a significant transformation in workflow, business processes, and collaborative potential, all administered, provisioned, and managed with total ease from the web. It's a different way of doing things and it isn't the right choice for every organization but can be transformational for those ready and willing to embrace it.

True real-time collaboration, combined with a vast set of integrated third-party applications from the Google Apps Marketplace and mobile device management/integration, make Google Apps a winning choice.

Best bet? Depends

Lawrence Dignan

This debate was a bit tricky. Comparing Google Apps and Microsoft's Office 365 can spark a bit of a religious debate. In the end, Ed Bott had the better argument against Christopher Dawson, but the reality is that both of these cloud office suites can work depending on your situation. As many talkbackers noted, Google Apps is better for small businesses based on cost while larger enterprises already invested in Microsoft may find Office 365 the better bet.


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  • The only reason

    I can't hop on board the Google Apps train, is because it's Google. They haven't exactly been consumer friendly as of late, and I'm not sure I can trust them anymore.

    As for the technicalities, I use Office 2010 on all my machines, and if I need to go offline, I can simply download whatever document I'm working on, and know it has full compatibility with the offline Office suite.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Office 365
  • Google Apps better in limited situations

    There are a few situations, not uncommon, where Google Apps is the easiest thing to do. When you need to work quickly with a distributed group of people and make no assumptions about what software they're running it's great, because it's free and almost everyone has a Google account. This is about the word processing of course; the spreadsheet is primitive and buggy and you can't do anything remotely sophisticated in it. GMail is very good of course and the calendar is passable (when it's not failing to store the event you just spent several minutes creating).

    But for real day-to-day work it's not even close. Microsoft's apps are far better.
    Larry Seltzer
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Office 365
  • Google Apps == SkyDrive

    Google apps just doesn't offer anything even SkyDrive/Office Web Apps don't too, but then for O365 you also have the option of a fully featured & matured Office application suite too. I just don't see what Google Apps offers above even the web-version of Office.
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Office 365
  • For me it's about focus

    Microsoft builds products and services for businesses and consumers. Google is a search and advertising company that happens to have a few products and services they make available to draw people into their ecosystem so they can show them more ads.
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Office 365
  • Neither.

    Well, at the places I've worked so far, neither. At the retail place I worked at, very little is done with any sort of office suite. At the school I worked at, we just pushed the full version of Office.

    These apps are probably fine for collaboration, but honestly - if you're not in a collaborative heavy business, you're probably fine with a regular office suite, rather than some online thing that will probably take another 30 years to catch up with the full feature set of the offline suite.

    Honestly, I'm not very impressed at all with the functionality of the offline apps so far. Google docs is so far behind Microsoft Office it isn't funny, and although I haven't personally tried Office 365, I've heard it's playing catch up as well. Yet these things are somehow supposed to replace their offline equivalents? How?

    For my own personal use, I'll just go the Dropbox route and sync my files between my machines. That works fine, and I don't need an internet connection to edit the files, just to sync them.

    It just seems like the use cases for online documents are pretty small. Sure, they may make sense to the average tech journalist, but outside of tech journalism? Not so much.
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • Well that's kinda the thing

      Office 365 is Office, synced in a cloud....that you could use through a browser too. There're collab options too, but there's nothing stopping you using it like an online file-system replacement for "My Documents" folder. Google docs however....it's all in the browser or nothing.
      Reply 1 Vote I'm for Office 365
  • I don't get it

    Is this a debate to see which is better or if the cost savings for going to Google Apps is good enough for my business?

    We are currently looking at cloud solutions to reduce cost for our organization and of course looking at Office 365 and Google. To compare the products is not fair, Office 365 is better than what I have today and 50x better then Google. However, Google is cheaper and is it good enough? I would go with Google because I can save operation costs but at what cost to my users and my company? Will my users be as productive as they are today? Not sure, but don't think so because I wasn't when tested Google. Will my legal department laugh at me when I mention I Google? Probably. Will my users be more productive with Office 365? Hard to measure but with the great features such as Lync for IM and Meetings, and new features in Office 2010 and Exchange which are included - I can't imagine not being more productive.

    Be interested in hearing the debate and others opinions. I just think it's amazing on what people are willing to give up for price.
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Office 365
  • Office365 FTW

    My ABM co-founders and I are building our new start-up, using Google docs for all our doc storage and collaboration. They think GD is pretty cool ... largely because they have never tried O365. I, on the other hand, having used both extensively, can assert with full confidence that O365 is LIGHT YEARS ahead of Google Docs in almost every way. using GD feels like using early Wiki sites from 10 years ago. Office365, on the other hand is so close to using Office itself that I use Office365 for more than half my doc editing needs.
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Office 365
  • My Users Have Spoken

    Forget the Controller, who saw the price difference and was convinced. My users have been given the chance to try the various tools available to them, and they have overwhelmingly chosen GD.
    Reply Vote I'm for Google Apps
  • Horses for courses

    The comparison is not of apples and apples. MS's online app is not standalone, whereas Google Docs is. This point was made by larry@ but needs to be heavily emphasized.

    I use Google Documents (word processor ) and Spreadsheets (Excel-equivalent) and I see the limitations vis-a-vis the MS equivalents. However, for most daily use both Google Docs are good and download pretty well into MS file formats (have not tried or Open Office). The spreadsheet is fairly advanced and improvements are made to all apps every now and then.

    For true independence from a 'home' computer it is no contest -- GD wins hands down. But if this is not a requirement I can see that Office 365 has its merits.
    Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided