Microsoft Office 365: A Challenge For Google Apps

Office 365’s Exchange support, and Google Apps’ reliance on Gmail and the Internet may decide many users, says Wayne Rash

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Microsoft Office 365 requires none of these steps. You can keep your existing email application as long as you want and use the cloud-based version of Exchange in parallel, or not use it at all. Companies already using a hosted Exchange provider will not need to change.

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.

Latency versus local editing

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 documents online.

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 weren’t useful.

Try them both for yourself

So when the Office 365 beta goes live, you can try this for yourself by going to and choosing the version that fits your business the best. You can do the same thing with Google Apps for Business by going to 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.