Collaboration is a vital part of modern-day working. And tech companies have been quick to realise that there is space in the market for collaboration software/tools, most of which are now cloud-based.
Microsoft and Google have managed to claim the majority share of this market with Office 365 and G Suite, respectively. In Europe in particular, it seems that Microsoft is winning the battle for custom, with research showing that Office 365 is being used by 65% of organisations compared with 19.2% who are opting for GSuite.
The key features of each platform are outlined below:
Microsoft is probably best known for its productivity/work apps, with more than 1.2 billion people using Microsoft Office. Office 365 enables seamless online collaboration and communication. Its main apps/features are:
Outlook: offers shared calendars, scheduled sending and even payment management. It also utilises AI to create to-do lists and send ‘smart’ alerts when users are overbooked.
Skype for Business: allowing conference calls with up to 250 people, recording tools and even live broadcasts. 24/7 operations in different time-zones allow for a support line to be there at all times.
Yammer: a social media network for business. Employees can use it to ask questions and management can use it to disseminate company information such as policy changes.
Microsoft Teams: intended as a forum for collaboration, Teams centres around ‘channels’ (people in the same department or working on the same projects). Files can be uploaded, documents edited in real-time, and meetings arranged.
OneDrive: this tool allows real-time editing in Microsoft’s popular Office programs, albeit in limited capacity. Each user gets a minimum of 1TB of cloud storage space.
Arguably the first to embrace the real-time collaboration apps through services such as Google Docs, G Suite’s main components are:
Gmail: currently the most popular email service on the planet with in excess of 1.5 billion active users. Enterprise Gmail provides a few additional features for businesses.
Google Drive: includes its own word processing, spreadsheets and presentation tools (Docs, Sheets and Slides), as well as cloud storage.
Google Sites: its own website builder.
Hangouts Chat: integrates with the whole G Suite platform. For example, from the messaging app, users can schedule in Calendar, upload files from Drive and then export the chat to Vault.
Google Meet: Google’s answer to Skype, Meet allows video conferences, screen sharing, and broadcasting. Meetings even sync between devices.
Google Vault: Google’s archiving tool also allows users to set passwords and expiry dates on data.
How to choose
In choosing which platform to use, it is beneficial to look at the following criteria:
A vital issue for many organisations – and something that has perhaps prevented earlier migration – are concerns about how safe data/files are when they are in the cloud.
To counter these concerns, Office 365 offers its Enterprise Mobility and Security package and G Suite offers its Identity and Access Management service. For companies that deal with sensitive data, these offer detailed privacy control settings.
A key consideration for many organisations. Both Office 365 and G Suite offer flexible pricing plans on a per user per month basis.
Office 365 prices start at £3.80 (Business Essentials) and go up to £48.90 (Enterprise E5). G Suite’s Basic is £4.60, Business £9.20, and Enterprise £20.
Storage requirements are important and it’s always best to overestimate than be left short!
Google’s Basic edition gives 30GB of data per user, while the Business and Enterprise packages give unlimited storage.
Office 365’s Business Premium package provides each user 1TB of cloud storage. There is also the option to add more for an additional fee.
Ease of use
Any new software is likely to need some introductory training but the easier to use, the better.
Because Office 365 is trying to be an all-encompassing platform, it perhaps loses something in user-friendliness due to the overload of features. Although the basic elements are fairly familiar, many organisations will have to commit resources to train staff on how to best use Office 365.
In comparison, Google’s G Suite prides itself on being more intuitive and easier to use. Much of the guidance for this comes from its research on user behaviour.
According to Gildas Jones, head of Bristol based I.T support company Dial a Geek, requests for help and advice in selecting the appropriate platform are increasing exponentially as more and more organisations are now looking to embrace online collaboration. Much of this is driven by the scalability of these platforms, rivalling that of traditional onsite server based solutions.
“You also need to ensure that your infrastructure will be able to grow with your business. Fortunately, this is much easier than it used to be as the latest cloud-based systems are infinitely more scalable than those of the past.”
There are other alternative cloud networking options out there and Dropbox is a very popular alternative, which is used by a number of organisations and allows users to share files, edit documents in real-time, send data through links, chat with other users and initiate video call meetings. Unlike Office 365 and GSuite though it doesn’t have it’s own suite of apps and software.
Ultimately, the platform you opt for depends on the individual needs of your organisation. Those handling large volumes of data and wanting powerful analytics should probably opt for Office 365. Companies with a less complex requirement may be better suited to G Suite or Dropbox.