As cloud computing becomes increasingly popular, the competition in the cloud among service providers is becoming quite steep. Two cloud service providers in particular, Google and Microsoft, are among the top of the heap. But how do their cloud platforms compare to one another?
Google introduced its cloud platform, Google Apps, in 2006. Six years later, Google offers four different platforms (Google Apps for Business, for Education, for Non-Profit, for Government) that offer reliability (operating on a 99.9% uptime guarantee) and security (verified in SAS 70 Type II audit).
Microsoft made its debut in the cloud computing market with Office 365 in summer 2011. Office 365 is available in varied platforms for businesses, and as of 2012 it will include a new platform for education. Microsoft’s hybrid cloud solution is an evolution from its legacy system, BPOS.
Although both Google Apps and Office 365 are cloud computing platforms, the differences between the two are evident from the beginning. A Google Apps migration is a simple process that new users can either do on their own with the help of a set-up wizard or with the help of a Google Apps Authorized Reseller, who can offer more custom support. You can move to Office 365 with the help of a set-up wizard, or, if you’re already a Microsoft user, with the help of the new BPOS transition guide, released by Microsoft this spring. However, Microsoft’s transition guide does make clear that the transition needs to be done at specified times, not at the convenience of the end-user.
When it comes to the programs Google and Microsoft customers use on the cloud platform, it’s easy to see that users of each will have different experiences. Google Apps utilizes Gmail for email, instant messaging, and video chat, while Office 365 uses a combination of Exchange, Lync, and Sharepoint. Both Google Apps and Office 365 do provide users with document-creating programs through which they can create different types of files (i.e. word documents, spreadsheets, presentations) and allows users to share documents with others. For Google Apps users, this program is Google Documents. Like the rest of the Google Apps suite, Google Documents lives in the web browser. It enables users to share documents with the click of a button, track changes, and leave comments. Additionally, multiple users can edit the same document simultaneously. Office 365 users have Office Web Apps for this purpose. Office Web Apps is the online counterpart to Microsoft Office. Office 365 users can also share their documents with others. However, Office Web Apps does not have all of the robust capabilities as the desktop version, so the online program works best with a locally installed version of Microsoft Office. Using the two programs together does increase the tools available to the user, but it significantly limits the mobility of documents.
The need to use Office Web Apps with Microsoft Office leads to yet another difference between the two cloud platforms: Google Apps is a completely cloud-based service while Office 365 is a hybrid cloud solution. Google Apps operates entirely within the web browser and does not require any additional hardware or software. This means that users can access their accounts and all of their information from any web-enabled device, whenever and wherever. Additionally, all updates are done automatically by Google. On the other hand, Office 365 is a hybrid cloud solution, meaning it needs desktop management tools and on-premises servers (which require updates and licensing) to run properly. Thus, Office 365 users may have some limits to their universal access and may experience higher IT costs than they would on a fully cloud-based platform.
In addition to different IT costs, the prices of Google Apps and Office 365 are also a point of comparison. Google Apps pricing is easy to follow. Google Apps for Business is the highest-priced Google cloud platform. The business suite is available to all businesses for $50/user/year. All of Google’s platforms come standard with the entire apps suite. Meanwhile, Office 365 pricing can get confusing as there are multiple platforms with different services and different costs that can be combined with add-on services. Office 365’s lowest-priced platform (except for the new education platform which, like Google’s, is free) is $72/user/year. This plan is only available for businesses with fewer than 50 people and does not include the entire application suite. With this plan, some tools, like Office Web Apps, will need to be purchased separately.
Both Google Apps and Office 365 run on a 99.9% uptime guarantee. This statement seems like a similarity between the two platforms, but it’s actually another point where the two platforms differ. Google Apps’ guarantee includes scheduled updates and Google regularly exceeds this promise. In contrast, Office 365’s 99.9% does not include planned service and updates. Additionally, Microsoft has recently had problems meeting its 99.9% uptime promise, as users in Australia experienced hours of unexpected downtime.
Despite the fact that Google Apps and Office 365 are two of the most competitive cloud computing platforms available, when you compare the two side-by-side it’s obvious that they are completely different services
Cloud Sherpas is a leading cloud service provider and was named the “Google Enterprise 2011 Partner of the Year.” As one of the first Google Enterprise partners, Cloud Sherpas has migrated over one million users across a variety of industries from legacy, on-premise messaging systems to Google Apps, helping organizations adopt cloud computing to innovate and dramatically reduce their IT expenses. AGoogle Apps Reseller in Atlanta, GA, Cloud Sherpas has regional offices in locations including San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Austin and Sydney, and has more Google Apps Certified Deployment Specialists than any other partner in the world.