Office 365 or G Suite: Which is Better for Your Organization? (2020)

Every business needs email, communications, and productivity tools. 85% of businesses use Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google’s G Suite solutions to address these needs. But which is better: Office 365 or G Suite? The best solution depends on your existing technology and ease of adoption, your employees’ experiences and preferences, and cost to obtain the capabilities you need.

Microsoft and Google invest heavily in their email, communications and productivity suites, Office 365 and G Suite, respectively. The investments led to 85% combined market share, according to Bitglass, a Silicon Valley cloud security specialist. Microsoft Office 365 was being used by 65 percent of respondents in the Bitglass survey. Google’s G Suite was used by 19.2 percent of respondents. They have dominant market share because both platforms are from name-brand tech giants with reliable cloud infrastructures, and they cover most businesses’ needs for email, communications, and productivity.

Office 365 and G Suite both offer:

  • Business email
  • Calendar services
  • Online storage
  • Productivity apps to create and collaborate on content
  • Communications tools like online meetings, messaging, video conferencing
  • Management capabilities adequate for 99% of business’s needs

At this zoom level, the solutions sound interchangeable, so you should just toss a coin to decide, right? Not so fast. There are key differences that determine whether Office 365 or G Suite is better for your organization.

User Experience with Office 365 vs G Suite

Your employees’ experience and ability to maximize productivity with Office 365 or G Suite is the most critical consideration. Office 365 and G Suite were designed very differently, and they have different user interfaces, access methods, appearances, and organization.

User Experience with Office 365

Microsoft built Office 365 as an evolution of Microsoft’s Exchange email and the Office Suite that your employees are already familiar with. Office 365 placed these services in Microsoft’s reliable cloud, added capabilities, made them subscription-based, and surrounded them with other productivity tools like Teams and SharePoint.

Your employees can interact with Microsoft’s familiar tools the same way they have, using Office Suite programs like Word, Outlook, and Excel installed on their computer. They can also use those applications in the cloud via web-browser access.

The ability to use the Office Suite applications installed on your computer is a key point, as it’s a familiar experience for most professionals. The familiarity leads many to conclude they’re more productive working in the locally installed Office Suite. Also, using the applications locally leads to a faster, more streamlined experience, and for that reason, most business users still use the local Office Suite apps when feasible.

User Experience with G Suite

Google’s approach to building G Suite mirrored their cloud-native overall mantra. This means that G Suite, including Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google sheets, are used via your web-browser. A browser interface makes little difference for some of your employees, while others may prefer it.

Some of your employees will hate it though. This is a key distinction between Office 365 and G Suite since G Suite is all browser-based and Office 365 still has the option to use locally installed versions of Office Suite.

Deciding Between G Suite and Office 365

Since Microsoft Office 365 offers browser-based access to apps and Office Suite installs on your devices, the cloud apps experience is not a detractor when deciding between Office 365 and G Suite. Please note that it does impact the Office 365 package you choose though. If you prefer the experience and performance with local Office Suite apps, switching to browser-based versions, with either platform, will feel like a downgrade. This is all about preferences though.

If you don’t already have decided preferences, I recommend using some of the Office 365 and G Suite apps in the cloud on a trial basis so you can see how it impacts your experience and informs your preferences. If you dislike the experience of using G Suite apps in your browser, then you should rule out G Suite. If you dislike the experience of using Office 365 Office Suite in the cloud, then you’ll want to focus on the Office 365 packages that include the Office Suite downloads to your devices.

If you find that both platforms’ cloud apps experience meets your needs equally, focus on other considerations as you make your decision.

Adoption with Office 365 vs G Suite

The difficulty of adopting either platform can impact morale, productivity, and cost. Ease of adoption depends on what technology you use now, as well as your employees’ prior experiences. Choosing the platform most like your current solution, and/or what your employees have the most experience with, will require less training and time for your employees to regain their comfort and productivity.

Adoption with Office 365

Ease of adoption is a top reason Microsoft Office 365 has 65% market share vs. Google G Suite’s 19.2%. Unfortunately for Google, Office 365 inherited an entrenched advantage regarding adoption. According to TechRepublic, 83% of businesses already use Microsoft’s Office Suite.

Since Microsoft evolved the Office Suite into Office 365, the user experience and interfaces are familiar. Yes, there are differences, but they’re easy differences to figure out and overcome for your employees. Office Suite proficiency is also a standard requirement in the professional world nowadays. Office Suite has over 1.2 billion users globally and Office 365 already has over 180 million users, according to Microsoft’s CEO on the company’s Q3 ‘19 earnings call.

The point is, your existing and future employees likely come with Office Suite experience and that experience carries over seamlessly to Office 365.

Adoption with G Suite

Changing from Office Suite or Microsoft Exchange email to G Suite apps creates greater adoption challenges. If employees don’t have experience with G Suite apps and Gmail, they’ll begin the learning curve from scratch. If they have experience with G Suite, it may be minor compared to their Office Suite experience. Near-term, this decreases productivity, slows adoption, frustrates employees, and burdens IT with extra support requests.

If your employees are averse to change, this adoption challenge will be doubly cumbersome and costly. If you’re a startup, tech-savvy organization, or have younger employees, their comfort level with G Suite vs. Office 365 may be on par already or they will overcome the learning curve faster. Some of your employees may already prefer G Suite.

Before you draw any conclusions on adoption implications with Office 365 or G Suite, take time to sample your employees about their experience and comfort level with each. You may find that you’ll face a mutiny if you push forward with a change to G Suite or you may find they’ve quietly rooted for a G Suite transition. You won’t know until you ask them, and it’s better to find out while you’re evaluating, not post-transition.

Cost of Office 365 vs. G Suite

Office 365 and G Suite packages do not compare precisely, service by service, making a perfect comparison unfeasible. The packages do have enough overlap to draw pricing conclusions though.

Office 365 plans cost more than a comparable G Suite plan. But before you close the book on cost, you should know the difference in pricing is due to Office 365’s inclusion of Office Suite. Microsoft adds $8/month for packages that include the latest Office Suite downloads for your devices.

If you need Office Suite installed on your devices, G Suite’s lower subscription cost gets negated. Your G Suite licenses will cost less, but you’ll have to purchase Office Suite outright or subscribe to Office 365. If you purchase the Office Suite, you’ll have to upgrade Office versions every few years. If you don’t want to support multiple versions of Office in your environment or periodically purchase newer versions, Office 365 subscriptions provide you downloads of the latest Office Suite versions.

The total cost of buying and operating Office Suite wipes out the G Suite subscription savings. If you get a G Suite package, but also add Office 365 for your Office Suite needs, you will spend more than consolidating it all on Office 365.

Determining the Cost of Office 365 vs. G Suite for Your Company

The cost to your organization depends on the level of licensing you would need with Office 365 vs. G Suite, and whether you need the Office Suite of applications and/or other productivity tools within either solution’s packages.

If you need to install the Office Suite on your devices, you’ll obtain a lower total cost by standardizing on Office 365 vs. using G Suite + Office Suite licensing purchased or subscribed separately. If you do not need the Office Suite, G Suite may be more cost-effective, and you can verify that by reviewing the services in each package and determining the subscriptions you’d need with either platform.

If you find the needs assessment and subscription selection is over your head, involve your IT department, cloud consultants, or your Managed IT Services company to guide your selection.

So, which is better? Office 365 or G Suite?

If you read this far and are frustrated that I did not take a hard stance on which platform is ultimately better, I apologize. The hard truth is neither platform is better, but one is better for your organization. The closest thing to a hard stance I can offer is this: Office 365 is better for most organizations, but we also love G Suite here at Framework, because it’s just as robust as Office 365 and it is the right solution for certain clients, such as those that have a user-base already very comfortable with G suite.

Are you actively evaluating moving to Office 365 or G Suite? Would you like to learn more about the differences and engage friendly professionals, knowledgeable about both platforms, and proficient at transitioning companies to either? If so, please reach out to us to setup a consultation!