Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) and Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) are the two most popular productivity suites used by businesses today, owning 48.08% and 46.44% of the global market respectively, at the time of writing.
Office productivity suites provide businesses with a range of applications designed to make it easy for employees to work more effectively, communicate, and collaborate—both internally and with other businesses—from any location, at any time. And in today’s digital-first workplace, where remote or hybrid teams are the new norm, productivity applications are becoming increasingly popular.
Via their application suites, Microsoft and Google both want to make it easier for your teams to work together, improving your organization’s productivity and, in turn, its profitability. Because they share this goal, the two suites are quite similar: they both include apps for word processing, email, instant messaging, and video conferencing, as well as file sharing and central management functionality. They both offer a range of packages to suit businesses of all sizes. And finally, both suites are built upon a reliable, secure cloud infrastructure capable of supporting businesses worldwide.
These similarities can make it difficult to decide which is the right productivity suite for your business. To help you make the right choice, we’ve put together this guide, in which we’ll compare the key features and benefits of Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace, as well as their packages and pricing. While both solutions offer features outside the ones mentioned in this guide, we feel that these are the most crucial and relevant to all organizations—regardless of size or sector—looking to implement an office productivity suite.
Before we start, we should also mention that we refer to Microsoft and Google’s various packages throughout this guide. You can use the Contents section on the left to skip down to an outline of these packages at any point.
Now, let’s get going.
Though businesses are increasingly finding new ways to communicate both internally and externally, email remains one of the most popular communication methods used in the workplace. It provides users with a quick and easy way to send messages and share files, as well as keep track of meetings and calendar events.
Both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace offer email in their productivity suites, but their services are a little different. Google’s Gmail is an email service that users can access via their Google Workspace account. It offers a default mailbox size of 30GB per user. Microsoft Outlook is an application designed to help users manage their email among other things, including their calendar. Outlook is powered by Microsoft’s Exchange server, which is a dedicated email service. Microsoft offers a default mailbox size of 50GB per user.
Both Outlook and Gmail have a user-friendly interface that’s easy to navigate, with customization options to help improve user experience. In Outlook, users can choose a theme, and arrange how their emails are displayed and where certain features are placed. Gmail offers more granular customization options, enabling users to edit the design and size of each element of their inbox, as well as the placement of certain features. Users can also toggle features on or off, to help improve their interaction with the service.
Outlook and Gmail both offer robust search functionality that enables users to find specific email records, they both allow users to import contact lists from other service providers or via CSV upload, and they both offer integrations with third-party add-ons such as analytics and security tools.
As well as offering security integrations, Outlook powered by Exchange and Gmail also offer in-built security tools:
Microsoft’s Exchange Online Protection (EOP) is a cloud-based email filtering service that scans emails for malicious sending domains, attachments, and URLs. While it offers some level of protection against email threats, EOP fails to detect more sophisticated attacks, such as spear phishing and brand impersonation.
Microsoft also offers an enhanced email security solution—Microsoft Defender (formerly Advanced Threat Protection or “ATP”)—which is available standalone and also included in the Microsoft 365 E5 and E5 plans. Defender offers more sophisticated levels of threat detection than EOP, as well as more granular configuration options. While it’s more accurate and effective than EOP, research has found that Defender still only identifies 48.4% of email threats. However, Microsoft is continuously working to develop the platform, and many users report improvements in threat detection and reduction of false positives in recent years.
Google’s Business Starter, Business Standard, and Business Plus plans all leverage Google’s basic email security features. These include:
- Spam filtering, which detects and blocks more obvious malicious email content
- Malicious URL and attachment scanning
- SPF configurations, which helps prevent domain spoofing and prevents outgoing messages being marked as spam
- DKIM configurations, which use encryption keys to authenticate outgoing emails so recipients know they haven’t been altered during transit
- DMARC support, which helps prevent email spoofing
Overall, Google’s standard email security has a slight edge over Microsoft’s EOP counterpart, but it’s still not 100% reliable. Google also offers an advanced email security features in their Enterprise plan. These include hosted S/MIME for email encryption, data loss prevention (DLP) policies for Gmail and Google Drive, and attachment sandboxing.
Because neither Google nor Microsoft’s in-built email security offerings provide protection against the sophisticated email threats we’re seeing today—such as spear-phishing—we recommend that you take a layered approach to securing your Gmail or Exchange-powered inboxes. That means bolstering the in-built functionality by implementing a strong third-party email security solution.
Gmail and Outlook (powered by Exchange) are both reliable email platforms, with a clean, user-friendly interface and all the core functionality that your business may want. The main differences are that Google offers most customization within the inbox, and Microsoft’s solution is generally easier to integrate with third-party security tools, many of which offer simple API integrations and Outlook plugins. However, most email security vendors offer deployment support for both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace, so choosing the best email solution really comes down to personal preference.
Although email is still one of the most popular communication methods in the workplace, it’s not always the most efficient method. Drafting an email takes time and, depending on the security your organization and your email’s recipient have in place, it can also take a while for the email to actually be delivered once you’ve sent it. Email also presents users with an important communication barrier, as it doesn’t let us read non-verbal signals. This can lead to misunderstandings and can make it more difficult to form strong team connections.
Because of this, two other methods of communication are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace: instant messaging and video conferencing. Instant messaging apps are like the water cooler of the remote or hybrid workplace; they let users communicate instantly and directly, without the formality of drafting an email. Video conferencing tools, on the other hand, are the closest virtual alternative you’ll find for seeing someone in person. They enable users to facilitate meetings from any location, at any time. They also remove the communication barrier presented in email and instant messaging apps, by enabling users to actually see one another—if only from the waist up. This makes them great for team building calls, as well as more formal business meetings.
Both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace offer instant messaging and video conferencing, via Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet and Google Chat respectively.
Microsoft Teams is a desktop app that delivers video conferencing, instant messaging and file-sharing via one portal. Teams was designed specifically for business, as a replacement for Microsoft’s dated Skype for Business app. With the Business packages, Teams allows up to 300 participants to join a videocall at once; with the Enterprise packages, this increases to 1,000, with 20,000 view-only attendees—making it a great solution for hosting webinars. Teams also integrates seamlessly with OneDrive and the Office web apps (we’ll come onto these later) for more intuitive file sharing and editing. Finally, Teams allows users to message each other directly from within the same app—allowing them to easily keep track of all their communications in one place.
Google Meet And Google Chat
Google Meet is Google’s browser-based video conferencing app, built as a business alterative to Google Hangouts. The number of users that can join a Meet call varies with each subscription plan: with Business Starter, 100 participants can join a call and users cannot record meetings; with Business Standard, 150 participants can join a call; with Business Plus and Enterprise, 500 participants can join a call. While users can’t message one another directly via Meet, Google Workspace offers a separate, dedicated instant messaging app: Google Chat.
Microsoft and Google both offer robust video conferencing and instant messaging functionality. With both Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, users can easily share their screens on video calls, add virtual backgrounds, and toggle their camera and microphone on or off. Because Google Workspace separates its video conferencing and IM functionality, both apps offer a simple, easy-to-use interface. Teams, on the other hand, offers advanced features and integrations for a more comprehensive and collaborative communication experience.
Being able to browse and edit a shared document in real-time helps eliminate version control mistakes, as well as reducing the need to keep sending a file back and forth.
Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace both make it much easier for users to collaborate on documents in real-time, via their browser-based apps. These include file sharing, word processing, spreadsheets, and slide deck presentation tools. Microsoft 365 also allows users to work on shared documents in real-time—and offline—through its desktop versions of these apps. These are available with most of Microsoft’s 365 plans. Although Google Workspace doesn’t offer installable desktop versions of its apps, its Docs, Sheets and Slides web apps do provide offline functionality.
With Microsoft 365’s SharePoint online app, users can manage, organize and edit shared files. SharePoint uses Microsoft’s OneDrive for Business to store files in the cloud.
Google enables file sharing via Google Drive folders; users can set up shared folders, or grant shared access to individual files.
Microsoft 365 includes Microsoft Word, a powerful word processing tool with robust formatting tools and the ability to track comments and revisions. The web version of Word offers slightly limited functionality compared to the desktop app, but its best for real-time collaboration.
Google Docs is Google Workspace’s browser-based word processing tool. Docs makes it easy for users to create and format files individually, and also offers reliable group editing features.
Both Word and Docs are excellent word processing tools. In our testing, we found that Docs tends to perform better when it comes to real-time collaboration—Word tends to crash or lag a little when too many users are using the same document at once. However, the desktop version of Word offers a wider range of formatting tools and easy access to local files.
As with Word vs Docs, Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are very similar in terms of their web functionality. Both are powerful tools for creating and managing spreadsheets, and both enable multiple people to collaborate on one sheet in real-time.
However, the desktop version of Excel offers more features than both its web-based counterpart and Google Sheets.
Both Google Slides and the web version of Microsoft PowerPoint allow users to create and edit slide deck presentations, with numerous formatting options and the ability to add speaker notes to each slide. But again, the desktop version of PowerPoint offers extended functionality over both web apps, and is much more intuitive.
Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace both offer a wide range of powerful productivity and collaborations apps. The key difference here is that Microsoft’s desktop apps are generally more powerful than both their web versions, and Google’s web-based apps. This makes Microsoft 365’s offering better suited for organizations that prefer using desktop applications, or those that need extended formatting functionality from their word and data processing tools. However, for those that don’t need that extra functionality, Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace are fairly evenly matched.
One of the biggest perks of using a cloud-based productivity suite is the cloud-based data storage. By storing data in the cloud, organizations can minimize disruption to productivity in the event of an on-premises disaster—whatever scale that disaster may be. So, whether a device’s hard drive breaks down or the entire office is flooded, your cloud data will be safe.
We’re going to look at two key types of data storage within Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace: file data, and email data.
All Microsoft 365 accounts offer 1TB of cloud storage via OneDrive. This is generally plenty for most users that want to store documents and other work-related files in the cloud. However, for users uploading lots of video or audio data, the 1TB can be used up quickly. More cloud storage is available via the Enterprise plans, which offer 5TB of storage per user—making these plans much better suited for larger organizations, and those needing to store lots of multi-media data in the cloud.
Google Workspace offers cloud storage via Google Drive. The Business Starter package only offers 30GB of storage per user—and that includes email data. However, Google’s Business Standard package offers 2TB of cloud storage per user, the Business Plus plan offers 5TB, and the Enterprise plan offers unlimited storage—making these plans much more competitive, and well-suited to any organization that needs to store large amounts of data in the cloud.
Microsoft 365’s most basic plan, Business Basic, offers a much more generous amount of email storage than Google Workspace, offering a 50GB inbox on top of the 1TB file storage. Google Workspace’s Business Starter plan, as mentioned previously, caps all storage—both file and email—at 30GB per user.
Microsoft 365 users can also leverage extended email storage if they’re subscribed to the E3 or E5 plans by using the “auto-expanding archiving” feature. This allows them to archive another 1.5TB of emails.
However, Google’s higher-tier plans offer more generous storage capacity than Microsoft, at 2TB, 5TB and unlimited capacity respectively.
Plans And Pricing
Google Workspace is available via four plans:
- Business Starter, at $6/user/month, is aimed at very small businesses. It includes the web productivity apps, Gmail with a custom domain, 30GB cloud storage per user and videocalls with up to 100 participants.
- Business Standard, at $12/user/month, is the most popular Google Workspace plan. It offers further security and management configurations, as well as 2TB storage per user, videocalls with up to 150 participants, and the option to record videocalls.
- Business Plus, at $18/user/month, offers archiving and eDiscovery, 5TB storage per user, videocalls with up to 250 participants with attendance tracking, and enhanced endpoint management.
- Enterprise, at $25+/user/month, offers enhances security features such as S/MIME email encryption and data loss prevention, as well as unlimited personal storage, and the ability for businesses to lock shared files. The Enterprise tier also includes Google AppSheet, which allows businesses to create their own apps without code.
Microsoft 365’s pricing is more complex than that of Google Workspace. We’re going to focus on the plans designed for small businesses and enterprises.
The small business packages all support up to 300 users, and are as follows:
- Microsoft 365 Business Basic, at $5/user/month (when committed annually), is the best alternative to Google Workspace’s Business Starter plan. It offers business email, 1TB of cloud storage per user, and the web and mobile versions of Microsoft’s productivity apps, including Teams and SharePoint.
- Microsoft 365 Apps for Business, at $8.25/user/month (when committed annually), is designed for small businesses that need productivity apps, but without the email. It offers the desktop and web version of all of Microsoft 365’s apps except Teams and SharePoint, and 1TB personal storage per user.
- Microsoft 365 Business Standard, at $12.50/user/month (when committed annually), offers the web and desktop versions of all Microsoft’s productivity apps, as well as email, Microsoft Invoicing, and Outlook Customer Manager.
- Microsoft 365 Business Premium, at $20/user/month (when committed annually), offers everything in the Standard plan, plus Microsoft Intune for management and Microsoft Defender for security.
The enterprise packages support an unlimited number of users, and are as follows:
- Microsoft 365 E1, at $10/user/month (when committed annually), offers the mobile and web version of all of Microsoft 365’s productivity applications, with 50GB of mail storage and 1TB of file storage per user.
- Microsoft 365 E3, at $20/user/month (when committed annually), offers all the E1 features plus the desktop version of the productivity apps, 100GB mailbox storage per user, unlimited OneDrive storage, and eDiscovery features for admins.
- Microsoft 365 E5, at $35/user/month (when committed annually), offers advanced security features, including Microsoft Defender and Microsoft 365 Cloud App Security.
For more information on the different levels of security offered by Microsoft 365’s enterprise plans, read our Office 365 E1 Vs E3 Vs E5: Plans Breakdown And Security Comparison.
Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace both have an extensive feature set designed to help users communicate and collaborate more effectively, to help boost overall productivity and improve the experience of remote or hybrid workers.
The best solution for your business will depend on how many users you have and what you plan on using the solution for.
Google Workspace offers the benefit of being able to get up-and-running instantly, as it doesn’t require the installation of any apps. This makes it a great solution for smaller businesses that are looking for a simple yet effective suite of tools that are easy to use, and help their teams to collaborate more efficiently.
Microsoft 365, on the other hand, offers similar collaboration options but with more sophisticated functionality and a wider range of pricing options. However, that functionality may come with a learning curve for smaller organizations or those not already familiar with Microsoft’s applications.
The good news is that both productivity suites offer a free trial, allowing you to get a feel for each product before you take the plunge and invest—so you can be sure you’re choosing the best suite to support your workforce.