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Review: Microsoft Office 365 vs. Google Apps

Woody Leonhard | Jan. 9, 2014
Web browser or Office suite? Microsoft's and Google's office productivity and collaboration clouds pit rich and complex against simple and lean

Sorting through the Office 365 SKUsIf you're looking for a simple straight-up comparison of features and prices, you clearly don't understand the game. While Google Apps for Business remains relatively straightforward, with four packages and identical features, Office 365's ecosystem is starting to look like an Exchange Server CAL contract. I fully expect books, seminars, and postgrad university courses are in the offing, to help hapless customers pick from what's available.

Here's the supersimplified list:

Office 365 Small Business, for up to 25 users, does not include the Office 2013 desktop apps (though you would be forgiven for assuming otherwise). However, if you already have licenses for Office 2013, 2010, or even 2007, or Office 2011 or 2008 for Mac, you can use those suites with Office 365. Paying for Office 365 Small Business will let you manage your domain's email and share calendars, with 50GB of email storage per user. (There's no Active Directory, which may be a blessing.) You also get online videoconferencing and free website hosting. SkyDrive Pro comes with the package, with 25GB of file storage space, as does SharePoint with shared email and document folders. All of this costs $60 per year per person.

The other services Microsoft mentions as being included in the Office 365 Small Business package are, uh, iffy. Online conferencing, screen sharing, and instant messaging are available and free from many vendors, including Microsoft/Skype. Office Web Apps are free for anybody who signs up for a free SkyDrive account (which provides 7GB of storage per person). The mobile apps on offer work only on Windows Phones, at least at this point.

Office 365 Small Business Premium, for up to 25 users, adds subscriptions for the latest desktop versions of Office for each user. That's probably what you expected with Office 365. Each subscription can install up to five copies of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Lync on PCs or Macs. You also get client-only subscriptions (that is, no server involved) for OneNote, Publisher, and Access. The Office 365 Small Business Premium package also includes licenses for Office Mobile for iPhone and Android (which InfoWorld's Galen Gruman describes as "pathetically bad"). This package also includes Office 365 On Demand, which lets you stream the desktop Office programs to any PC or Mac; they disappear when you log off. Office 365 Small Business Premium is listed at $150 per user per year.

Office 365 Midsize Business can take your company up to 300 users, with all of the Small Business Premium features, plus Active Directory to centrally manage user credentials, data access permissions, single sign-on, and synchronization. The bill goes up to $180 per user per year.

 

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