Microsoft has been nothing if not complicated with its pricing structure for Office 365. A hot-desking kiosk user who doesn’t own his or her own computer can gain entry-level access to Exchange and SharePoint for £2.60 per month. At the other end of the scale, a higher-end enterprise user will need to shell out around £15.80 per month for a licence covering Office and the Lync Plus voice communications product. (Note that prices quoted here are converted from US dollars at the exchange rate at the time of writing.)
The Office UI
Office 365 is designeed to work alongside Microsoft’s desktop on-premise heritage. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. While Google’s apps do a good job of existing “in the cloud” and proving a comparable online version of a desktop client, overall they are arguably less functionality-rich than Office across the board. Microsoft’s domination in the productivity applications market – Word, Outlook for e-mail, Excel for spreadsheets, etc – is the ace up its sleeve and the company will play on the “comfort through familiarity” line as much as it can.
Microsoft probably has the upper hand on Google. This is again down to the fact that most of us will be more familiar with typing e-mails into an e-mail client application and text documents into Word as opposed to any online equivalent. Google Apps makes a good attempt at integrating with Office and Outlook, but it is a bit like running Internet Explorer on a Mac (or driving a car down a train track) – perfectly possible, but not exactly built from the ground up for compatibility and a snug fit.
Creating an email
Office 365 Enterprise Plan users will be able to connect to SharePoint services using secure https SSL-encrypted connections. The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol provides a cryptographic system for the secure transmission of documents over the internet. So that’s all good then? Well, not quite. Although enterprise users will get this protection, professional and small business plan users will not get SSL-encrypted defences. For most small businesses – and professionals for that matter – there is always a need at some point to work with sensitive documentation, even if it is nothing more than the company accounts, which, in this instance, will not be protected.
Building your own website in Office 365
And the winner is
On the face of it, Google Business Apps is more straightforward in terms of set-up and overall management. Plus, many small business users may never have come across SharePoint and Lync (Microsoft’s messaging and collaboration component) before, so that may be off-putting. On a practical level, Google’s structured support and help options outstrip Microsoft’s “self-service” help offerings. But overall, it is hard to pick a clear winner.
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