The platform choice: Google Apps vs. Office 365

iSupportU has set up email, calendar, contact and document collaboration systems for more than150 organizations over the past six years. We often consult with companies on what platform will be the best fit for them.

The two most common options are Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365. While both platforms are similar in the functions they offer, there are important differences for a business to consider when making a decision.

Office 365

Microsoft’s suite of cloud-based productivity software was released in 2011. Microsoft is the more seasoned player in the business-software world, but late to the cloud game.

Pros: Office 365 offers a large menu of options for companies that include varying levels of cloud and local software suites. While this may allow for flexibility, it can be confusing for a business that wants a solid collaboration suite with a simple billing structure.

Users know where all the buttons are when using Office, and that has great value to a business that wants to minimize disruption.

The model Microsoft has created results in businesses paying a fixed fee per month to get access to cloud versions of their productivity suite as well as licensing for local versions of their Office software. This could be a great choice for companies looking to have a predictable software-purchase budget.

Cons: After launch, Office 365 had uptime issues. According to a study done by Cloud Sherpas, for a 151-day timeframe in early 2013, the system experienced 4,503 minutes of downtime, which translates to a 97.93 percent uptime for users. Conversely, Google Apps experienced 44 minutes of downtime, which translates to a 99.98 percent uptime for users. That means there were 113 minutes of downtime on Office 365 for every minute of downtime on Google. Microsoft has made major investments in stability since the initial launch. However, it’s unlikely that it will be able to catch up to the uptime levels of the Google platform.

Microsoft tools are notoriously unstable on Apple computers compared with their Windows counterparts. The 2016 version of Office for Mac speaks to this disparity, but it’s too soon to know for sure how well this new version of Office 365 will play with Macs.

Google Apps for Work

Google was born in the cloud. Because of this, many of the web-based productivity tools offered by Google are more robust than the corresponding Office 365 tools.

Pros: Google tools will integrate more effectively with Apple software. Google also has a sync tool that allows Outlook for Windows to sync data with Google Apps for Work (email, calendars and contacts).

Google currently has more than 5 million organizations on its email, calendar, contact and document collaboration suite. This includes some high-profile companies such as D-Link, the State of Colorado and BBVA.

The software integration ecosystem for Google Apps for Work is very rich. A company can find everything from Customer Relationship Management systems to email marketing platforms that integrate with Google open API.

Studies have shown that organizations see significant productivity gains by moving over to the Google Apps for Work suite. Companies will have to deal with the learning curve of getting teams to collaborate in a new ecosystem that is fully browser-based.

Cons: There is a learning curve to getting a team moved over to Google Apps for Work. For those deeply embedded in the Outlook philosophy of email management, this transition causes some temporary pain. Training is critical to ensure all employees know how to use these new tools most effectively.


From a privacy perspective, the two companies are similar in the way they deal with user data. Both companies give you the ability to download and delete your data from their servers. Google is more restrictive about giving data to governmental authorities when requested. If privacy is important to your company, take the time to read the Terms of Service for both services.


A company might make the email hosting decision based on the type of computers it uses. Apple shops should strongly consider Google Apps for Work. Microsoft-based offices can go either way, but if wanting to have those productivity tools function seamlessly in the desktop environment, then Office 365 will be the better choice.

Shaun Oshman is founder and chief executive of iSupportU in Boulder. He can be reached at 303-630-9974 or