When it comes to productivity cloud tools (email, word processing and spreadsheets etc) there are two big players in town; Google’s G-Suite and Microsoft Office 365. There are other solutions out there, but the sheer range of features and maturity of service, it’s hard to beat these guys.  The other big plus with both is, subject to a few caveats, they are 100% free to not-for-profits. So any side-by-side direct comparison on cost is largely academic, its what you get with each and how you prefer to work that really matters.

So why move to the cloud in the first place? Well, the simple answer is you get access to awesome services, constantly updated and someone else takes care of all that security and most of the management stuff. Also, everyone is doing it, and if they’re not they soon will be. The economies of scale, the internet speed most of us enjoy and the support offered to these services makes for the most compelling argument. 

How do they differ?

In terms of the day-to-day tasks they both do the core things like sending emails, creating documents and handling data in spreadsheets really well. Where you first start to notice the difference is the interface you use to interact with them. While Office 365 plays very well, seamlessly integrating, with Microsoft Office Desktop software (Word, Outlook etc), Google is designed to work straight from the browser.  While you can still use Office, the experience is not quite the same and saving/editing documents in G-Suite with office can fell clunky and unnatural.  What G-Suite does offer is it very easy to use and collaboration is very effective.

Word  v Google Docs

While lack of desktop software might put some people off, it could be a major selling point of G-suite. If you don’t feel you really need MS Office desktop then working in the browser can be quick and can save you the cost of the of a copy of Office.   G-Suites collaboration features are also very good, with the ability to co-author document with ease. Word still, even in the online form provided as part of Office 365, wins hands down in terms of features and templates.

Excel v Google Sheets

Excel is the global front runner for spreadsheets and with justifiable reason.  The software is ultra powerful and makes manipulating large amounts of data inline very easy.    Google Sheets are good, but the heavy lifting that Excel can do far out classes it.   Where G-Suite has the edge is the ability to easily collaborate on spreadsheets, so if your data is fairly straightforward being able to quickly co-author, say a budget, in G-Suite may appeal more.

PowerPoint v Slides

PowerPoint wins this one hands down. The range of templates, annotation features and media integration are just, well, better.  Collaboration and simplicity again a reason to look at G-Suite. 

The Extras

This is where it gets interesting.

Both have a lot of shared extra features, such as: Groups, Cloud Storage (One Drive and Google Drive), Files (Goggle Site Files and SharePoint).

Office 365 is growing at a rapid rate.  New features like Teams (their very strong rival to Slack), Planner, Skype for Business, Yammer,  One Note, Delve, Sway and heaps of other productivity tools.  In fact we struggle to really keep on top of the rate release of these features, with findtime.microsoft.com only just launched this week.  Microsoft also offer other donation and discounted services including an annual $5000 credit to their Azure cloud platform and Power BI Analytics. 

Google also offer some very generous donations including;  $10,000 USD of in-kind advertising every month, YouTube Not-for-Profit, Premium Access to Google Maps (although these can all be applied for independent of G-suite). Google forms (for capturing data online) are great too, but Microsoft do have their own version coming very soon.

Spend some time checking these out, there are hidden gems in both products that could save you time and effort.

The Choice

They both do a lot, they are massive products with great feature sets.  The ultimate choice will come down to preference and if you are going to use the desktop version of Office or co-authoring  and simplicity are your main drivers.  Most Not-for-profits can access both Google and Microsoft’s donation programmes, so why not sign up and try both out.

Finding out more

Google for not-for-profits : https://www.google.com/intl/en-GB/nonprofits/index.html 

Office 365 Not for Profits : https://products.office.com/en-gb/nonprofit/office-365-nonprofit-plans-and-pricing

Donation criteria does vary, so check the small print on both, you may be eligible for one scheme but not the other.  The processes for both have improved dramatically over the last couple of years, but do not be frighted to raise a support request with Google or Microsoft if you are having any difficulty.

SCVO provides a range of IT solutions to not-for-profits, including our fully managed fixed price service which covers all aspects of IT support. Check out http://www.scvo.org.uk/techservices/ for more information or to arrange a free ICT health check and report.