There are two major players when it comes to product suites for your small business – Google Apps for Work (formerly Google Apps for Business) and Microsoft Office 365.

But how do you know which one is right for your Virtual Assistant business?

Of course there’s an obvious immediate difference:

  1. Microsoft Office 365 combines desktop software with some online applications
  2. Google Apps for Work is primarily an online solution (however we’ve discovered a couple of cool little offline tricks for Google users that we’ll reveal in another article … join our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out!)

So what else separates these two players?

Well let’s take a look.

Here we review the five ‘main’ components of each product, those that we Virtual Assistants use the most, showing the similarities and differences of each.

Helping you decide which is the better solution for your business.

The five categories are:

  1. Email
  2. Documents
  3. Spreadsheets
  4. Presentations
  5. File Sharing

Oh and don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten the all important price-factor.

To close, we’ll look at that final decision-making element.

1. Email: Gmail versus Outlook

Both solutions provide a similar set of benefits:

  • Ability to use a business email domain
  • Ad-free inboxes
  • Built in anti-malware and anti-spam security
  • Syncs across all devices
  • Calendar syncing
  • Contact syncing

However there are a couple of key differentiators too:

Gmail

Familiarity: Many of us have Gmail accounts for personal use. So we’re already familiar with the format, layout and tools.

Therefore switching to Gmail for business is user-friendly. There’s no messing around or hunting to find things.

Instant add-to calendar: When someone sends a meeting request, a funky little piece of software highlights the date and time and makes it clickable.

To accept, simply click on the highlighted text and your calendar will be automatically updated.

Attachments: Viewing and deciding what to do with attachments is easy.

Firstly, clicking on the attachment will display a full-size preview on screen, which is pretty great if you want to have a quick look before responding to the email. No need to download first then view it.

Next, you can decide whether to download it, edit it in Google Docs, or save it to Google Drive for later.

Instant messaging: One final benefit of Gmail is the instant messaging functionality.

If you’ve got a quick question to ask and want to avoid email or phoning, check to see if your Client or Associate is online and send an instant message instead. Done in a matter of seconds, not hours.

Outlook

Offline access: Need to access emails when offline? You’ve got it with Outlook.

All already-downloaded emails will be completely visible to you whether you’re online or offline. Great if you work on the move regularly.

Notes: If you hold meetings with your Clients or Associates by phone or VoIP, you can use Outlook’s OneNote to take notes, then add it to diary invite so it remains with that meeting forever.

All those involved can easily refer back to it whenever they want – a great way to check progress or review next steps.

Outcome:

Pretty evenly matched.

Gmail is easy to use with plenty of built-in features to help with collaboration.

However if you often need access to your emails when offline, you’ll find that Outlook is better served for that purpose.

2. Documents: Docs versus Word

Overall, both Google Docs and Microsoft Word offer similar functionality, such as:

  • Create, edit and share documents
  • Add images and watermarks
  • Collaborate with Clients and Associates
  • Easily trackable edits

However as before, there are a couple of obvious differences:

Google Docs

Auto save: Never again forget to save a file before shutting it down, and for it to be lost forever thereafter! This is a personal favourite!

Google Docs automatically saves your document every few minutes.

Research: When working on a document, you can open the research tool to search through Google Scholar, or add quotes or tables as needed.

Microsoft Office

Document polishing: The main (and only worth taking about) advantage Office still has over Docs, is the ability to finesse a document.

There are a multitude of features within Word that allows you to create a professional document. For example, the variety of templates available, the ability to add frames and shadows to images, the option to colour code tables, etc.

Outcome:

Google Docs certainly does the job for standard documents. It’s easy, accessible and superior when it comes to inbuilt research tools.

However if you need the end result to be a little more polished, you may want to consider using Microsoft Word.

3. Spreadsheets: Sheets versus Excel

This is where the division of functionality becomes more apparent.

Both solutions of course offer the spreadsheet basics:

  • Create, edit and share spreadsheets
  • Include calculations and formulas
  • Create charts and pivot tables
  • Add filters
  • Use across multiple devices

However let’s take a look at the main differences:

Google Sheets

Auto save: Yes again, Google integrates auto-save. Any time you move out of a cell, your sheet is saved.

Microsoft Excel

Templates: A vast array of template options to suit your needs whatever  type of spreadsheet you’re working on.

Formatting: Overall, Excel has superior functionality when it comes to formatting and display options, such as freezing panes, inserting images and charts.

Outcome:

For creating in-depth reports, analytics or financials, Microsoft Excel is the clear winner here.

However Google Sheets works well for general spreadsheets that don’t have as much detail, or don’t require the ‘fancier’ charts to help present the information.

4. Presentations: Slides versus PowerPoint

Now that division of functionality becomes even wider.

Yes, both Google and Microsoft provide similar basic functionality for their presentations solution:

  • Create, edit and share presentations
  • Choose from a selection of template designs
  • Collaborate with Clients and Associates easily
  • Work online and offline

But Google has a way to go in terms of end result with its presentation solution.

The key differentiators are:

Google Slides

Sadly, none.

Microsoft PowerPoint

Templates: There are multiple template designs in the Microsoft solution – more than enough choice to create the right amount of impact for your presentation.

Effects: The options here are almost endless – embedding images and videos, adding animations and transitions, formatting features …

Presentation mode: Perhaps the greatest benefit that Microsoft PowerPoint holds over Google Slides is its ability to provide a presentation solution.

When your laptop is plugged into a projector, PowerPoint automatically goes into presenter mode which means your viewers see your beautiful presentation, while you see the presentation and your vital notes.

Laser pointer and highlighter are a couple more great features that make this (in my humble opinion) a far superior product.

Outcome:

Hands down Microsoft wins this battle.

If you regularly do presentations for your own VA business or for your Clients, Google Slides I’m afraid won’t cut it for that polished, and easy to use, presentation.

5. File Sharing/Storage: Drive versus OneDrive

When it comes to file sharing both Google and Microsoft are very evenly matched:

  • Store, sync and share files
  • Sync with all devices
  • 1TB storage*
  • Collaborate with Clients and Associates easily

*Google Apps for Work states that if there are under 5 users in the team, storage allowance is 1TB not the 30GB as stated in their pricing page.

Therefore, as far as we can see, there’s only one main difference between both options:

Google Drive

Search: Google, the master of search functionality, includes an easy search solution which can pull up the relevant file, or note, within seconds.

Microsoft OneDrive

None

Outlook:

Whilst there is very little between these two when it comes to file sharing and storage, Google perhaps has a slight edge when it comes to usability.

So what it really comes down to, like most things, is the type of work you do as to the solution you should use.

Oh but one final comparison may also help you decide … the price.

Google Apps for Work

£3.30 per user per month

Includes:

  • Business email addresses
  • Video and voice calls
  • Integrated online calendars
  • 30 GB of online storage for file syncing and sharing
  • Google Apps on desktop, tablets and phone

For more information, head over to Google’s dedicated page here.

Microsoft Office 365

Not quite so straight forward as it depends on the package you buy.

£7.00 per user per month

Includes:

  • Full Office on PC/Mac with apps for tablets and phones
  • 1 TB file storage and sharing
  • Full, installed Office on PC/Mac
  • Office apps on tablets and phones

For more information on the different packages available, head over to Microsoft’s dedicated page here.

So which one is the winner for your business?

Leave your comments and tell us why you’ve chosen Google over Microsoft, or vice versa.

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