Small Business IT Suites

02

July, 2019

How do you collaborate and store your content?

As Marie Kondo says, “Anxiety arises from not being able to see the whole picture. If you feel anxious, but are not sure why, try putting your things in order.”   This is true with physical things in your home or office, but also pertains to how you organize and maintain your files, contacts, and business communication.  Do you have clear boundaries between your business and personal activity online, or Is your business infrastructure just “thrown in” with your personal things?

As a remote team, we have tried many solutions for organizing and collaborating on projects. For us, the top two contenders were G Suite and Microsoft Office 365. Both have strong advantages for the small business and are decently priced. If you don’t want to read the full review, here is a table show a summary of our findings:

O = Excellent               X = Below Expectations

 

G Suite

O365

Ease of setup

O

X

File Storage

O

O

Searchability

O

X

Team communication

X

O

Project management

X

O

Admin tools

O

O

Ease of use online

O

O

Ease of use offline

X

O

Price

$12/per user/per month

$12.50/per user/per month

Do you have clear boundaries between your business and personal content?

Setup and Maintaining

Point of entry is always a factor when considering purchasing any solution. While both G Suite and Office 365 are similar and start out almost identically, G Suite’s setup is much faster and you can be up and running with the basics in as little as 10 minutes. The guided setup tour provides clear instructions in language that makes sense even to non-techies.

O365 provides more options up front and we often found ourselves “Alt+Tabbing” to view Microsoft’s getting started documentation to make sure that we weren’t missing steps.

Maintenance is very similar. G Suite is clearly the simpler of the two and only takes a few minutes every month to ensure that things are running smoothly. Most small companies’ reports and other documentation needs will be met using G Suite’s clean web interface.

G Suite’s setup is super fast and you can be up and running with the basics in as little as 10 minutes.

Document Storage and Sharing

G Suite and O365 are fundamentally different when it comes to documents and file sharing! G Suite is completely web based while O365 relays to desktop applications to truly provide all the functionality that it proclaims. O365’s SharePoint is great for large organizations to house and manage huge amounts of files and create automated workflows (via Microsoft Flow).  But for us smaller folks, G Suite’s web tools and interfaces provide quick, clean, and simple access for editing and collaboration on a specific document without having to download a single application (unless of course you don’t have Google Chrome… which would be a very sad thing indeed!).  Google is the king of search and so it makes sense that it would beat Microsoft in locating documents or emails quickly. Microsoft is improving, but with Google’s massive lead, they have quite a long way to go to catch up.

For non-technical teams, having all your Google docs, sheets, slides, etc. only living on the cloud can be a real advantage. With G Suite, there are no more local machine files. While this can be a bit hard for those folks that like to work “off the grid,” this really is an advantage in being able to view/share/sync files from truly any device.

Team Communication

Quick and efficient team communication is vital to providing the best product or service to your customers and clients. With the release of Microsoft Teams, the Office 365 suite blows its competitors out of the water.  Based on threaded chats in grouped channels, teams can efficiently chat and hold video calls both publicly and privately.  Furthermore, because Teams automatically integrates with files, tasks, and OneNote or even 3rd party APIs (interfaces with other applications),  it naturally becomes the hub where team members collaborate.

G Suite is trying to match this communication platform functionally with their Google Hangouts Chat. While chatting with colleagues is not an issue, G Suite fell apart when we tried to collaborate on a file or hold conference calls. Google is also trying to get more developers to create integrations with Hangouts Chat, but as of now (and from our own experience) there isn’t a large enough user base for web application developers to build in this API functionality.

Microsoft Team is the absolute best in team collaboration

Pricing

Expense can be a major factor for small businesses, but thankfully most services have moved to a per-user subscription model. This allows for adding and removing users as needed and only paying for active members each month. Both O365 and G Suite have add-ons that provide additional storage or functionality, but here are the baseline costs and what we feel is satisfactory for most small businesses:

 

G Suite (view features) Office 365 (view features)
$12/per user/per month $12.50/per user/per month

Okay, so which one should I choose?

We believe that all small businesses should have a Internal Management System, even if you are a sole proprietor.  We believe it is vital to keep your business files, emails, and chats separate from your personal communications.  When it comes to choosing a system, and between Microsoft Office’s 365 and Google’s G Suite, we usually recommend G Suite to most small businesses based on the following factors:

  • Most small businesses lack the resources to manage the IT side of things full time
  • It is hard for a small company to train and help their team members get set up with the multiple downloads/account logins with O365.

For those companies with the IT skills and resources to utilize the O365 environment, we highly recommend also using Microsoft Surface line of products. The use of OneNote with the Surface Pen alone makes collaboration a breeze.

Louis

I have a passion for using technology to make workflow and the day-to-day easier. Pier5 allows me to help businesses with digital technology, allowing them to focus more on what they love and are good at – their product or service!
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