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Google Apps vs Microsoft 365: Who Should Your Help Desk Take to Prom?

Published by in Customer Service Software

Remember the good old days when choosing email and cloud storage was easy? Time was you’d just go with the most space for the least money, like pixels in a digital camera.

digital camera

In the meantime, Dropbox, MediaFire, Office 365, and Google Apps all began offering 1TB for $10 a month or less. And with Mega, you can get 50GB for free. That’s around two million photos. Or 250,000 songs, if for some odd reason you’re saving songs instead of streaming. In fact, you don’t even need to pay for massive storage. After Microsoft recently exchanged 100GB of free storage for two years of a new Bing Rewards account, they’re now offering 100GB of free OneDrive storage for one year to Dropbox users.

Luckily, while options proliferate, most customer service centers only really need to consider the two top dogs, Google Apps and Office 365.

In customer service, communication is paramount. The ability to communicate vital information quickly and easily to the right person at the right time will make or break your ability to provide a standout customer experience.

For communicating with customers, email is a suboptimal medium. Ticket-tracking software, or, better yet, a unified system with auto-suggest and a knowledge base is, generally speaking, well worth the investment. To compare choices, check out 8 Zendesk Alternatives to Rock Your Customer Service and Help Desk Software Comparison: 5 Popular Choices.

However, email is impossible to escape completely. For email, document management and collaboration, internal chat, calendaring, and a few other features, you will likely benefit from a productivity and collaboration software tool.

Luckily, figuring out which is best for your customer service team is pretty easy. Unlike with a lot of software, integrating isn’t really much of a problem in customer service. If you use help desk software, you can do most everything you need to in that system.

So which productivity and collaboration software is best for you? It really comes down to which email you like using better, Gmail or Outlook. And for that, most people find Gmail more intuitive to set up and use. So unless you are an Outlook addict, or really spend a lot of time in Word or Excel, Google Apps is your best bet.

InfoWorld compares Google Apps and Microsoft 365

InfoWorld compares Google Apps and Microsoft 365

Cirrus’ Google Apps and Microsoft 365 comparison

Cirrus’ Google Apps and Microsoft 365 comparison

At least that’s what it came down to for former Microsoft employee Rahul Sood. When he left the company to start his own business, his team tried Google Apps and Microsoft 365 alongside each other. What his team found was that because they loved Gmail and didn’t use Excel much, it made more sense for them to go with Google Apps. The advantage of Gmail over Microsoft 365 mail, which is not, include instant search, storage space, and no download required.

However, Sheets is no Excel. And Google Calendar is no Outlook Calendar. “Things like font management, financial modeling, and effective presentations are all Office 365 all day long,” Sood wrote. Indeed, for things like formatting and features, applications such as PowerPoint are far more powerful. However, as InfoWorld reviewer Woody Leonhard put it, “There’s no need to swing a sledgehammer when an ordinary hammer will do.”

Microsoft 365

It’s a pretty big deal for your workflow to fully integrate with the kinds of files you create, access, and edit most often. With around 500 million users, Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing application on the planet. Microsoft 365’s ability to expand Office’s offerings is undoubtedly its biggest strength.

With an Office 365 subscription, you can collaborate on a PowerPoint presentation in real time with your colleagues, watching them make changes. Opening Excel shows you all your recent documents, whether you saved them to your desktop or OneDrive.

The desktop application offers access to your work computer’s hard drive from your home computer as long as both computers are turned on, connected to the internet with OneDrive running.

Microsoft is working on functionality that will automatically sort and rank photos according to their meaning and importance to you.

Security controls are pretty dope on 365. Changing PINs on and wiping data from lost or stolen devices is useful. Retention management is easier when you can set controls at a central level. You can prevent problems with third-party apps by locking down Office for users.

Unfortunately Linux, Blackberry or Kindle Fire users who want access to their files on these operating systems are out of luck. The upper limit on file size uploads is also a pretty small 2GB. You can only play .MP4 and .WMV video files on the web; other video and audio formats require a download.

The last potential issue for will mostly affect users who mix business and pleasure, or those who work in certain industries. Microsoft has the strictest code of conduct. Nudity, pornography, and racism are all forbidden in your files.


Of course, getting an Office 365 subscription is neither cheap nor easy. There are about five thousand plans and options to choose from, and none of them are cheap. “If you’re looking for a simple straight-up comparison of features and prices, you clearly don’t understand the game,” wrote Leonhard.


Google Apps

If you are somehow not beholden to the behemoth that is Microsoft, Google Apps is your best bet. Which isn’t as crazy today as it was a few years ago. “Back in June 2011, if you asked a handful of execs whether their people need to run Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, you probably would have heard a resounding if unreflective “Yes!” wrote Leonhard. “Nowadays, the status of the Office triumvirate isn’t nearly as secure.”

Google Apps vs Microsoft 365

Google Apps’ biggest drawback is the limited integration with Microsoft Office. You can save and view those files, but you can’t edit, collaborate on or share them. You can, however, share and collaborate on Google Docs files, and for many users, that suffices.

Google Apps boasts most of Microsoft 365’s other benefits, along with some extras. Gmail integration is super useful. You can preview attachments, then save them to your cloud in two clicks. You can watch all your videos straight from Drive. Many people find Google Hangouts easy to use for chat and video chat collaboration.

In addition, third-party apps do everything from plaintext editing to video editing to sending faxes to signing documents.

According to TalkinCloud, Google Apps is easier to use. It also plays better with a greater variety of mobile devices. Indeed real-estate company Royal LePage tried both side-by-side and found that Google Hangouts was superior for connecting with “clients at a moment’s notice and when an in-person meeting is not possible from whatever mobile device agents are using.”

Going forward

Both Microsoft and Google are innovating hard and constantly rolling out new features. Sood has an interesting suggestion for Microsoft going forward. Time was when every company bought Microsoft Office without thinking twice. Microsoft needs to do the same with 365. And the way? “They need to make it fully compatible with Google Apps,” Sood wrote. “They should create a third party app for Google Apps, fully compatible with Drive, Gmail, and Adobe Acrobat Reader. If Microsoft can introduce better calendaring for Gmail, with integrated Skype and/or Hangouts support, that would be a huge bonus. They should make it free for 90 days, and charge a reasonable subscription fee thereafter. I can imagine many people would jump on this – us included.”


Gmail and Hangouts are incredibly easy to setup and use, and for that reason are fairly ubiquitous. Of course SharePoint, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are incredibly powerful, and still required to do a lot of work. However, most customer service centers will not need full Microsoft Office functionality to get the job done.

If your work requires Office, extending to 365 is a good move. If you can get your tasks complete in the Googleverse, Google Apps will meet your needs nicely.

What do you use and why? Let us know in the comments!

Looking for Help Desk software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Help Desk software solutions.

About the Author

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is a former Capterra analyst.


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