If you’re in charge of software and business service decisions for your company, or if you’re planning on starting a business on your own, you may find yourself deciding between G Suite vs. Office 365—two highly similar and competing service packages that both offer a great suite of products for businesses.
As you’ve likely already guessed, the “which is better?” question is super subjective. If one service was indisputably better than the other, the trailing competitor probably would have folded by now. The high-level truth is that G Suite and Office 365 each have advantages and disadvantages, and each could be right for your business.
That said, in this article, we’re going to analyze the perks and detriments of G Suite vs. Office 365, and help you figure out which is better for your business.
Let’s start with a basic description of G Suite and Office 365. Each of these is a suite of apps and tools designed for professional productivity, most of which are hosted in the cloud. Using these tools, you can create documents, send messages, video chat, store files, and even collaborate with each other. You can choose one of several tiers of subscription to gain access to an increasing range of functionality, though even the most basic subscription is often quite sufficient.
The High-Level Differences Between G Suite vs. Office 365
So what makes G Suite and Office 365 different?
On some level, the differences are subjective. Both G Suite and Office 365 have tools for creating and modifying documents and spreadsheets, and for the most part, email is email. But each family of apps have individual differences that some people may prefer to their competitors; for example, it’s possible to scrutinize the differences between Outlook vs Gmail, but subjective preference plays a heavy role in determining which is “better.”
That said, there are some important distinctions between the two. While both G Suite and Office 365 offer online versions of their apps, only Office 365 offers downloadable, installable desktop versions. In terms of plans and storage, G Suite tends to offer more flexible (and simpler) options, and Google’s Gmail product is, for my money, the best email platform available today. The apps available through each service package differ slightly as well, though these are highly comparable.
G Suite vs. Office 365
Let’s dig into the details here. How do G Suite and Office 365 compare in terms of pricing, ease of use, and overall functionality?
We’ll start with an analysis of pricing between G Suite vs. Office 365, since this is one of the most important considering factors for business owners. The pricing you encounter may differ based on your location, but the basic differences are more or less the same.
G Suite’s pricing is fairly straightforward, unfolding over three “tiers” of plans:
- The Basic tier is $6 per user per month;
- Business tier is $12 per user per month;
- Enterprise tier is $25 per user per month.
There’s also a free version of G Suite, which presents ads to you while you work.
In the Basic plan, you’ll get your own email address, video and voice calls, shared calendars, unlimited access to documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, 30 GB of storage, and 24/7 support. The Business plan includes all of these, plus offers unlimited file storage or 1 TB per user for organizations with fewer than 5 users, archiving functionality, and additional tools like eDiscovery for emails, chats, and files. The Enterprise plan includes everything above, plus higher participant limits, advanced security controls, and additional reporting tools.
The pricing for Office 365 is significantly more complicated because it has so many sub-versions. There are Office 365 bundles for different niches (including government, nonprofit, and education), with highly variable pricing. Note that no matter what, you’re required to purchase these plans as an annual basis.
For small businesses, Office 365 has three tiers of plans:
- The “Business Essentials” plan is $5 per user per month;
- “Business” plan is $8.25 per user per month;
- “Business Premium” plan is $12.50 per user per month.
Enterprise plans range from $8 per user per month to $35 per user per month, with most of the differences relating to the amount of storage you’re granted and the types of services available. For example, the basic versions of these plans only include the online cloud-hosted versions of productivity apps (i.e., no desktop version), and not all plan types include a dedicated email.
It’s hard to compare these plans precisely since they offer so many different tiers, bundles, and services. However, both options are in the same ballpark of pricing. G Suite’s plans are more flexible (since they can be purchased month-to-month), and are generally simpler to understand. They also come with more cloud storage for the price—and as noted earlier, a free version is also available. Accordingly, in terms of pricing, we’re giving the win to G Suite.
Winner: G Suite
Be sure to check out our more robust guide on the differences between Gmail and Outlook as well as the differences between G Suite vs Gmail. For these purposes, we’ll explore some of the high-level differences between these similar, competing email platforms.
In terms of storage, ads, and security, the two platforms are highly similar. But the differences become more clear when you look at their systems of organization. Outlook – Office 365’s email platform – offers a Microsoft-driven version of message organization and storage. You can create a system of folders and subfolders for messages on different topics, flag important emails, or pin messages to the top of your inbox.
In Gmail, you’ll use a system of categories and labels, which in many ways is more flexible than Outlook—but it’s also less familiar to most professionals. There are many ways to take advantage of Gmail’s versatility, especially if you utilize tabs and categories that automatically sort out automated notifications, social media messages, and similarly low-value communications. In another blog post, we’ve outlined 40 of our favorite Gmail tips and tricks.
Gmail also has an advantage when it comes to search; it is a Google product, after all. With Gmail, you can quickly and easily search for specific types of messages using advanced Gmail search operators and set up automatic Gmail filters based on those parameters. Outlook also has a convenient search feature, but isn’t quite as robust or reliable.
It’s also worth noting that Gmail is much friendlier to individual user customizability and third-party Gmail apps and add-ons. If you’re looking to modify your email platform to suit specific needs or improve its functionality, Gmail is the better bet.
Still, there’s something to be said for user familiarity. If all your employees are already familiar with Outlook, they may strongly prefer it to Gmail based on its UI alone. Switching from Outlook to Gmail could be a strenuous and unproductive process, not to mention a prolonged one.
But even with that in mind, Gmail has the edge over Outlook. If email were your sole considering factor and subjective user preferences weren’t an issue, G Suite would be a better choice than Office 365.
Winner: G Suite
We talked about storage a bit in our pricing section, but let’s dig into more detail here. If you have a free G Suite account, you’ll have 15 GB of storage across your entire account, including Gmail. If you ever run up against this limit, here’s how to delete Gmail emails in bulk (especially if they have attachments).
But if you’re like most business users, you’re probably more concerned with the storage limits of paid plans. With Office 365, even the entry-level Business Essentials plan gives you 1 TB of file storage. By contrast, G Suite offers 30 GB of storage on its Basic plan. Also note that Office 365 doesn’t count emails toward this upper storage limit, giving it the upper hand if you’re looking at the entry-level plan for each service package.
However, with the G Suite Business plan, you’ll get unlimited online storage (assuming you have at least 5 users). That’s literally impossible to beat. Office 365 still has an upper limit of 1 TB per user by default. Depending on what you’re storing, this could be all you need; it’s hard to reach 1 TB of storage with just emails, documents, and spreadsheets, for example. But if you’re creating large audio or video files, you can meet that 1 TB threshold faster than you think.
Also note that both Office 365 and G Suite offer a-la-carte options for increasing your storage limits. This is a great option if you’re simply looking for a bit more storage, but it can get expensive if you’re looking for many TB of extra room; if that’s the case, you might consider gaming the system by creating more individual user accounts.
Winner: Office 365 for Basic plans, and G Suite for its unlimited storage at higher tiers.
Both Office 365 and G Suite offer a broad spectrum of different apps you can use to accomplish tasks like creating documents and spreadsheets, creating and giving presentations, and communicating with your other team members. For the most part, these apps have a one-to-one relationship, with only minor differences.
For example, Microsoft Word is similar to Google Docs. Microsoft Excel is similar to Google Sheets. For Powerpoint, there’s Google Slides. For Outlook, there’s Gmail. For One Note, there’s Google Keep. For Sharepoint, there’s Google Sites, and for Microsoft Teams, there’s Google Hangouts. These aren’t perfect copies, of course; for example, some of the Gmail keyboard shortcuts you’re used to in may not be represented in Outlook. However, these are mostly capable of the same functions, and any differences will boil down to subjective preference. Many modern professionals will prefer Microsoft Office products by default, simply because it’s what they’re used to.
Office 365 also has a couple of apps that don’t have direct G Suite equivalents. With Stream, you can upload and share videos, with comments and conversations enabled; it’s ideal for things like meetings and training sessions. With Yammer, you can create a kind of micro-social network for your business.
Still, for the most part, any core function you can find in one service package you can find in the other. Everything else is a matter of personal taste.
There is one app-related area where Office 365 truly shines, however: the availability of offline desktop applications. When you purchase a G Suite subscription, you’ll have access to all its core apps—so long as you access them with an internet connection. In other words, you need to be connected to be productive.
With Office 365 advanced plans, you’ll gain access to all the classic Office apps (i.e., Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) in an offline desktop form. With them, you’ll be able to work on documents, spreadsheets, and other files even when you’re offline. Some people still prefer to create and manage files locally, so for them, this is a huge plus. It’s also incredibly handy for those rare opportunities when you’re in a Wi-Fi dead zone or when your internet unexpectedly gives out.
Winner: Office 365
Because both service packages are designed with cloud storage, sharing, and collaboration in mind, both have robust features that make it easy to communicate and collaborate with your fellow team members. With either system, you can edit shared files simultaneously, comment on and engage with your team projects, and quickly and easily link people to your works-in-progress.
Overall, G Suite tends to have an edge when it comes to collaborating on files; that’s because it was designed from the ground up with collaboration in mind. By contract, Office 365’s core productivity apps were originally designed to be used individually, and then were improved and adjusted to make them more collaborative.
Similarly, both G Suite and Office 365 have options for video conferencing and other forms of direct conversation. Here, Office 365 has a slight edge; it has much more lenient participant limits, allowing somewhere between 250 and 10,000 participants per meeting. G Suite’s Google Meet participant limit is 25, 50, or 100, depending on which tier you choose. This is obviously a big difference, but I’m guessing it’s not going to make that big of an impact on your day-to-day work life. If you ever have a meeting that requires 10,000 people to attend, let me know.
In terms of speed, latency, and security, these products are super close. You probably won’t be able to notice a difference between them.
Today’s professionals demand mobile apps, so they can work on the go, and both Office 365 and G Suite deliver. There are iOS and Android versions of mobile apps for both service plans, so you can view, edit, and collaborate on your files even when you’re away from your main computer.
In both cases, you’ll find that mobile apps lend a somewhat disappointing experience. You usually won’t be nearly as productive working on a mobile app as you will on a desktop device; tapping a screen is just too clunky considering the number of tools and features available in the full versions of each apps.
For the most part, these mobile apps are comparable. Again, this comes down to subjective preference; some people will find it easier or more comfortable to browse one set of mobile apps over the other.
While there are some hallmarks of objective evaluation when it comes to user interface (UI), user experience is largely a subjective category. Both Office 365 and G Suite have some embedded advantages when it comes to the intuitiveness and learnability of their apps.
Notably, as I’ve mentioned previously, Office 365 apps are based on the classic versions of Word, Excel, and other Microsoft products. Users who have been working with these apps for years (if not decades) will find it extraordinarily easy to jump into the online and collaborative versions of these products.
That said, G Suite products tend to be more straightforward, less cluttered, and easier to understand as a newcomer. Load times tend to be slightly faster, menus are organized more logically, and you’ll likely experience fewer formatting frustrations.
Winner: Tie; G Suite has an edge when it comes to modern UI, but Office 365’s history is too relevant to ignore.
As you might suspect, both Microsoft and Google offer multiple options for technical help and support as you launch and manage their products. You’ll have 24/7 phone support available to you with either service package, and unlimited email-based support as well. Your mileage may vary, but oftentimes, support personnel from both teams will refer you to online help articles or forum threads rather than working with you directly. Accordingly, it’s often more efficient to simply search for whatever issue you’re facing and follow the troubleshooting steps you find online.
If you have more than 150 team members, Microsoft offers a free “Fasttrack” deployment service to help you get everything launched and set up properly. If you have fewer than 150 team members, or if you’re relying on G Suite, you’ll be largely on your own during the setup process. Thankfully, it’s not complicated.
Overall, G Suite and Office 365 are too similar in their approach to customer support to differentiate between the two.
And The Winner is…
Now for the final answer. One service package must be better than the other, right? So who wins the battle of G Suite vs. Office 365?
As you’ve seen from our parade of “Tie” assessments, the reality is that G Suite and Office 365 have a lot in common, and when one excels in a given category, it’s usually at the expense of something else. The big advantage of Office 365 over G Suite is an arguably subjective one: its legacy. Microsoft’s Office apps have become so ingrained in the working professional’s mind that they’re hard to replace. If your team members are used to Word, Excel, and Outlook, it’s going to be hard to convince them to give them up. Plus, it’s hard to ignore the edge that Microsoft has in terms of its offline potential. For some businesses, Office 365 will be the better option.
On the other hand, there are several concrete advantages to choosing G Suite. If you choose one of their business plans, you’ll have access to unlimited storage. Gmail is, in my opinion, far superior to Outlook in terms of flexibility, organization potential, and search. And the plans you can choose from are much less complicated and more sensible. Accordingly, if I were forced to make a blanket recommendation, I’d suggest G Suite over Office 365.
Winner: G Suite
If you decide to go with G Suite, be sure to check out this list of G Suite features, and this list of 51 G Suite tips and tricks. And if you’re using G Suite or Gmail, one of the best third-party tools you can use to improve your results is our namesake tool, EmailAnalytics. EmailAnalytics is an analytics platform for Gmail and G Suite which enables you to visualize and measure the email activity of your team. With it, you can find your top senders and recipients, analyze the busiest times and days for your organization, learn your average email response times, and even determine the frequency and intensity of your email threads. Sign up for a free trial today, and master the art of email productivity in your organization.
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before exiting it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.