Office Productivity Applications

Different types and sizes of businesses require a whole variety of things to keep themselves operational but one thing they all have in common is the core components every business requires to succeed.

One of those is of course CRM (customer relationship management) which I talked about in episode 8, Smart Tools For Small Businesses. Listen to episode 8 for a breakdown on some great CRM options and the details of each.

But there are other essential office productivity applications you need and use every day to manage things like your email, contacts, calendar, documents, and more. Many large enterprise companies have several suites of applications along with servers and data centers to manage it all.

For smaller businesses there are solutions to provide basically everything you need like Microsoft’s Office 365, Google Apps, Apple’s iWork, and Open Office. Today I am going to talk about the two biggest and most popular office productivity application, Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google Apps. I have had to opportunity to work on and help businesses with both of these solutions. I will share information on each of these and give you a comparison of the offerings each one provides.

Both solutions provide a toolbox full of features to assist your business with email, documents, presentations, video conferencing, cloud storage, and more. An advantage to using either of them is the ability to work in the cloud with team members in real time collaboration like working on the same document, chat, and video conferencing.

First let me breakdown Microsoft’s Office 356 offerings.

They have several business plans at various prices. The first three are geared towards startups and very small businesses. There are less features but a more affordable price that can be purchased on a monthly payment plan.

They are:

Business Essentials – $6 per user per month
Business – $10 per user per month
Business Premium – $15 per user per month

These three Business plans limit the maximum number of users to 300. If you have more users than that it will require an enterprise plan.

There are four enterprise plans. These require an annual commitment and are much more robust.

Enterprise E1 – $8 per user per month
Enterprise Pro Plus – $12 per user per month
Enterprise E3 – $20 per user per month
Enterprise E5 – $35 per user per month

With all seven plans you get the Office Online apps Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Other things available based on the plan you choose are Outlook, Publisher, Access, Skype for Business, Yammer, OneDrive, Team Sites, Delve, Sway, Planner, a Security and Compliance Center, voicemail integration, and a corporate video portal. So as you can see Office 365 is feature rich. Two of my favorite things to use are OneNote and Team Sites. I have a list for everything in OneNote and Team Sites is great for collaboration with the team, You can have everything you need all in one location.

A few important things to take note of here. One is the added benefit from Microsoft that you get desktop versions of the Microsoft Office product suite (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more) with all plans except Business Essentials and Enterprise E1. Those two plans only provide the online version of the Microsoft Office product suite.
The plans that do have the desktop version allow each user to download the Microsoft Office product suite on up to five machines.

Another is that there are two Office 365 plans that do not give you an email account or calendar functionality. If an email account and calendar functionality is a service you need to have provided with your plan then do not choose the Office 365 Business plan or Enterprise Pro Plus plan.

Lastly don’t forget to consider the fact that Microsoft just bought the largest business network in the world, LinkedIn. Microsoft is planning to integrate LinkedIn’s data into Office 365 products like Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Skype for Business. This kind of integration will give you the ability to know more about a business professional’s background, experience, and interests before you sit down to meet with them. The new LinkedIn Learning will also be integrated into Office giving you the advantage of suggested courses available based on what you are working on.

For more information on LinkedIn listen to episode 9, LinkedIn Benefits For Your Business.

Now with the Google Apps offerings there are only two plans to choose from. Both plans can be purchased monthly or annually.

Google Apps for Work: $5 per user per month (you get a $10 discount if you pay annually)
Google Apps Unlimited: $10 per user per month

With Google Apps for Work you get Gmail, Hangouts, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Sites, and Admin controls. Drive gives you 30 GB of online storage for file syncing and sharing.

With the Google Apps Unlimited plan you get additional storage and some other added features:

Unlimited file storage with 5 or more users (only 1 TB if your company has less than 5 users)
Google Drive has advanced admin controls and gives you audit and reporting insights
You also get Google Vault for archiving, advanced search, and email archives

One important thing to note is many users are concerned about the interaction of Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides with their Microsoft equivalent. The good news is that you can open Microsoft Office documents using Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, as well as save files created with Google Apps to the Microsoft Office file formats.

It is not perfect though, when you edit and save Microsoft Office files into Google Apps the formatting  you may have done in Microsoft Office does not always come through to Google Apps.

Some similarities between the two solutions are both solutions provide email, cloud storage, video conferencing, and mobile apps. Both allow you to create different document types, and give you the ability to collaborate with your team real time with chat, video, and allowing  online editing of documents by multiple team members at the same time.

When it comes to storage both Office 365 and Google Apps plans give you the option to buy more storage on a per user basis. When it comes to mobile apps both solutions allow you to save the files your working on to your mobile device so you can even work offline.

Some differences:

Working offline from a desktop computer gets a bit more tricky for Google Apps. Since Google Apps is designed to run in a browser when you are on a desktop computer there are two things you will need to do in order to get it to work offline. First use Google’s Chrome browser, second turn on file syncing. Your changes will then be synced to your Google account when you go back online.

When it comes to mail Outlook has functionality to sort and group mail but Gmail does not.

When comparing the quality of Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides to Office 365’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint I have to say that Microsoft comes out ahead. They have the advantage of the robust desktop version of these apps that allows for seamless BI (business integration), Microsoft Smart Art, advanced formulas in Excel, and advanced animations in PowerPoint.

Both Google Apps and Office 365 provide video conferencing functionality: Google Hangouts and Microsoft Skype for Business. A big difference here is that the maximum number of people that can participate on a call. For Google Hangouts the limit is 25 and with Skype for Business the limit is 250. Skype for Business also has many more features.

The Office 365 entry level plans have better cloud storage limits than those provided by the Google Apps for Work entry level plan. You get 1TB on the Office 365 side vs 30 GB on the Google Apps side. However the Google Apps Unlimited plan is a better value at $10’s a user per month than many of the Office 365 plans as long as you have five or more users. I mean how can you argue with unlimited cloud storage!

Cloud storage of files and documents is always one of the biggest topics of discussion when choosing any solution. I want to dive a little deeper on the three most popular which includes two I have talked about already. They are OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox. All three give you cloud storage for free as an individual users but I will stick to business while comparing them today.

Office 365 users get 1TB of cloud storage. OneDrive is integrated with Microsoft Office and allows you to store any file type. You can access OneDrive through a web app, desktop app, and mobile app. OneDrive is built into the Windows OS and is also available on Mac, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. You can share files and folders with an email invitation or link.

Google Apps has the two plans I have talked about so you get either 30GB or unlimited (with 5 or more users) based on the plan you choose. You can access Google Drive through a browser, a desktop app that creates a link to a Google Drive folder, and a mobile app. Google Drive allows collaborative editing of Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Google Drive has apps available for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. You can share files and folders with an email invitation or link.

Dropbox has two offerings:

Dropbox Pro users get 1TB for $10 a month and Dropbox Business plan users get unlimited storage for $15 a month per user. You can store any file type. Dropbox can be accessed through any web browser, a desktop app, or the Dropbox mobile app. Dropbox has apps available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux. You can share files and folders through email invite or link. Dropbox users can also collaborate on Microsoft Office Online files in real time.

I actually use all three! Having more cloud storage and being able to access my files from anywhere is important to me. I use Google Drive for personal stuff, OneDrive as my work horse, and Dropbox to share podcasting and marketing information. Think about your business and decide what works best for you.

Well I hope all this information has helped you! If your business is new and you are trying to decide what works best for you or if you are just in transition between products and need help sorting all this out you can contact me for help or more information on what I talked about today. I can offer services and training to assist you with your needs. Email me at peteblum@solvability.com and let me know how I can help you!