by Karen McCandless
Published on 7 July 2017
Long gone are the days when all you could do within your office suite was format some words, do some simple calculations, and add a few bullet points to your (probably fairly dry) presentation. There are now some nifty collaboration and productivity apps out there - and as they all have a cloud-element and can be used across mobile devices, they're perfect for today's globally dispersed, always-on workforce.
We've taken a look at three of the leaders on the market to take the pain out of choosing the right cloud office application for your business. Here is our comparison of Microsoft Office 365 vs G Suite vs Zoho Docs.
Just to note: we'll be mainly using the Office 365 for Business plan in this comparison (in terms of features), but there are other plans for enterprises and educational institutes. We'll also focus on Google's G Suite Business plan. In addition, the review information used comes from not just GetApp, but also its sister sites Software Advice and Capterra.
The comparison points we'll look at are:
Let's start off by looking at the bottom line for all businesses: cost. Just to clarify: all the apps offer free version for home users, but if you're looking for more business-ready features, you'll probably want to invest in a monthly or annual subscription.
G Suite currently offers two plans for businesses, the Basic costs $5 per user per month, while Business comes in at $10 per user per month. Enterprise plans are available on request. Monthly billing is the only option available, and you can add and remove users anytime. Google previously offered a free version to small businesses, but this is no longer the case.
You can get a free trial for 14 days, although a credit card is necessary.
Microsoft offers a plethora of different pricing plans for businesses, with possibly the biggest task being to choose which one is right for you. The standard Office 365 Business plan is $8.25 per user per month if billed annually or $10 per user per month if paid monthly. There is also a Office 365 Business Essentials plan for small businesses, which is $5 per user per month if paid annually, and $6 per user per month if paid monthly.
It can get complicated as reviewer Serge Simard notes: "Took me a while to purchase as licensing can get pretty complex. Of course, E3/E5 licenses if you go in that direction are great and include everything. But for smaller companies (less budget), Business Premium and Pro Plus licenses have to be planned well as there are restrictions for Shared Computer (Remote Desktop)."
Office 365 Business also comes with a 30-day free trial, with no credit card needed to sign up. You can also upgrade plans within the app, although no information is available on how to downgrade your plan.
Zoho Docs is the most affordable of the apps and follows a freemium model, with a free plan for teams of up to 25 users and limited features. This then increases to €5 /$5 per user per month for the Standard plan and €8/$8 per user per month for the Premium version.
There is a 15 day free trial with no credit card required.
Depending on the size of your business - whether you're a freelancer, a small business, or an enterprise - some office suites are more suitable for others. It's also worth checking out the feature comparisons for Google Apps for Work, Office 365 for Business, and Zoho Doc so you can understand exactly what features each pricing tier offers.
As a much newer entrant in the market, Google offers more streamlined pricing plans for business. As G suite sticks to main two plans (with the enterprise options), it's a good option for small businesses that don't want the headache of wading through a wide range of price plans and features, especially for those with employees that are already familiar with Google products from personal use.
The enterprise version has still yet to take off, with Gartner analyst Joe Mariano putting this down to the larger businesses' reliance on the Microsoft stack in other areas of their company, and the problems with integrations and customizations this would bring.
With a wide range of options and pricing plans (as well as the ability to pay monthly and annually), Microsoft's cloud software is suitable for businesses of any size.
The fact that it offers on-premise apps in addition to its cloud products makes it an attractive proposition.
Zoho Docs is quite an attractive prospect for small businesses, given that its free for up to 25 users, with the added fact that all the company's products are designed with small businesses in mind. All versions include the Zoho Office Suite, which is comprised of Zoho Writer, Zoho Sheets, and Zoho Show.
Saying that, the free version does feel a touch light on features, especially given there is no integrated email.
Office 365, G Suite, and Zoho Docs (to a lesser extent) are similar products with similar features, so let's take a look at what makes each product stand out (or fail) in this area.
Google has already released a roadmap for its G Suite feature updates in 2017. Some of the most significant include Gmail smart reply, which automated common responses to emails, which are customized based on your history (already available). Hangouts Meet is also getting new features, including in-call text messaging, a record to Google Drive feature, and 50-person meetings.
Swapnil Desai, growth hacker at Zelican Infotech (a SaaS company), says this of G Suite's features: "You get all of the great advantages of Gmail such as their sweet SPAM filter and their accurate search function to easily find archived email. Sharing is everywhere. You can make changes to a Google doc at the same time that a co-worker is making changes to it. Also, the shared calendar is a beautiful thing."
As per many of its cloud-based products, Microsoft provides monthly updates to its Office 365 suite. Some notable recent enhancements include an intelligent task management app called To-Do, as well as add-ons for Outlook, with the ability to create tasks with Wunderlist (now a Microsoft product) and track email responses with Boomerang.
There have also been two new products announced within Office 365 this year:
Microsoft Bookings, which is a customizable web page that allows your customers to find available times and book appointments.
Outlook Customer Manager (available free of cost for the Office 365 Business Premium plan), which type of CRM for small businesses that lets you see your customers interactions, tasks, and deals in one place.
Zoho Docs isn't the most fully featured of the three apps and isn't currently competing at the same level as Microsoft and Google, but what it lacks in features it makes up for in ease of use (as well as price).
Here a few nifty features that Zoho Docs offers:
However, one area where it seems to be lacking is its storage space - with reviewers stating that 1GB for the free plan is not enough for small businesses. Upgrades to the Standard and Premium plans come with more space.
As we mentioned earlier, enterprises' reliance on Microsoft products is a major factor for their continued use of Office 365, but what about for small businesses and startups that don't have these ? How well do G Suite, Office 365 and Zoho Docs do in the overall integrations landscape?
You'll be hard pushed to find apps these days that don't claim to integrate with G Suite, even Zoho Docs mentions it as one of its major selling points.
While - unlike the other two software companies in this list - Google doesn't have a large suite of other business applications, it integrates with the most common CRM, productivity, marketing, HR, and customer service software. Major examples include Asana, Xero, Fresdesk, and Slack.
One of Microsoft's major selling points is how seamlessly its products work together and how wide a range of solutions it offers in the cloud. From customer service software, to CRM to web design, to IT management, it has a lot to offer. It also integrates with the same wide range of apps as G Suite.
But if you're looking outside the Microsoft family, the Office 365 API makes integration easy.
Jonathan Jarvis, Owner of Jarvis Technologies, says: "Having access to full versions of office software that integrate with the online offerings is worth the price by itself. Add in the dozen or so other apps from CRM to Analytics and you have unprecedented value."
Microsoft may have its own integrated app ecosystem, but so does Zoho (albeit not such a high profile one). The company offers a plethora of other useful sister products, including Zoho CRM, Zoho Support, Zoho Reports, Zoho Projects, and many more.
It also has a couple of APIs to aid future integration.
Any cloud app worth its salt these days has a mobile app. Being able to see that spreadsheet on your phone and edit your word document on your tablet is key for today's mobile workforce.
Google offers fully featured and well-developed apps for its Android platform, with separate apps for Docs, Sheets, Drive, Gmail, Calendar, etc. It also offers the same apps for iOS, with the exception of its Contacts app, and its Cloud Search offering, which allows you to search across all Google apps. The reviews are an average of four stars (out of five) across both platforms.
Windows Phone and Blackberry users can access G Suite on their mobile browser.
Like Google, Microsoft offers separate mobile apps for each of its Office 365 office suite products to Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone users. These apps include premium features such as track changes, changing page orientation, adding picture effects, inserting and modifying chart elements, using Pivot Tables, and audio/video editing.
Just as a reminder of how comprehensive the Office 365 for Business is, the mobile apps not only include the normal Office suite apps, they also extend to SharePoint, Dropbox for Business, and OneDrive for Business.
G Suite gets the thumbs up from GetApp reviewers for its ease of setup and speed in getting up and running.
Salesforce analyst Bartley Doyle says: "there are no negative elements to GSuite, it has everything needed, certainly it's worth trying out as it so easy to set up
Once you've got over the headache of picking a license, it's on to the setup, which isn't plain sailing with Office 365, especially if you need help from Microsoft.
Jonathan Jarvis, Owner of Jarvis Technologies, says: "It can be difficult to set up on your own and you may want to hire someone to help with that as you are dealing with Microsoft you have that notorious tech support ego to contend with."
Another reviewer comments: "It would be very helpful to have how-to videos explaining how to correctly set up Office 365 and Exchange. Some pre-emptive how-to info would likely have saved me a lot of time spent with support."
Simplicity and straightforwardness are what makes Zoho Docs stand out and its set up is no different.
One reviewer describes Zoho Docs as: "easy to set up and very straightforward. There is not a big learning curve to use the product as there are with similar products."
Implementing and setting up a product is only half the battle- ironing out any post implementation issues is crucial to ensuring the full adoption of any product. And to do that you will likely need support from a customer service team.
G Suite's customer support is one area which lets it down according to reviews across GetApp, and its sister sites Software Advice and Capterra.
Business owner Jeff Ryan cites its "Lack of solid phone support", while Ryan Hart, MBA, director of Marketing at Verified First, says: "Google does not have very good support, can never get them on the phone."
However, Salesforce analyst Bartley Doyle says G Suite is: "easy to use and great support with a friendly service. Anytime I've had an issue I've always been able to get an answer within minutes."
Office 365 gets mixed reviews for its customer support from GetApp users.
Reviewer Victoria Anniston says Microsoft has: "Poor Customer support" while James Smith, Infrastructure Analyst at Defaqto says: "Support still has a lot to be desired. Whether a business or a public user you both go into the same pot with Microsoft so don't expect enterprise support unless you're prepared to pay them for it."
However reviewer Dan Reiland says that Microsoft offers: "excellent mobile and web client support"
Maybe due to the size of the company, Zoho comes out on top in terms of customer support across GetApp reviewers.
Reviewer Ramin Sultanov says: "Price is reasonable, awesome features which are better than Google Docs in some cases, and of course customer service is helpful."
After carrying out the analysis of G Suite vs Office 365 vs Zoho Docs, it seems that Office 365 is the most regularly updated with the most features, however choosing a license and set up is where the challenge comes in.
G Suite has more streamlined licensing and its cloud-first and collaborative approach make it an attractive prospect.
Zoho Docs isn't the most fully featured, but the fact that it offers a raft of features within a free pricing plan makes it attractive for freelancers, solopreneurs and small businesses on a budget. Its ecosystem is also a plus point.
Which app do you recommend? Let us know in the comments below or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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This article was first published in January 2013 and has been updated.