Technology Infrastructure: Microsoft® Office 365 vs. Google Apps for Business™

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March 28, 2014
Notes from an IT Service Shop
Geoff Griswold

Many hotels (and other types of businesses) are considering whether to stick with Microsoft® Office, installed locally, or begin using a cloud-based productivity suite.

What immediately comes to mind for online-based productivity suites are Google Apps™ and Microsoft® Office 365.  There are other online suites available including Feng Office, ShareOffice®, TeamLab, Tiki Wiki CMS, ZCubes and Zoho. This article will focus on Microsoft 365, Google Apps and the effects of implementing them could mean for your hotel. 

First, a brief history of productivity suites.  In the MS-DOS era, productivity packages were mainly sold separately by different vendors, not bundled. One reason for this was the vendors of the 1980s usually had one strong product.  This was evident with Lotus Development’s Lotus 123 spreadsheet, graphic and (crude) database. WordPerfect Corporation had the leading word processing package call WordPerfect®, and Ashton-Tate marketed a database program.  The big three software vendors of the time were Microsoft, Lotus and Ashton-Tate.

With the increasing popularity of Windows® (version 3.1 was a hit in 1990) Microsoft introduced the first version of Office containing Word, Excel® and PowerPoint®. Lotus acquired a competitor and introduced Lotus SmartSuite. 

Microsoft competitors complained that the company forced hardware vendors to buy and install Office along with Windows. Some still claim today that this tactic is what led to Office’s dominant position.

However, market turmoil, more than anything else, helped Microsoft.  Ashton-Tate was acquired as was WordPerfect. Lotus Development was bought by IBM® and SmartSuite has been discontinued. WordPerfect Office is still marketed by Corel® but does not have a significant market share. Google Apps, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer. It was first created in 2006 and has been steadily improved and enhanced since that time.

The benefits of cloud computing are numerous. Documents, spreadsheets and other items can be accessed from any computer, tablet or smartphone.  The upfront costs of migrating are minimal, and on-going equipment costs are reduced.

Both Google and Microsoft have powerful products. If most of your users are not heavily using the Microsoft Office environment Google Apps is a good choice. Also, if your company is on a limited budget, Google Apps is somewhat more affordable.

For those companies that have used Microsoft Office for a considerable length of time, have a staff already trained to use the programs and are concerned about document compatibility, sticking with Microsoft can be worth the additional cost.

Geoff Griswold is a field engineer and general manager of the Omni Group, an IT services company specializing in the hospitality industry. He can be reached at geoff@atlantaomnigroup.com or (678) 464-2427.

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Considerations

1 Most hotels are using Microsoft Office so staff members are most familiar with that environment. A migration to Office 365 will provide a similar look and feel as the locally installed suite. 

2 Another major consideration is document compatibility (also known as document fidelity) between different suites.  Google Apps has made great strides in protecting document fidelity from .doc (Word), .xls (Excel) or .ppt (PowerPoint) files to Docs, Sheets and Presentations (Google’s product names), but it is not perfect. Hotel executives or anyone who needs to receive files from outside the organization in .doc, .xls or .ppt format may experience frustration when having to convert to Google.

3 On the other hand, sharing and collaboration with Google Apps is better than it is with Office 365. Employees can share documents with many users, collaborate together and see the document changing in real-time. Google has also incorporated Hangouts™ for text and video chat to make collaborating even easier. This is of particular value for hotels to be able to communicate with each other across the globe.

4 The speed of the applications on both Office 365 and Google Apps appear comparable to the desktop versions.

5 Both companies promise not to share your data with third parties. A common misconception with Google Apps for Business is that you will see targeted ads like you do in the consumer version of Gmail, but this is not the case. However, the government has the power to request your data and in most cases, they must comply. 
 
6 Microsoft has multiple licensing plans, but overall you should expect a price of $5 per user per month if billed annually for a total cost of $60 per user per year. This often changes based on the number of users in the organization and the duration of the contract. If you want the desktop version of Office included in your contract you will be paying around $150 per user per year. Google Apps for Business is $50 per user per year for all businesses, regardless of size or contract.

7 Both Office 365 and Google Apps for Business have email archiving and e-discovery applications available for purchase, which is often a necessity for any large or publicly traded corporation.

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