Let The Cloud Office Suites Battle Commence
If you’re trying to make a case for migrating an app to the cloud, Email & Office software is an especially easy one to make. From small businesses with five employees to global enterprises with thousands, virtually every company needs Email + Office software and their requirements for these tools are often similar regardless of company size. In the past, it was common for businesses to host and manage their own email servers on premises. This usually meant investing thousands of dollars into purchasing hardware and thousands more paying a team of IT workers to set up and manage those systems. In the modern world of cloud computing, this approach is akin to building your own power plant rather than tapping into the power grid. It *might* be the best option in certain, rare, cases, but for most of us it makes more sense to leverage the existing ‘power grid’ (or in this case, the cloud infrastructure providers) when possible, and focus our resources on our primary business goals. Sure enough, this is exactly what businesses are doing: Gartner says that their client inquiries about Cloud office suites increased by 70% in the 18 months that followed Jan 2015. They’ve predicted that by 2021 over 70% of enterprises will be using cloud-based email and office software.
Clearly, cloud office software is the future, but which one do you choose? These days, there are three mainstream choices. “Three?” you say? While most people are familiar with Microsoft’s Office365 and Google’s G Suite (formerly known as Gmail for Work), some may not be aware that cloud computing giant AWS has recently entered the cloud office market with their ‘AWS WorkMail‘ offering which came out of preview earlier this year. Let’s see how they compare.
In the interest of comparing ‘apples to apples’, we’ve picked configurations of each product that are most similar in features and price. We are comparing Office 365 “Essentials”, G Suite BASIC, and the standard AWS WorkMail + WorkDocs option.
G Suite is Google’s cloud office productivity offering which is essentially a business-focused bundle of Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, and a host of other predictably-named tools. Though Gmail and Google Docs are always available to consumers for free, G Suite allows you to use your own business domain for your email (and Google Drive) and also provides a management interface for configuring email accounts, groups, and permissions. According to Google, more than a billion users access Gmail monthly. GMail’s popularity with consumers has no doubt been a contributing factor to G-Suite’s ever-increasing popularity among businesses, and Gartner points out that G Suite seems to be the go-to choice for young and/or “cloud-forward” companies. In true Google fashion, Machine Learning capabilities have been subtly woven into many different areas of G Suite, from the auto-fill suggestions in Google Forms to the spam-zapping filters in Gmail. Microsoft followed suit and started to incorporate similar machine-learning features into Office365, but Google was definitely the pioneer here. These AI-powered features plus Google’s characteristic focus on clean user interfaces and simple workflows mean that G Suite easily has the upper hand in terms of usability, even if it does lack many of the less mainstream features and capabilities of Office365. G Suite also gets a commendation for scalability. Unlike Office365, G Suite accounts have no cap on the number of users that can be added, meaning a single G Suite account could theoretically support a business as it grew from two employees all the way to two thousand. Just like their Google Cloud products, the G Suite pricing model is extremely simple. There are only 2 configurations available (contrast this to Office365’s 7 different versions): G Suite Basic is $5 per month per user (or $50 per year if paid upfront) and includes 30 GB of storage, whereas G Suite Business is $10 per month per user (or $100 per year if paid upfront) and provides unlimited storage in addition to a few other administration features.
As we mentioned previously, AWS has entered the cloud office software market with their new AWS WorkMail (+WorkDocs) offering. A quick peek at the AWS Work email website and you’ll quickly see that AWS is focusing their messaging on enterprise security. All data in AWS WorkMail is encrypted “at rest” using your own SSL encryption keys which can be managed through the AWS Key Management system. Users can select which geographic region they want their data stored in, a welcome option for those with latency and/or compliance concerns. Additionally, AWS WorkMail is mobile optimized and gives system admins the ability to enforce device encryption, require device locks, require specific password strengths, wipe devices remotely, and more. WorkMail has based off a Microsoft Exchange architecture which means you can use it with just about any email client imaginable, but there is also a well-designed web-based client that we’ve found to be more than adequate. Users can add AWS WorkDocs to WorkMail accounts for an extra $2 a month (bringing the total to $6 per user per month), providing document editing and collaboration features that are similar to Google Docs. With Microsoft Exchange support, SSL encryption, and advanced mobile device administration features, it’s clear that AWS WorkMail is taking aim at large enterprises. However, with a monthly per-user charge that’s higher than both G Suite (5$) and Office365 ($5.61), it’s hard for us to recommend AWS WorkMail+WorkDocs at this time even though it shows an immense amount of promise. If you’ve tried both G Suite and Office365 and neither cloud office suit your fancy, go ahead and give WorkMail + WorkDocs a shot. Otherwise, most businesses will be better off with the more mature offerings from either Google or Microsoft.
If you still can’t decide, don’t worry! One of the great things about SaaS is it’s often not necessary to sign long-term contracts. Considering the low monthly price of all the products we discussed, it might even be feasible to try them all out simultaneously for a couple months if you really wanted to pit them against each other. If even that isn’t enough to help you decide, DoubleHorn is always here to help. We have extensive experience helping our clients with cloud app migrations and would love to hear what you have in mind. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free consultation today.
Editor’s Note: If you want a comparison of AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, see our blog here.