In a previous post, I wrote about Google Apps and how it was a viable business and non-profit solution. Office365 is a cloud offering from Microsoft that integrates the Office suite of products that have become commonplace in many organizations with powerful cloud-based collaboration capabilities. While the applications in Google Apps are good enough for many organizations, the Microsoft suite of Word, Powerpoint, Excel, and Outlook are much more powerful and use formats that are well understood and used by most employees. A real consideration for any organization is the learning curve in adopting other products. While it is true, strictly on a cost-basis, that Office365 subscriptions may be more expensive than Google Apps, the productivity and training need to be factored in. It doesn’t do much good to theorize about how people ought to embrace open office or libre office or Google Apps products. Cost is cost. If one loses productivity or has to expend money to train an employee who is unfamiliar with a product then it will ultimately be an expense.
For non-profits, Microsoft has made their offering very attractive. They have a web-only seat that is free for non-profits. That is to say that the seat comes with no installed software but access to Office for the Web. Office for the Web includes Word, Excel, and Powerpoint in a web interface that is, for all intents and purposes, the same user experience as on a desktop client. It blows Google Apps out of the water in this case. It is a powerful tool for collaborating on documents in lieu of sending emails and the user utilizes a product that he or she is already accustomed to. For non-profits that desire to have desktop clients, for $2/month/user the organization can install Office Professional Plus which consists of Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Publisher, Outlook, and OneNote.
Central to Office365 is OneDrive and OneDrive for business. It is not only a “Dropbox-like” feature where the user’s data is in the Cloud but it enables the Office for the Cloud applications I described. OneDrive for business is a collaborative Sharepoint enabled feature that permits many powerful workflow activities within an organization.
In short, I’m a fan of both Office365 and Google Apps but I prefer Office365 for anything but the most basic of Office workflow situations.