Microsoft Office vs. Google Apps

You don’t have to choose. Old MS Office plus Google Apps is a superb low cost solution.

Microsoft Office 365 logoThere is an intensifying debate on whether Microsoft Office is being rendered superfluous by Google Apps, which offers 75% of the features free of charge to nonprofits. And MS Office will only get more expensive going forward, as it shifts away from a “buy once, keep forever” model to “pay every month” under their new Office 365 subscription model. Is now the time to abandon MS Office and move entirely into the Google ecosphere?

According to TechSoup, Microsoft has not yet released its Office 365 pricing for nonprofits, other than their Office 365 Enterprise E3 for Nonprofits service priced at $4.50 per user per month. Hopefully their Small Business Premium for Nonprofits service will be cheaper (or free), which provides all of the productivity applications available in the Enterprise edition, excluding mobile applications.

Why has Microsoft moved to this new model? First, users are increasingly interested in using their productivity applications via the web, so that people can do their work wherever they are, and not have to worry about software installation or updates. Second, modern browsers are able to display complex applications, and with greatly increased bandwidth, lag time has all but disappeared in web-based applications. And third, users have stopped upgrading Microsoft Office with the same regularity as in the past, as even a five year old version has more bells and whistles than 95% of users will ever use.

Some have proclaimed MS Office irrelevant, and propose that Google Apps (in particular Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations) are sufficient to meet any day to day office needs. But that’s not quite true. As great as these applications are for collaboration and putting down the basics on virtual paper, they lack the tools for the final “polish” that documents, spreadsheets and presentations need before they go out the door.

The practice that has evolved in many offices is to create and collaborate on document content in Google Apps (in particular where there are multiple collaborators), and once the content is set, one person imports the document into MS Office for final tweaking. We do that all the time at The Jones Payne Group and it works great. But you don’t need Office 365 for that.

The good news is that by this point in time, everyone has a totally usable version of MS Office installed (which is Microsoft’s problem in the first place). Google Apps for Nonprofits has all the power of the paid business version, and it’s free. So you already have access to all of the state of the art tools you need, without having to spend another penny!

Of course, Google Apps for Nonprofits is not 100% foolproof to install, and users will still need training. But that is true for any new application that you will use. Invest in a skilled Google Apps consultant to help you with set up and training, and to be an on-call resource if questions or issues come up in the future. It will cost you less than the $4.50 per user per month (times infinity) that you would pay for Office 365, and will be money well spent. And if you are already up and running with Google Apps, then you are really all set!