By now, most companies realize that they need to move to the cloud to meet the demands of their flexible work force and allow greater reliance on team collaboration in a "work from anywhere at any time" mentality. While there are a few options out there, two main products have moved to the forefront of office productivity solutions: Google Apps and Office 365. Working for a Microsoft Partner, it is easy for me to stand up and play the Office 365 cheerleader, but first I want you to know why I believe in it so strongly and how I can give a fair and accurate assessment. Like a lot of working professionals, I am in grad school and a lot of my class work is carried out virtually with my classmates, many of whom are Google users. As a result, I've had a lot of real-life experience with both solutions. Below is a summary of my comparisons while using the two products.
Google+ Hangout v. Microsoft Lync
One of the biggest challenges my classmates had was finding a time/place where we could all meet. One person on my team lived in another state, so meeting in person was never an option. That being said, we turned to the wonders of technology to bring us together. One of the tools we used was Google+ Hangout. The first time loading the software was a bit difficult since I don't run Google Chrome like it suggested. However, once it was up and running, we all signed on and it was smooth sailing… for the first ten minutes. After that, we kept getting dropped off the call, there was a high level of latency and the system actually crashed when we tried to share a document together. Unfortunately, we continued to use Hangout during the rest of that term and had just as bad of an experience each time we logged on. Our environment was mixed, including Mac computers, and we all had similar stories of frustration.
Now, obviously being familiar with Lync, which we use here at B2B, I can't get over how much the program has become an integral part of my work habits. I run the client in the background at all times, mostly as a chat option for my colleagues, but the instant I want a video or conference call, I can start one up in the matter of seconds. Unlike Google+ Hangouts, I don't have to navigate through an invitation and wait for the person to notice, respond and then log on. With Lync, I can see their availability since it is connected to our Active Directory, and the call is one simple click. Another feature that helps with scheduling meetings is the plug-in for Outlook. I can schedule meetings and automatically put in my Lync information for the call, which is compatible even for those who do not have the client. There is an online version they can use that is fully functional. So, no matter if the person on the other end has Lync or not, I know they will be able to attend the online meeting without hesitation.
Google Docs v. Office Web Apps (OWA)
If you've ever created an Excel spreadsheet for a Finance class or project, you understand the importance of formulas that can run three to four lines deep. Imagine uploading that document to share with your team and it all gets altered to pull data from the wrong cells. Then, unknowingly, you work with the spreadsheet for a while and realize that all of your work is wrong and not sure what happened or at what step everything was changed. I've been there, and it was called "Google Docs: My Spreadsheet Nightmare." My team and I had a lot of beer during that online session, partly out of pity for the lost productivity. We actually ended up emailing around the document to keep it from getting changed and had to talk through each change we made instead of having an easy collaboration session. We also had formatting changes while uploading and downloading due to different versions of Word. This meant that even though we would have a final edited document in Google, once it was downloaded, it had to be re-edited to make sure it met professional guidelines. As much as tried and used different download methods, there was never a way that we could turn in a document straight from Google Docs, there was always an additional step for presentation-ready files.
Microsoft Office Web Apps is the easiest platform to use for creating content online, mostly because it's an innate extension of Microsoft Office. The ability to create content online that is not diminished during download makes the user experience smoother than with Google Docs. Knowing that I don't have to reformat a document to turn it in for class or at work makes me feel more at ease, and definitely more productive. Additionally, documents I upload that were created on my PC still maintain all formatting when uploaded or shared through OWA.
Real Time Collaboration
Google's idea of real-time collaboration has a long way to go. To be fair, they are on the right track, but they just can't compete with how fluid Microsoft's solution is. During my class sessions, we used Hangout for audio/video chat and work on documents simultaneously. We had multiple authors going, but it could be hard to tell who was who. I wish I captured a screen shot, but at one point there were three of me. If only I could multiply myself… imagine how productive I'd be! It also appeared that two of us were editing the same section of the paper at the same time and we were overwriting each other's changes. This was frustrating and led to a little bit of a keyboard war. What I did like, if it would have run correctly, was that each user had a different color and you could tell who was editing which section in order to keep the organization part straight. However, like I mentioned before, at one point there were three of me and each had a different indicator color. I was all over that paper, literally.
In a direct comparison to the spreadsheet issue with Google above, I recently used Lync for an online meeting and needed to share an Excel doc with my peer. I simply opened a chat, chose the option to share a document and gave her editing capabilities. We worked on the document together and we were able to figure out a few key components that were off. The document maintained all the changes once we were done, including my precious formulas and formatting. It was real time collaboration at its finest. And the really cool way to make sure you don't edit the same cell at the same time is maintained through the control button. Simply give or take control and the person holding the control gets to make changes. I've used this feature for several other programs including PowerPoint, Word and Internet Explorer.
Obviously, both platforms can get the job done if you need a collaboration and team communication solution. However, outside of my own bias, using Microsoft Office 365 has been a better user experience by far. In ways that Google should knock the competition out the park, they end up being clumsy and difficult to work with. I suppose if I had a strictly Google system and was on their premises with their network, I would not run into some of the downtime issues I've experienced. Yet, I would still have the problems I faced with content creation. Knowing both sides of the story, Microsoft wins for me. Sure, there are times when my Lync experiences lag time or there is a few second delay in audio (nothing is perfect), but overall I'm much happier within the Office 365 realm of working in the cloud.
Post provided by: Jennifer Collom, Director of Marketing at B2B Technologies