Is Microsoft 365 better than Google Workspace?

Once upon a time, Microsoft Office ruled the business world. By the late ‘90s and early 2000s, Microsoft’s office suite had brushed aside rivals such as WordPerfect Office and Lotus SmartSuite, and there was no competition on the horizon.

Then in 2006 Google came along with Google Docs & Spreadsheets, a collaborative online word processing and spreadsheet duo that was combined with other business services to form the Google Apps suite, later rebranded as G Suite, and now as Google Workspace. Although Google’s productivity suite didn’t immediately take the business world by storm, over time it has gained both in features and in popularity, boasting 6 million paying customers, according to Google’s most recent public stats in March 2020.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has shifted its emphasis away from its traditional licensed Office software to Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), a subscription-based version that’s treated more like a service, with frequent updates and new features. Microsoft 365 is what we’ve focused on in this story.

Nowadays, choosing an office suite isn’t as simple as it once was. We’re here to help.

Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365

Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 have much in common. Both are subscription-based, charging businesses per-person fees every month, in varying tiers, depending on the capabilities their customers are looking for. Although Google Workspace is web-based, it has the capability to work offline as well. And while Microsoft 365 is based on installed desktop software, it also provides (less powerful) web-based versions of its applications.

Both suites work well with a range of devices. Because it’s web-based, Google Workspace works in most browsers on any operating system, and Google also offers mobile apps for Android and iOS. Microsoft provides Office client apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android, and its web-based apps work across browsers.

The suites also offer the same basic core applications. Each has word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, email, calendar, and contacts programs, along with videoconferencing, messaging, and note-taking software. Each has cloud storage associated with it. But those individual applications are quite different from one suite to the other, as are the management tools for taking care of them in a business environment. And both suites offer scads of additional tools as well. So it can be exceedingly difficult to decide which suite is better for your business.

That’s where this piece comes in. We offer a detailed look at every aspect of the office suites, from an application-by-application comparison to how well each suite handles collaboration, how well their apps integrate, pricing, support, and more. Our focus here is on how the suites work for businesses, rather than individual use.

Pricing: Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 subscriptions compared

“Follow the money” is the hallowed refrain of investigators everywhere, and when you’re starting to decide which office suite is better for you, it’s a good place to start as well. Individuals can use several of the online apps from both suites — including Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides as well as Microsoft Word Online, Excel Online, and PowerPoint Online — for free, but businesses should look to the paid Workspace and Microsoft 365 subscriptions for necessary security and management features.

Check out the following tables, first for Google Workspace, and then for Microsoft 365, to compare plans and pricing.

Google Workspace pricing options for business

Google Workspace comes in four commercial versions: Business Starter, Business Standard, Business Plus, and Enterprise. Business Starter, at $6 per user per month, comes with the full suite of applications and 30GB of storage per user.  At $12 per user per month, the Business Standard plan includes all that, plus 2TB of storage per user as well as archiving, enterprise search capabilities, and additional administrative tools. Business Plus at $18 per user per month includes everything the Business Standard version offers, plus even more administrative controls and business tools.

Enterprise has everything that Business Plus does, as well as more administrative controls and a low-code application builder. You’ll have to contact Google for pricing details for Enterprise.

Google Workspace business plans

 Business StarterBusiness StandardBusiness PlusEnterprise
Price$6/user/mo.$12/user/mo.$18/user/mo.Contact Google sales for pricing
Create documents, spreadsheets, presentationsYesYesYesYes
Mobile versions1 of Docs, Sheets, Slides, GmailYesYesYesYes
Email, custom domains, shared calendars, videoconferencing, team messagingYesYesYesYes
Drive file storage30GB per user2TB per user; shared drives for teams; search across all company content in Google Workspace5TB per user; shared drives for teams; search across all company content in Google WorkspaceUnlimited; shared drives for teams; search across all company content in Google Workspace
Additional business toolsForms, Sites, Keep, Smart Fill, Smart Cleanup, AnswersForms, Sites, Keep, Smart Fill, Smart Cleanup, AnswersForms, Sites, Keep, Smart Fill, Smart Cleanup, AnswersForms, Sites, Keep, Smart Fill, Smart Cleanup, Answers, AppSheet
Security and management toolsBasic tools including endpoint management and group policy based controlsEverything in Basic plus more powerful tools including Google Workspace Migration ToolEverything in Business Standard plus more powerful tools including secure LDAP, advanced endpoint management, and Vault for retaining, archiving and searching dataEverything in Business Plus and more powerful tools including enterprise-level endpoint management, data loss prevention, S/MIME encryption, more

For more detailed information, check out Google’s page comparing pricing plans. Also note that some features available in higher-level Google Workspace plans are available for purchase as standalone services. Additionally, Google offers specialized versions of Workspace Enterprise for healthcare and life sciences, retail, manufacturing, and government organizations, and there are a range of free and paid Workspace versions for nonprofits and educational institutions.

Microsoft 365 pricing options for business

Microsoft 365 business subscriptions are more complicated and range from $5 per user per month for Microsoft 365 Business Essentials, the most basic version for small businesses, to $35 per user per month for Microsoft 365 E5, the most feature-packed version for enterprises. Confusingly, Microsoft renamed all of its small business plans from Office 365 to Microsoft 365, but at the enterprise level, it offers both Office 365 and Microsoft 365 plans.

The tables below outline what you get with each version. The three plans in the first table are for small businesses with up to 300 employees; the ones in the second table are meant for larger organizations.

Microsoft 365 small business plans

 Microsoft 365 Business BasicMicrosoft 365 Apps for BusinessMicrosoft 365 Business StandardMicrosoft 365 Business  Premium
User limit300300300300
Create documents, spreadsheets, presentationsYesYesYesYes
Desktop1 / mobile2 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OutlookNo / YesYes / YesYes / YesYes / Yes
Exchange email hosting, custom domains, shared calendarsYesNoYesYes
Microsoft Teams and SharePointYesNoYesYes
OneDrive file storage1TB per user1TB per user1TB per user1TB per user
Additional business toolsOneNote, Outlook, Microsoft Forms, Visio, Microsoft Lists, Microsoft Bookings Access3, Publisher3, OneNote, VisioTeams, OneNote, Outlook, Microsoft Forms, Visio, Microsoft Lists, Microsoft Bookings Teams OneNote, Outlook, Microsoft Forms, Visio, Microsoft Lists, Microsoft Bookings 
Security and management toolsBasic tools including threat management, archiving, and auditingOnly basic tools, not including archiving and auditingEverything in Business Basic plus email protectionEverything in Business Standard plus advanced threat protection, Azure information protection, and Intune mobile device management

Office 365 and Microsoft 365 enterprise plans

Scroll right to see all plans.

 Microsoft 365 Apps for EnterpriseOffice 365 E1Office 365 E3Office 365 E5Microsoft 365 E3Microsoft 365 E5
User limitNo limitNo limitNo limitNo limitNo limitNo limit
Create documents, spreadsheets, presentationsYesYesYesYesYesYes
Desktop1 / mobile2 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OutlookYes / YesNo / YesYes / YesYes / YesYes / YesYes / Yes
Exchange email hosting, custom domains, shared calendarsNoYesYesYesYesYes
Microsoft Teams / SharePointYes / NoYes / YesYes / YesYes / YesYes / YesYes / Yes
OneDrive file storage1TB per user1TB per user5TB per user; more available on request (if fewer than 5 subscriptions, 1TB per user)5TB per user; more available on request (if fewer than 5 subscriptions, 1TB per user)5TB per user; more available on request (if fewer than 5 subscriptions, 1TB per user)5TB per user; more available on request (if fewer than 5 subscriptions, 1TB per user)
Additional business toolsDelve, Sway, OneNote, Publisher3, Access3, FormsEverything in M365 Apps/Enterprise plus Stream, Visio for the web, Planner, To Do, Microsoft Whiteboard, Yammer, Viva Insights, Viva Connections, Power Apps, Power Automate, moreEverything in O365 E1 plus Outlook desktop client, Dataverse for Teams, moreEverything in O365 E3 plus phone and audio conferencing and Power BI ProEverything in O365 E3Everything in O365 E5
Security and management toolsIdentity and access mgmt, device and app mgmt, Group Policy support, Microsoft Graph API, shared computer activation, Active Directory sync for SSOIdentity and access mgmt, device and app mgmt, basic legal compliance, Active Directory sync for SSOEverything in O365 E1 plus Group Policy support, shared computer activations, information protection, basic eDiscovery and auditingEverything in O365 E3 plus advanced compliance, threat protection, Office 365 Cloud App Security and Threat ProtectionEverything in O365 E5 plus advanced endpoint and app mgmt, threat analytics, Microsoft Defender, Microsoft IntuneEverything in M365 E3 plus advanced information protection, threat protection, identity and access mgmt, compliance

Find out more about Microsoft 365 small business plans, as well as the Office 365 enterprise plans and Microsoft 365 enterprise plans. Microsoft also offers an array of Microsoft 365 plans for educational, government, nonprofit, and other institutions.

In addition, many Office apps and services are available on an à la carte basis. Some companies prefer to pay for a lower-level plan and then pay for one or two of these items as add-ons rather than paying for a higher-level comprehensive plan.

Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: App by app

Every business has different needs, and yours may place greater value on certain apps than others. For some companies, word processing and email might be the most important apps in an office suite, while others might need a powerful spreadsheet program above everything else.

To help, we’ve compared the major office apps in Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 so you can zero in on the apps that are most important to your business and let their strengths and weaknesses guide your overall decision. We’ve included only the highlights below; if you want more details about each app, we’ve linked to Computerworld articles that offer in-depth comparisons.

Word processing: Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word

Deciding on whether your business would be better off with Google Docs or Microsoft Word is fairly straightforward. Which is more important to your users: easy-to-use collaboration or the greatest range of document creation and editing features? For collaboration, Google Docs is better. For as fully featured a word processor as you’ll find anywhere, you’ll want Word.

By saying Word has superior features, I don’t mean a bunch of tools that your business may never use. I mean great capabilities that make your workflow easier and more productive.

For example, if you’re creating a report, brochure, resume, or almost any other kind of document, Word offers an excellent set of pre-built templates so you can get writing fast, knowing that your document will have a solid, useful design. Word has 300 different business templates alone, while Google Docs only has 55 total templates of all kinds, including personal, business, and educational ones. (Microsoft claims Word has thousands of templates, but we couldn’t count them all.) Word also offers more chart types and styles for embedding into documents.


But Google Docs outshines Word when it comes to live collaboration. Collaborating is seamless and has been built into the app from the ground up, while in Word it’s more difficult to use, not as comprehensive, and feels tacked-on rather than an integral part of the program.

For non-live collaboration — editing and marking up documents for review by others — Word has always been the gold standard, but Google Docs has come a long way and now is nearly as good as Word. Word’s editing tools have slightly finer-grained controls, but apart from that, they’re about even.

For a more in-depth comparison, head to “Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word: Which works better for business?”