What's better for remote work? Google Apps or Office 365?

Right now I’m on a Google Apps for Business account for my organization. It’s the free one from several years ago that’s grandfathered into free, but has some account restrictions. I’m about at the point of outgrowing it and am considering either full Google for Work or Office365. I’ve been over pros and cons and both seem very good at a similar price. So I’m wondering what experience others have had. Specifically around:

  • Storage and backup, with versioning.
  • Granular file access control and logging.
  • Migration pathway. (Anyone who does IT with experience migrating from G to MS contact me offlist for a potential project.)
  • Considerations for storing client-sensitive information there at some point.
  • Other differentiators or considerations commonly missed.
  • Other services to consider that are similar (email, storage, document collaboration, security, reliability, near-zero IT support requirement)
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This is a question I had a couple of weeks ago and though I’ve since decided on Office 365, I still have a bunch of unanswered questions because Office 365 is… complex. I’ll answer what I can.

Storage and backup, with versioning.
There are two different versions of OneDrive – the consumer version called simply “OneDrive” and the business version called “OneDrive for Business.” This is important because they are in fact completely different technologies/backend. ODfB is re-branded Sharepoint and Exchange and in fact worse than the consumer version in a number of ways, but more powerful in other ways. You need to be aware that there is a difference between the two when researching OneDrive.

While I haven’t used it much myself yet, ODfB supposedly has sync problems – some files won’t upload or sync, or will be lost or corrupted. It also doesn’t allow the granular offline/online sync options of the consumer versions: You can only set a top folder as offline or offline, not files or folders within that folder.

The ODfB client for Mac also may not be the great, though they recently released a new version. The Android/iOS version is the same for OD and ODfB and works well.

Granular file access control and logging
Though I haven’t explored this much, I believe this is the enterprise standard and as good as it gets, though with a complex and sometimes confusing interface. You can set access down to the single file level, and also share with people outside your organization.

Considerations for storing client-sensitive information there at some point.
I believe that you can switch from the cloud-based version to a self-hosted version of OneDrive if necessary.

Other services to consider that are similar (email, storage, document collaboration, security, reliability, near-zero IT support requirement)
For a self-hosted solution, there’s OwnCloud.

It’s still speculation at this point, but I believe that Office and Outlook will become really superb this year, as Microsoft launches the Windows 10 and Universal Apps, and the new email and calendar apps (Accompli/Outlook and Sunrise.) Microsoft has been getting a lot better the past year and I’m now trying to rid myself of everything Google, and have a Surface Pro and a Lumia phone.

Thanks for the input, Erik. I checked and there’s only a beta ODfB Sync for Mac. No ETA for a supported version, from what I can tell. Good to know that it’s using Sharepoint as a backend rather than the actual OneDrive system. I checked the site and it said ODfB has granular access control and logging in the roadmap, but…no ETA.


Yeah, I think Office 365 for Business will be the best choice in the long run. Hopefully Microsoft can get the Sharepoint kinks worked out this year, and build a rich ecosystem for Office, Outlook and Spartan, to best Google.

Here’s some feedback I received from someone else I asked the question to. Sounds like OneDrive for Business is an absolute failure right now.

I can’t speak to Google apps as I haven’t used them but we have been migrating to Office365 so I can address some of its limitations which may or may not be a problem depending on your use case.

Here are a few of the issues we have discovered so far.

  1. Office365 will not let you store just any file type.



  1. Office365 modifies files as it syncs. You can test this using checksums.



  1. Backup and restore may not work the way you expect.

“Microsoft backs up SharePoint every 12 hours, but those backups live for only 14 days.”

“you can’t restore individual items. You can only restore an entire site collection.”

“You also can’t restore a site collection to another location”



  1. If you use the Office365 web mail interface you will find it is a step backwards in features compared to OWA on a current version of Exchange. You can solve this by using an Outlook thick client but this leaves Mac and Linux with a less than robust interface than what they might be used to.
  1. Support for Linux and Mac clients is incomplete and is more like beta software.
  1. If you have employees that share files with others the files will disappear when the employee leaves the company. You have to be careful when setting up shared resources that they are not tied to an individual.

Also, Google Apps Unlimited allows some very granular auditing of file access it looks like.

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Wow, sounds like an absolute mess. It’s too bad and rather odd because the consumer version of OneDrive is superb. I’m still using GDrive for some of my work so perhaps I will buy more storage for that instead of getting my files eaten by ODfB.

Another factor is the type of business you’re in. I HATE the Microsoft ecosystem, I find it both overpriced and confusing. That said, if you do a lot of work with other businesses (particularly larger companies that may be either partners or clients) they probably run the Windows office system, so being compatible with them is necessary.

An example is powerpoint. Building presentations in powerpoint is like drawing with crayons, but when I worked for a design consultancy all of our clients could only consume powerpoint presentations, so we just had to suffer through it.