Plenty of IT departments these days are looking for opportunities to move things out of their server rooms, and into someone else’s. This has led to the rise of popular services, including Google Apps and Office 365 – with their email, calendaring and other web-based services – present replacement options for software running on enterprise servers and desktops as well. This article compares and contrasts well-known office productivity apps: Google Docs, Office Web Apps and Zoho Docs.
Productivity Apps & MS Office: Compatibility Issues
The best-known productivity software is, of course, Microsoft Office, found in most enterprises. Recently-developed productivity apps must consider issues that are not usually problems with other apps. It’s not only a question of their interfaces or features, but are these new apps able to integrate smoothly with existing systems? Can they work well with Microsoft Office documents?
Switching to a new cloud-based email or CRM system might cause short-term headaches. However, such systems are pretty much isolated, or at the very least, only communicate with the outside world through relatively simple, familiar protocols. By contrast, productivity software that aims to replace the monolithic Microsoft Office must consider businesses’ specific needs. Many organizations want to be able to read, edit and produce Office documents. Compatibility with Office is certainly a major concern.
Google Docs can be accessed in two ways: 1) You can access it for free when you register for a Google account, or 2) You can access it as part of the Google Apps package, a branded version of Google’s products with a personalized domain. The Google Apps suite includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Sites, and many other services.
Pricing for the suite is variable. Basic, ten-user Apps subscriptions are available for free. Google Apps for Business includes more apps, 25GB email storage per user, BlackBerry and Outlook functionality, uptime assurances and support for $5 per user per month, or $50 per user per year. Finally, Google Apps for Education offers all the benefits of the Business version for free to educational institutions. The company also offers discounts to nonprofit organizations.
With Google Docs, each user is provided 5GB of storage space (expandable to 16GB at an added cost). Google Docs consists of the main word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software. There are additional apps for creating forms, word art, tables and other files through the Chrome Web Store. MS Office documents can be uploaded and either converted to Google Docs-format, or left in their original format. It’s also possible to upload PDF and ZIP files, photos and music and other files.
Main advantages of Google Docs:
- Collaboration features enable real time editing of documents for several users at a time
- Robust versioning displays document histories
- Google Cloud Connect adds basic collaboration features to Office 2003, 2007 and 2010
Main disadvantages of Google Docs:
- Minimalist interface
- Limited document formatting capabilities
- Limited organization features; documents are placed in folders, but folders function more like email labels
- Some issues with importing document formatting (e.g. tables, shapes, font substitutions)
Office Web Apps
Essentially, Office Web Apps are web-hosted versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, the same programs sold in the basic Home and Student versions of Office 2010. Office Web Apps are accessible from different locations, but can also be installed on a local server. Office Web Apps are available in a number of the Office 365 plans, at various price points, depending on the organization’s needs.
Main advantages of Office Web Apps:
- Easy to transition to Office Web Apps if your organization already uses MS Office a lot (i.e. UI is very similar to Office 2010)
- Maintains document formatting impeccably (not surprisingly!)
Main disadvantages of Office Web Apps:
- Missing functionality that is expected in MS Office software (e.g. word count feature, text animations, track changes)
- Pushes users to purchase licenses for the desktop version of MS Office
- Familiarizing users to SharePoint might be an adoption barrier
- Unreliable mobile device support (most platforms support read-only views on phones and tablets, but not the edit view)
- Simultaneous multi-user editing only supported for Excel and OneNote apps
Not unlike Google’s and Microsoft’s office suites, Zoho Docs offer mail, calendar, chat, wiki, meeting, CRM, invoicing, reporting, bug tracking and other apps. Customers are able to pick and choose the products they will use. Personal use accounts include 1GB of storage and are free. Standard and Premium accounts are available for $3 and $5 per user, respectively. For another $3 per user, you will get an additional 5GB of storage.
Collaboration in Zoho is possible in two different ways: 1) You can share files individually, distributing read-only, read/write and ownership permissions to other Zoho users, or 2) Creating Workspaces, or folders that give a defined group of users permissions to all files in the folder.
Main advantages of Zoho Docs:
- Great organization capabilities through Zoho’s file explorer
- Microsoft integration features are available, enabling use of Zoho products concurrently with MS Office
- Simple, yet functional document viewer that is similar to the MS Office ribbon
Main disadvantages of Zoho Docs:
- While tablet browsers can edit documents, the Zoho smartphone site is read-only
- Serious document formatting losses when importing documents from MS Word to Zoho’s word processor, converting graphs, working with .pptx files
This article compares and contrasts three well-known office productivity suites that are cloud-based: Google Docs, Office Web Apps and Zoho Docs. Recently-developed productivity apps must consider issues that are not usually problems with other apps, such as integration with existing systems and compatibility with Microsoft Office products.
CCSK Exam Preparation
In preparation for the Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK), a security professional should be comfortable with topics related to this post, including:
- Provider selection (Domain 8 )
- Recommended provider tools and capabilities (Domain 9)