CNET@Work: Most of us simply don't need all the bells and whistles that Microsoft stuffs into its applications. Consider Google's software: Great collaboration features are just the beginning.
Charles CooperFormer Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
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For Todd Spodek, the decision to equip his New York law firm with
's software applications boiled down a single need: collaboration.
"We settled on Google because it was at the forefront of cloud-based tools," said Spodek, who heads Spodek Law Group P.C. "We have three offices, so syncing information is key as it allows us to do everything remotely.
"It's really a streamlined process, and everything is easy to manage," he added.
G Suite, as Google's Apps for Work was rebranded last year, was built for the internet -- no surprise there, given Google's post-PC heritage. That approach has informed its applications, which work on the cloud. It also means that your company won't ever lose data or documents because all the changes on Google documents get automatically saved and backed up to a Google cloud. All your team needs is a web browser on a computer or mobile device with internet access.
If you're migrating from
, keep in mind that it may take a while to switch your workflow from MS Office to Google Apps. It may also require time -- and some encouragement -- to convince some users to accept the folder structure in Gmail versus what they've been accustomed to using with Outlook.
Is G Suite for everyone?
Needs and priorities aren't uniform, however; let's look at some areas where G Suite might not be right for your small business.
While Google has narrowed the features gap from what it was years ago, G Suite's docs and slideshow options still remain more limited than Microsoft's Word and PowerPoint. So if you feel the need for every possible feature just in case, Office is the better choice.
Because everything is in the cloud with G Suite, your employees will get cut off temporarily if their internet connection goes or there's an outage at Google.
Google earlier this year announced that it would stop scanning the emails of people using its free Gmail email to personalize. The company has exempted G Suite business accounts from ad personalization. Still, some might have lingering privacy concerns about whether someone is reading email. In the end, the question turns on how paranoid you are.
Probably right for you
But those are minor issues. Meanwhile, the company is in the midst of adding 10 new features to the suite by the end of the year. If you're a startup or small business, let's take a closer look at why G Suite may be right for your needs.
Thanks to Google's iconic brand status, many of your employees are probably already familiar with Gmail as well as with the other G Suite products -- and Google Docs, Sheets and
all have minimal learning curves. That means you won't need to worry about training employees or investing in internal support staff.
A single login guarantees access to the entire apps suite, and users in the same workgroups are able to automatically share information. That makes it convenient for collaboration on digital files in real time by employees -- or even your customers.
There's a big advantage when it comes to email organization: Instead of clogging up your computer's hard drive with gigabytes of emails, you can easily archive messages in the cloud and never need to worry about syncing them to another device.
Being cloud-based translates into convenience. Employees can access their information wherever they are from any device. And in the event they're stuck somewhere out of range and unable to find an internet connection, they can still access their documents offline. Admins can also control offline access using device policies.
The ability to collaborate, in general, is much easier with Google. It eliminates any need to carry around a thumb drive to sync between an office desktop and your laptop in the event that you need to work remotely.
G Suite simplifies document sharing and group editing. Instead of passing around a Word document and trying to keep track of revisions, several editors can work on the same Google Doc file at the same time. Some might balk at switching given
's popularity. But G Suite allows users to edit Office files without requiring them to have Office software. After making changes to a file, users can select File > Download as from the menu to save any edit documents back to the Office format. Google also offers an extension that lets users edit Office files without needing to convert them to the Google format.
If your business relies on Android -- which, let's recall, is the world's most popular phone platform -- or Google Chromebooks, G Suite offers a smooth tie-in with those hardware systems. Also, if you supply employees with company-owned Android
, G Suite provides security and administration tools that can remotely reset the device and block it from being used by someone else in case of theft or loss.
There certainly are more features in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Microsoft offerings. But other than the rare occasion, how many times will you really miss no longer having access to those features? Most people use only a fraction of the bells and whistles that Microsoft stuffs into its apps anyway.