The price of enterprise collaboration and productivity tools for small- and medium-size businesses has dropped considerably. Cloud-based services from Microsoft, Google and others are available for what many folks pay for a single cup of coffee.
Google beats Microsoft in the price war, with an entry-level offering that starts at $4.17 per month, per user with an annual commitment. Microsoft's cheapest plan costs $5 per month, per user with an annual commitment. Both companies offer flexible month-to-month options that start at $5 a month for the Google Apps suite and $6 a month for Microsoft's online versions of Office. Price obviously isn't the only concern for smaller businesses but it can be particularly important to young startups. Flexible pricing plans allow businesses to add or cancel employees as needed and can add up to significant savings over time.
With competitive and relatively affordable prices, the choice between Google and Microsoft comes down to comfort, familiarity and brand affinity. All of the options come with the basics, such as Web-based email, calendar, messaging, documents, spreadsheets and presentation slides, but there are some notable differences in the features Google and Microsoft make available to business customers.
Microsoft Office 365 vs. Google for Work
Mobile is a key differentiator between Office 365 and Google for Work, because Microsoft charges almost twice as much as Google for access to its mobile apps. A small business can use Google's full arsenal of smartphone and tablet apps for as little as $4.17 per month per user, while Microsoft charges at least $8.25 a month for the privilege.
[Related Analysis: Google for Work vs. Microsoft Office 365: A comparison of cloud tools]
Many business owners make platform decisions based on tools their organizations already use or are most comfortable with. Established preference aside, the choice between Google and Microsoft usually comes down to features, price and access.
Microsoft Office 365 for Small Businesses: Features, price and access
Microsoft has three Office 365 plans for smaller businesses, with prices that range from $5 to $15 per month per user. Companies willing to commit to yearly plans get discounts of around 17 percent, and organizations must have 300 or fewer users to qualify for SMB pricing.
[Related Analysis: Office 365 and Google for Work adoption rates to grow rapidly]
Microsoft's entry-level Office 365 Business Essentials plan is its only small business offering that does not include access to Office applications for PCs, Macs, smartphones or tablets. That means Business Essentials customers have to rely entirely on Web-based versions of Office, which may not be worth the $3.25 per user they save by forgoing the next tier plan.
Office 365 Business and Business Premium plans, which cost between $8.25 and $12.50 a month with annual commitment, are likely a better fit for the average small business. Customers on either plan get access to familiar Office applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publishers and OneNote for desktops, smartphones and tablets. And all three of Microsoft's Office 365 plans for small businesses come with 1TB of cloud storage per user.
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