If your company has more than 25 email addresses or you figure it'll take more than 10 addresses to get the features tested, start with the Office 365 Midsize Business trial. That gets you started with 25 free email addresses, and everything you set up in the trial can stick with you until your company grows to more than 300 users. That's the approach I took for this review.
Once you sign up for an ID (very simple, no credit card required) and log on to the Admin site with your new ID, you're greeted by the Admin Center dashboard, shown in Figure 1. You can start with the Setup link on the left of the Admin Center, but there's a better way: Microsoft's Office Blog has a new video that will step you through the process. If you want to skip the sales briefing at the beginning (though it offers a good overview of features you may not know about), the meat of the setup help starts at 4:50.
As part of the setup process, you need to hook Office 365 into your existing email address. If you already have your own domain and email address (such as Woody@AskWoody.com), you have two options: You can either live with the assigned domain name (blahblahblech@AskWoody213.onmicrosoft.com), and stick a file on your website to verify that you own it (as I had to do with AskWoody.com), or you can buy a new domain from GoDaddy (typically $13 per year).
Setting up Google Apps for Business, by contrast, is like falling off a log. You have to go through the same Texas two-step to verify that you own a domain name or buy a new domain from Google ($8 per year); otherwise, the setup process is blissfully simple. Get your admin account set up and you'll find yourself at the Google Apps Admin Console shown in Figure 2.
Click Start Setup, verify that you own the domain name you said you own (a process that's now assisted, step by step, as long as you can log on to your domain's host with admin rights over your domain), and you're ready to set up all of the details for a Google Apps for Business account.
In the past two and a half years, both Google Apps and Office 365 have made enormous strides in their setup sequences. Office 365 now remembers your settings as you go through setup, so you can leave off and pick back up at any time. And the Google Apps approach to injecting a text file on your existing domain is very slick indeed.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.