Office 365 and Google’s G Suite offer much of the same functionality: both platforms have email, IM, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, video chat, note taking, and web pages available. A breakdown of each of those support tools is a blog post in and of itself, but I want to focus just on web pages: Microsoft’s SharePoint versus Google’s Sites.
These sites and pages are intended for managing team-oriented collaboration and file sharing. Why do I prefer the Microsoft product? SharePoint has inherent workflow processes for document approval and publishing, which can be drilled down to whenever a document is added, edited, or removed. It’s a true enterprise collaboration platform for word documents and spreadsheets, with massive metadata tagging available, check-in/check-out and versioning available, and records management features. There are site templates and structures available to tailor the appearance of the site by department or team, and enterprise search capabilities to index network drive content in addition to SharePoint content. Project management is more straightforward too, with centralized task lists and KPI dashboards, and users can create wiki knowledge bases and an intranet for their organization – all within one site.
My favorite feature of SharePoint is the permission management (called “sharing”). SharePoint has highly granular permissions – I can allow some people to view some content, but not all, or modify, or have full control of other team member access. This goes from the full site to folders to individual items, to visible web parts on a page. I can easily search within SharePoint for a user name to see exactly what items have been shared with them – including my own name, to see what’s been shared with me.
In my eight years as a SharePoint trainer, I have found that new users often require instruction to take full advantage of SharePoint’s available functionality. It is less intuitive out of the box than Google’s Sites. However, Google’s tools tend to be built for individual use first, then enterprises, and that ease-of-use means you lose out on available tool complexity. That’s great if you want a simple out-of-the-box tool, but if you don’t like it, your customization options are limited. I customize everything! Plus, as a SharePoint site administrator, I have a centralized administration console where I can adjust settings, add or block public templates, monitor performance, run audit reports and schedule regular backups, update user access, even change search rules. As of this writing, Google Sites has no native monitoring tools or backup tools.
Do you use Office products? I do all the time, and I include graphs, pictures, “smart art”, etc., which factors into my decision to use SharePoint. Google is legendary for cloud support, but it has to be public multi-tenancy, and users do the bulk of their work in the browser – whereas Microsoft offers private, public, and hybrid options, so companies can tailor the environment to suit their needs. With SharePoint, Users can work in the browser or on the desktop, whichever they prefer; I like the ability to synchronize with Office Suite (Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) so changes automatically update a central copy on SharePoint, no login and upload required.
Google has excellent services which, taken individually, can outshine Microsoft. However, for a team collaboration platform, it’s “big picture” time, and Google just doesn’t have the versatility and customization available that Microsoft does with SharePoint. There are good, solid reasons that SharePoint is used by almost 75% of Fortune 500 companies, and why we at MindActive recommend it to our large-scale clients.