Guest Post by Sharon Shapiro of Cloud Sherpas
Although it only entered the cloud computing market in July 2011, Microsoft has already made a name for itself with Office 365, its hybrid cloud solution available to businesses. But despite its initial climb, Microsoft has yet to catch up to Google when it comes to cloud computing.
Google has worked as a cloud service provider, with its fully-based cloud solution Google Apps, since 2006. Google offers customers four different cloud computing platforms (business, education, government, and non-profit) and a 99.9% uptime guarantee, including service and updates, that it regularly exceeds. In contrast, Office 365 is currently available only for businesses and has had issues meeting its promised 99.9% uptime, which does not include service and updates. Google Apps pricing is also much lower than Office 365 pricing, with the highest priced Google Apps platform (business) operating at $50/user/year and the lowest Office 365 plan operating at $72/user/year. But a lot of that is about to change as Microsoft has announced news that it hopes will bridge the gap.
First, Microsoft recently announced that it will be cutting the price of Office 365 by up to 20 percent. Microsoft says this is because it now costs less to run the hybrid cloud platform than it did when Microsoft first introduced Office 365 last July.
Second, Microsoft says it will soon add a new plan – Office 365 for Education – which will widen the customer base. The release of Office 365 is clearly an attempt to compete with the success of Google Apps’ free education platform.
Although lowering its prices and adding a plan for educational institutions are steps toward competing with Google Apps, Microsoft still has a big gap to close. Google Apps will still boast more platforms (government and non-profit, in addition to the free version that many people use in their personal lives) and five more years of experience in the cloud. With this greater experience, comes enhanced cloud service, as Google Apps is a fully cloud-based solution that offers its users complete universal access and proven reliability. In contrast, it is important to remember that Office 365 is still a hybrid cloud solution that requires on premises servers and that, when it comes to document creating capabilities, works best in conjunction with Microsoft Office installed on a desktop. Both of these necessities limit the mobile access that Office 365 users can enjoy. Additionally, Office 365 has already been plagued with a number of outages that have resulted in significant amounts of downtime for users across the world.
These key differences between Office 365 and Google Apps may be part of the reason why the governments of major cities, like Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, trust Google Apps for their communication needs.
While Microsoft’s price cut and addition of an education plan will definitely improve the Office 365 cloud suite, these changes will certainly not put Microsoft and Google on an even playing field, as Google still boasts more authority, reliability, and a wider range of services.