15th March, 2021
Whether you are just starting up with a small team or an enterprise consisting of thousands of employees, You need a tool to communicate with each other and store, sync & share your work both inside & outside your organization.
Collaboration software helps team members virtually communicate and collaborate in real-time to facilitate creativity, content creation, planning and scheduling, task & project management, etc. Critical features of collaboration software include file storing & sharing, document management with access control, communication tools (Email, Chat, Video conferencing), calendar management & more.
This article discusses one of the most popular suites of cloud collaboration apps: Google Workspace (formerly G Suite). More than 6 million businesses use Google Workspace to work faster, smarter in a more collaborative way.
I would say familiarity. For starters, Google Workspace is an extension of Google’s popular free apps like Gmail, Google Drive, Google calendar, which people use daily. There are more than 1.5 billion people who use Gmail. Google Workspace gives access to the same apps on a custom domain with extra layers of security & administrative control for the organization to manage & monitor users, apps, activities to secure exchange data & information while adhering to regulatory requirements.
Google Drive is a safe and scalable solution for storing, sharing, and collaborating on files with other people. Teams and individuals can safely store their information and make it immediately accessible to others, from the entire world to just members of a list of up to 200 groups or accounts. It allows offline access, auto-save & sync across multiple devices, and enables real-time collaboration.
Gmail is an easy to use business email & collaboration tool which integrates with Google chat, meet, contacts & calendar. Google Workspace gives you a business email on your custom domain with phishing & spam protection that blocks more than 99.9% of the attacks and an Ad-free email experience. It also provides easy data archiving & migration options from other popular business email solutions.
Google Docs makes it easy to create & edit word documents right in your browser. Multiple people can work together, and every change is saved in real-time. It also offers AI-powered text auto-complete, grammar & spelling checkers. Collaborators can chat & comment on the document & check the version history.
Google Sheets is a web-based spreadsheet application allowing users to work on data collaboratively. You can import/export data in any standard format like .csv, .tsv, .xlsx etc. to work with spreadsheets.
Google Slides enables you to create presentations with your team. It packs easy to design templates, real-time editing, commenting & publishing with different privacy settings features.
Google Forms is a custom form application you can use to create surveys & questionnaires and analyze Google Spreadsheet'.
Google Sites is easy to use website builder that enables multiple people to create & edit websites together. It allows users to embed Google Docs, Sheets, Forms, YouTube videos, and any other HTML content and offers various privacy settings to control who the site is visible to. You can use it to build engaging, high-quality sites for your team, project, product, service, or event with Google Sites.
Google Calendar is an online calendar intended to help keep track of events and schedules. It integrates with Gmail, Google Meet & other popular video conferencing tools. It also allows easy migration from Exchange, Outlook, or iCal, or from .ics and .csv files.
Google Chat is a communication tool that enables direct communication & group messages within the team & outside the organization.
Google Meet is a video conferencing tool that enables secure frictionless meetings. It integrates with Google Calendar & Gmail. Google Workspace Business starter plan(the basic plan) allows Video conferencing with 100 participants and up to 24 hrs, US or international dial-in phone numbers for meetings. Higher-level plans allow conferencing with more participants up to 250 people and some extra features like saving the call recordings to Google Drive.
Google Currents (formerly Google Plus) lets team members interact with each other in a social collaborative platform with posts & activity streams.
Google Keep is a note-taking service with a variety of tools for notes, including text, lists, voice, and images.
Google Apps Script is a rapid application development environment that makes it quick & easy to build business solutions extending the functionality of Google Workspace without any professional development experience.
Cloud Search gives you the power of Google Search on your organization’s content from Gmail, drive, forms, sheets, calendars, slides & more.
For all the core apps, There are thousands of possible integrations available through Google Workspace Marketplace which extend the features of Google Apps or automate workflows between other popular apps and Google Workspace.
For security & management, Google Workspace provides a central admin console to easily add/delete users, manage devices, configure security & settings, view reports & audit logs. Advanced endpoint management enables the admin to create & apply security policies across multiple devices and protect sensitive information in case of loss/theft of a device.
Google Vault is an archiving and electronic discovery service exclusively available to Google Workspace customers. Many people misunderstand Google Vault as a backup & restore service. However, that is not the case. Vault allows administrators to set retention policies for data, place holds on any users’ account data, and search through those when required for legal purposes.
Google Workspace provides you with all tools you need to collaborate with your team and more at a very competitive price and is a good starting point for small businesses & startups. And as your company grows bigger & bigger Google also provides the necessary tools to securely manage your data & information through its advanced security tools.
Google Workspace apps are free for consumers with a Gmail account which includes 15GB storage space with additional space available for purchase. However, as an organization, you should go for a paid plan as it allows the use of a custom domain ( which adds authenticity to your business communications both inside & outside of your team) and also provides a centralized admin console to manage & monitor users, apps & activities. There are 3 primary plans for Google Workspace to which you can subscribe directly and beyond that there is an enterprise plan for which you need to contact the sales team of Google Workspace.
Google Workspace Business Starter costs $6 per user per month for core Google apps on a custom domain with 30 GB storage per user.
It gives you a business email on your custom domain, phishing & spam protection that blocks more than 99.9% of the attacks, and an Ad-free email experience.
Video conferencing with 100 participants and up to 24 hrs
Drive File Stream allows users to access files stored in the drive from their computer freeing up disk space & network bandwidth,
Shared calendars to manage events, view availability of buildings & conference rooms
A no-code drag & drop website builder
Custom survey builder in Google Forms
Interoperability with Microsoft Office files, Outlook, Exchange, Calendar files
Smart fill, smart clean up features in Spreadsheet to organize, standardize & clean raw data before analyzing
Social posts & activity stream
From a security & management point of view, the starter plan enables 2 step verification, Group-based policy controls, an Advanced protection program & fundamental endpoint management.
The starter plan is a good point to start for small organizations or startups with few employees. However, If you need more storage space for the users you might want to go for the Google Workspace Business Standard which costs $12 per user per month. This plan gives 2TB storage per user & allows up to 150 participants on Google Meet Video calls. Meeting recordings can be saved to Google drive. It also allows the users to chat outside their domain, to auto-accept invitations & to turn chat history on or off.
As you grow into a larger organization there are many regulatory requirements & legal commitments to adhere to. Google Workspace Business Plus caters to those needs. The most important addition it has is the tool Google Vault & advance endpoint management. Google Vault allows the admin to set retention rules, archive & search data for legal purposes. And endpoint management keeps data secured across multiple user devices by setting security policies and auto wiping the data in case of loss or theft of the device. This plan increases the storage capacity for users to 5Tb and also allows up to 250 participants on a single Google Meet call. The Google Workspace Business Plus plan costs $18 per user per month.
All the above-mentioned plans can be purchased for a maximum of 300 users. Beyond which, the organizations have to go for enterprise plans. Google Workspace Enterprise plan gives enterprise security, Premium administrative controls, Enterprise-wide collaboration, and enhanced support. It gives unlimited storage to users, noise-canceling feature on calls, And enables users to build custom applications from Google Spreadsheet without writing any code through AppSheet. Additional layers of security comprise of:
Data Loss Prevention enabling users to create & apply rules to control the content that users share outside the organization. This gives the admin control over what users can share & prevents unintended exposure of sensitive information.
Security Center with security analytics, best practice recommendations, and the ability to remediate security incidents.
Access Transparency with visibility into the action taken by Google staff related to your data.
Granular access control policies to Google Workspace and SAML applications based on attributes such as user identity, device security posture, IP address, and geolocation with context-aware access
Google Workspace offers different pricing plans for different storage space requirements, advanced collaboration needs & enterprise-grade security & compliance requirements. For a small organization not operating with sensitive data or a stringent regulatory environment, the business starter plan is good enough. As advanced features are needed the plans can be upgraded.
Lets discuss some of the popular alternatives of Google Workspace.
Perhaps the most renowned and most similar alternative to Google Workspace, Microsoft 365 matches Google Workspace feature by feature & pricing by pricing. Microsoft 365 includes Microsoft Word (Document Editor), Excel (Spreadsheet Application), PowerPoint (Presentation Tool), OneDrive ( File storage and sharing), Teams ( Web conferencing & chat-based collaboration), Exchange ( Email hosting ) and SharePoint (web-based collaboration). Office 365 also integrates with other platforms within the Microsoft ecosystem, including Microsoft Dynamics 365 (An ERP & CRM software).
The Microsoft Business Basic plan comes at $5 per user per month with an annual subscription and allows organizations to host online meetings with up to 300 participants, Email hosting with 50GB mailbox, 1 TB OneDrive storage, Use of the custom domain ( email@example.com ), Spam & malware protection with 99.9% uptime guarantee & more.
The next plan, Microsoft 365 Business Standard is comparable to Google Workspace’s Business Standard plan (costing $12 per user per month) and comes at a price of $12.50 per user per month with an annual subscription. This plan is good if you want access to the desktop versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook & OneNote. Each user can access each app in up to 5 devices. Apart from this, Microsoft 365 Business Standard plan also gives access to Microsoft Bookings (An online booking & scheduling app) & MileIQ (A mobile mileage tracking app).
Microsoft 365 Business Premium is the higher-level plan which comes at $20.00 per user per month and adds extra layers of security against sophisticated threats hidden in email attachments and links, cutting-edge defenses against zero-day threats (that hasn't been seen before and doesn't match any known malware signatures), ransomware, and other advanced malware attempts with Microsoft Defender for Microsoft 365. This plan also packs advanced endpoint management with Microsoft intune. Enables unlimited cloud archive and long-term preservation policies with Exchange Online Archiving to ensure you never lose an email.
Our Take: Microsoft 365 is the most well known & most similar (feature-wise) alternative to Google Workspace. And its pricing plans are also similar. You might want to go for it if you are looking for desktop apps with enterprise-grade security. Also, the data formats between Google Workspace & Microsoft 365 are compatible if you are looking to switch from one option to another.
Zoho offers an affordable Google Workplace alternative in the form of Zoho Workplace, an integrated online office application suite that includes an email hosting platform, Document Management System, Chat software, A spreadsheet app, A word processor, A presentation tool, Social Intranet Solution, Web conferencing tools and more. A user can gain access to features such as 30 GB mail storage per user & up to 5 Gb cloud file storage(shared) per user in its Zoho Workplace standard plan. And 100 Gb mail storage & up to 100GB per user shared Workdrive storage in Zoho Workspace Professional plan. Zoho also gives you options to set data retention policies, eDiscovery, Auditing Logs similar to Google Workspace.
Our Take: Zoho is a low-cost alternative to Google Workspace. While the Google Workspace Business Starter Plan costs $6 per user per month, Zoho Workspace Standard plan costs only $3 per user per month. Zoho also has mail only plans.
Dropbox started as a consumer cloud storage software but has expanded into a full-fledged workplace collaboration suite for documents. Dropbox makes it easy for teams to store files & folders in centralized cloud space, share inside & outside organisation, edit documents in real-time & provide feedback. It also integrates with many popular apps to automate workflows.
Dropbox Business Standard starts pricing at $12.50 per user (paid annually), starting 3 users with 5 TB space per user with 180 days of File Recovery, File transfer of size up to 2GB, 180 days of recovery, 2 step authentication, document watermarking, Microsoft 365 Integration etc.
Dropbox Business Advanced pricing starts at $20 per user per month giving users everything that is included in the standard plan plus the option to Send files up to 100 GB with Dropbox Transfer, including additional customization options. Advanced user management tools with Single sign-on (SSO) integration & Invitation enforcement means faster & easier user onboarding.
For enterprise customers, it also provides custom solutions including a centralized admin console to view and manage all of your business teams at the same time, Enterprise mobility management, Training for end-users & admins, And 24/7 phone support.
Our Take: Although Dropbox Business doesn’t offer the same full feature set as Google Workspace, it does go toe-to-toe with Google Drive for Business, making it the perfect alternative for organizations looking for affordable cloud storage.
Bitrix24 is a cloud collaboration platform including chat & video, social intranet, email, calendars, document management, HR systems, Gant charts, Project management, Task management, Time tracking, Kanban, Pipeline management, Lead management, Quotes & invoices, Email marketing, Customer support & Customer Relationship Management.
The advantage with Bitrix24 is that it has a free plan which gives you all the basic features of CRM, Tasks & Project, Communications, Chat & video calls, Online store, Contact center, Administration, etc., and storage up to 5 GB for unlimited users.
Beyond the free plan, its pricing plans are divided into Start+ ($24 per month for 2 users), CRM+ ($69 per month for 6 users), and Project+ ($69 per month for 24 users). Project+ plan is cheaper than CRM+ but comes with a limited number of features as compared to CRM+ plan. Apart from these Bitrix24 offers two more plans Standard ($99 per month for 50 users) and Professional ($199 per month for unlimited users) which offers all features in full.
Our Take: Bitrix24 is great for companies that are on a budget as it offers a 100% free version with unlimited users and a decent list of features. It is also a good choice if you are looking for features of Workspace plus a little more. Also, Bitrix24 has a self-hosted version option where you can install & run the software on your own servers & own your data completely.
Rackspace provides a webmail & cloud storage service at a fraction of the cost of what Google Workspace provides. The Rackspace Email plan costs $2.99 user/month and gives professional email service with up to 25GB storage with premium spam & virus protection, 100% uptime guarantee which works with outlook.
Rackspace Email Plus plan adds 30 GB of file storage & MS office compatible apps at a cost of $3.99 per user per month. If you want email archiving functionality too, you can go for the next level plan costing you $6.99 per user per month.
Our Take: Rackspace offers very limited features at a low price. You may take a look at it if you are looking for just email & cloud storage facilities.