In part one of this blog post, I talked about why I chose to move from Microsoft Office 365 to Google Apps, and how I found the migration process.
Here in part two, I’ll talk about some of the challenges I found and how I feel about Google Apps vs Office 365 post-migration.
Using Multiple GMail accounts
I’ve actually been a GMail user for some time on a personal level – all my non-work e-mail is managed within GMail and it suits me.
But this caused a slight problem when I signed up for Google Apps for my work e-mail – as while I could have combined the accounts, I prefer keeping a strict demarcation between work and home.
On my Android phone this isn’t a problem. GMail for Android can handle multiple accounts with ease.
On my iPhone and iPad, I use the Apple Mail app for my personal e-mail, and the Exchange ActiveSync feature of Google Apps for business e-mail. There is also the GMail App should I choose.
Working from two Google logins within the Chrome web-browser can be a chore though. You’re constantly signing in and out of services as needed. Google Chrome has an interesting workaround for this – multiple Chrome Users. I setup one user logged in with my personal GMail, and the other with my Google Apps for business. I now work from two Chrome windows depending on whether I’m doing personal browsing or work browsing.
The only caveat here is keeping bookmarks synchronised between the two separate profiles. I resolved this thanks to James Kimbley’s suggestion I use XMarks Bookmark Sync which keeps both of my Chrome “windows” concurrent.
So I found workarounds to the multiple GMail accounts issue. But the multiple Google profiles challenge threw up a rather large spanner in the works, and one that I’ve still no resolved.
The inability to merge Google+ accounts
I’m a keen Google+ user and signed up for the service with my free GMail account over a year ago. Since that time I have written lots of Google+ posts, left lots of comments on other Google+ users posts, added a lot of +1’s, and built up Circles of people who follow me and who I follow.
Importantly, I’ve also linked my Google+ account to all the blog articles I write through Google Authorship. This basically means that whenever you search on Google, any articles it finds that I have written – whether on my own blog or as a guest blogger elsewhere – you’ll see my smiling Google+ profile picture next to the article search result. I’ve built up a lot of blog traffic through this.
Unfortunately, while Google have a Google+ merge process which combines your follower circles under one Google identity, they provide no way to effectively merge two Google+ accounts without losing all the comments, +1’s and Google Authorship claims you’ve built to date.
This is a huge stumbling block for many bloggers like myself who signed up to Google+ with a personal GMail account and then embraced Google Apps, and I keep my fingers crossed that Google effectively address this issue in the near future. Until then, I’ll be facing the awkward situation of only being able to effectively use Google+, YouTube and other Google sites in one of my personal Google profile, and not my Google Apps one.
So, I’ve made the move from Office 365 to Google Apps. What do I think?
Well – I surprised myself in that after years of being a die-hard Outlook fan, I hardly miss Outlook at all. For the most part I really like the GMail web interface built on powerful search, and I find myself processing e-mail faster and more efficiently than I did before. I definitely don’t miss the bloated memory hungry Outlook desktop application that would crash or pause occasionally for no reason.
I also love Google Docs. It is intuitive to use. It makes collaboration a breeze in areas that Microsoft have always promised to, but which in reality you’ve always needed a high investment in back-end server technologies to make work. Google Docs just works out of the box, with anybody inside or outside your organisation.
Finally, I love the 3rd party integration into GMail. Just about all the cool tools on the market integrate with GMail where they, for the most part, don’t integrate with Outlook or Office 365.
So, it seems I’m a Google Apps fanboi now eh?
Maybe, but not quite.
Google Apps vs Office 365
As a one-man-band Freelancer and a power-user – Google Apps wins out against Office 365 in almost every area for me. It’s more flexible, it’s more powerful, and it’s much more open to 3rd party integration. It’s just a better fit for people like me who live on-line.
I can see any freelancers, young micro businesses and especially start-up business gaining a big advantage by going with Google Apps – and the solution is scalable, so this isn’t just something that’s for small businesses.
But Microsoft still has the very strong argument that Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office are hugely familiar to people and for the most part, well liked.
I still run Microsoft Office on my desktop. It’s probably overkill for what I need to do, day-to-day, but it’s reassuring that it’s there because it’s very familiar and I know how to use it.
For myself and most 30-something’s and above, Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office has been a part of our working lives for as long as we can remember. Moving to GMail and Google Docs is an upheaval, and most people – well, they don’t like change one bit – so I can see it being a really hard sell to move existing larger Enterprise organisations from Exchange and Office 365 to Google Apps. Hard, but not impossible.
Also, Office 365 is much more than hosted e-mail. It includes Live Meeting, SharePoint and Lync – all tools that I’m not personally a fan of, but I can see how these tools can be leveraged to provide strong solutions for lots of businesses.
So, while I’m more than happy with Google Apps for my business, and would be encouraging IT companies to learn more about it to sell as a solution to their clients, it’d be crazy to ignore Office 365.
Living within the Browser
But times are a changing. There are thousands of new businesses springing up who are happy to work in the cloud – entirely. They aren’t running local applications connected to cloud hosting, they are running everything from feature rich applications within their web-browser. Some business are doing away with traditional laptops and deploying Google Chromebooks.
If you’d have asked me a few months ago whether I could have been one of them – I’d have said no.
And while I’m not giving up my Windows 8 notebook anytime soon (there are too many 3rd party desktop apps I still use) if you ask me that question again in a few months time – I could conceivably see myself as a cloud guy.
Thoughts? Opinions? Please leave a comment – I’ll respond to all who do so.