Why I moved from Microsoft Office 365 to Google Apps – Part Two


Google AppsIn 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

Google PlusThis biggest stumbling block I found wasn’t with GMail or Google Apps – it was with Google’s social networking site, Google+.

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

Office 365As 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

Google ChromebookBut 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.


  • Richard Tubb2020-04-06 15:15:37

    Martin -- thanks for the kind feedback. This article was written circa 2012. I'm still on the Google Apps platform, and still love it (although Microsoft has come a LONG way during that time with Microsoft 365).

  • Martin Law2020-04-06 12:38:16

    Very interesting article. It doesn't appear to be dated but as your talking about Windows 8, I assume its a few years old. It would be interesting to get an update of where you are now in the "Windows 10" era. I myself opted fro AWS Workmail, one of Amazon's best kept secrets. I'm not a power user so some of the extended features are not relevant. I did however find the migration process ridiculously easy, Amazon's documentation being impeccable. As a point of full disclosure I am no longer a Microsoft fan. I see them now as being part of the problem rather than the solution. Thanks for the article.

  • Richard Tubb2016-08-20 18:55:30

    Adrian -- you may still need to use Office 365 in terms of learning how the Office Apps work, but in terms of compatibility, I find Google Apps can open and save pretty much any Microsoft Office files.

  • Adrian Leonard Canning2016-08-18 23:30:38

    For a long time, I used MS office Home & Student - then they put the price up from £80 to £120, I never really used all the features in each program. I have moved over to google apps for now but might need to use office 365 as most companies as still using Microsft.

  • Richard Tubb2014-01-23 10:17:27

    Hi Dixon - thanks for the feedback! Firstly - yes, I'm serious about using Evernote - and so are 100M users worldwide. It sounds like you've made your mind up about OneNote, but as a former OneNote user myself who dismissed Evernote for many years, you might find it intriguing to take a fresh look. I appreciate your feedback about Google Apps. I'd agree with much of it - for instance, requiring a network connection IS a challenge for some people. Many more of us live with an "always on" Internet connection though, and so Google Apps is a good fit. For others, not so much. I would disagree with your view that Google Apps is only for home users and those that don't want to pay. In my experience, Google Apps does tend to have a niche -- that being younger, tech savvy and creative businesses, many of whom haven't grown up with the idea that Microsoft is the only choice - but as someone who likes to take an objective view and is open minded, you might find it interesting to read stories about thousands of businesses who've gone with Google at http://www.google.com/enterprise/apps/business/customers.html. There are some interesting case studies in there. I'd disagree with your "bottom line" that MS leads in the productivity space. Some will agree with you, others will vehemently disagree. All I will state is that in my experience -- some businesses choose Microsoft, some choose Google and all businesses will ultimately choose the tool that's the best fit for them. Thanks again for the feedback! It's good to hear different perspectives!

  • Dixon George2014-01-22 20:09:06

    Interesting perspective. I've just found myself going the opposite direction. In addition to the issues you have already highlighted the following has driven me away... Gmail - 'Conversation view' is an awful implementation. Often I click 'reply' to a thread and it hides the last persons comments thus I then lack context to which I am responding. The only way around this seems to be to 'pop out' the reply as a separate browser window and then maximize to fill the entire screen, Very poor UX design indeed. - Spam is constant despite my manual selection of spam emails and selecting the 'delete and report to google' button Calendar: - Poor UX - Printing a calendar is a disaster Google Docs: - Very minimalist, great for students perhaps and non-business/professional users - Requires a network connection which is not always practical for business users - Printing is cumbersome - Exporting files is also problematic, for example try to export my resume to email to a recruiter resulted in hours spent re-formatting the text - Privacy issues, do I want my financial information stored on google docs? OneNote vs Evernote ... errr are you even serious???? Bottom line is MS leads in the productivity space. Google provides a solution for the home user who does not believe in paying for software. I really did want to like Google Docs but I am very objective and believe in 'credit where credit is due', Microsoft wins here hands down.

  • Richard Tubb2013-04-18 19:14:11

    Hi Tim - thanks for the comments, and you're right, I mostly focus on e-mail when there is much more to both Google Apps and Office 365. Since writing that article, while I've still got Microsoft Office installed locally, I've migrated nearly all my day-to-day documents into Google Docs. For most people I collaborate with, even non-Google Docs folk, we've found editing the documents "in the cloud" much easier. To be fair, like 95% of Word Processing and Spreadsheet users, I only use the most basic features - so you've got a valid point that advanced users may find Google Apps lacking. Just for reference - Google Mail works off-line too. I tested this on a trans-atlantic flight recently and can confirm it works. :-) You make a very valid point in that real savings will only be made if you commit to Google Docs exclusively. Since my migration to Google Apps though, it's fair to say I rarely open Microsoft Office at all any-more though.

  • Tim2013-04-18 14:56:15

    Interesting article. In your usage of the tools you seemed to concentrate on email but you mention you love Google docs but you still use Office on your desktop. My experience of testing in this scenario has been a nightmare as documents I'm using in Word, upload and convert to Google Docs, people might modify up there in the web browser, then I download, convert and update in Word. Between all this conversion we lose a lot of formatting and I can't use any advanced Word features, especially around embedding pictures, tables etc. I would also argue the value of using Google for just email if you aren't using the Google Docs and Sites. You can get a cheap P plan from Microsoft that gives me the nice Exchange 2013 OWA that I can now take offline (which I can't do with my Google Mail) so I get a decent email client. But from a cost point of view you need to ditch Office and go two feet into Google to get any cost savings. Otherwise you are paying Google just for mail and MS for an Office package. You can get 2 years on Microsoft's platform with Office as a subscription (with Email, Lync, SharePoint) for the same price as buying it off the shelf. So doing ROI studies for clients if you can't stand the thought of ditching Office then you're paying twice for the other Google apps you aren't using, but they don't have tiered plans like MS so you don't have to pay for what you aren't using.

  • Richard Tubb2013-02-22 16:52:28

    Thanks Jakob! My own Browser Sync and Bookmarks is tied to my "personal" GMail account too, although having Google Calendar attached to my work Google Apps account gives the nice "Google Now" features I mentioned on my Android phone. Google Drive I've migrated all my documents to under the Google Apps work account too. Play, G+, Maps, YouTube and everything else remains under my personal GMail account - which is a bit of a hodgepodge as I use them predominantly for business purposes. It's clearly an issue for more than a few people, so fingers crossed Google address it with the ability to effectively merge accounts in the near future.

  • Jakob Thusgaard2013-02-22 14:43:38

    Good read, Richard. I have a similar setup, but do Google Contacts, bookmarks, and browser sync in a different way. I also have separate email and calendar, but all other services, like contacts, reader, drive/docs, Play, Maps and G+ go through my personal account as it was setup way before I started my company. As it turns out migrating or merging google accounts is near impossible, so I stay away from that.

  • Richard Tubb2013-02-21 16:05:12

    Thanks Chris! I gave up on Skydrive a while ago in favour of Dropbox - but I see a resurgence in it's popularity now it's integrated with Windows Phone. OneNote I just *wanted* to love, and think is a great tool, but Evernote won that battle too.

  • Chris2013-02-21 15:57:15

    Great article Richard, I must admit I've toyed with this in the past, but think I will be sticking with Office 365, Skydrive and OneNote for the time being :) Thought provoking though.

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