We are often asked to give our opinion over which platform our clients should use. The answer is not as simple as you might think. 

Google Workspace is a suite of cloud-based basic business productivity tools, offered at greatly reduced prices to qualified nonprofit organizations. How should your nonprofit decide between Google Workspace vs Microsoft Office 365?

The Tools

The tool highlights of the Google Workspace for nonprofits suite are:

Every nonprofit organization should have these tools, so it’s great that Google offers its Workspace suite at a discount to nonprofit organizations. Many new nonprofits use these tools to start up their organization. For small, young, and growing nonprofit organizations, this inexpensive suite of essential IT tools is becoming a popular standard.

Of course, there’s a competing service provider also offering a suite of cloud-based basic business productivity tools, also at greatly reduced prices to qualified nonprofit organizations: Microsoft. 

We are often asked to give our opinion over which platform our clients should use. The answer is not as simple as you might think. 

For years, we strongly advised that Microsoft 365 was the superior solution. Our thought process was that this was partly due to the “DNA” of the service providers themselves; Google is first and foremost a consumer facing advertising company while Microsoft is an enterprise facing services company. It made sense to us that Microsoft would deliver superior service, making the continual investments and improvements needed to keep its customers satisfied. 

However, Google has shown a commitment to improving its Workspace platform in recent years, and the company has never lacked for brilliant engineers and designers to execute on the initiatives it prioritizes. As more small businesses and upstart nonprofits have turned to the Google Workspace platform, that has also incentivized Google to build on and support this suite of tools as its share of the market grows.

Workspace is now a legitimate competitor to Microsoft 365 and our position on the question of which platform is “best” has subtly shifted. 

When to use Microsoft Office 365

In a vacuum, for a new nonprofit that is starting fresh, we still recommend Microsoft 365. This is partly because we still trust Microsoft to deliver long-term on its service offerings. But it’s also because Microsoft 365’s stack of services benefits a small organization particularly, especially small organizations using Windows computers.

Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 are competitive in email, document editing and cloud-based file storage, but Microsoft 365 also provides Windows Device Management tools. It’s nice that Microsoft’s services integrate perfectly with the operating system of the computer (both provided by Microsoft) and Microsoft’s software versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.

When to use Google Workspace

But if you are a nonprofit organization that is already using Google Workspace, we generally don’t recommend that you leave it unless you have a compelling pain point you believe a migration would address. Google Workspace is quite good and migrations are expensive and never perfect.

When to go hybrid

Can you create a hybrid environment? In short, yes. You can always subscribe to Microsoft 365 in addition to Google, as a supplement, for the Windows Device Management tools and the software versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. In this hybrid scenario, which we are seeing more and more frequently, you can keep the email, document editing and cloud file storage in Google Workspace, and try for the best of both worlds.

When to Change

We are particularly reluctant to recommend a change in platforms if collaboration tools are being used successfully, especially with external stakeholders. Both platforms provide great feature sets in this area, but they are different experiences and therefore a change will require new habits and workflows. If your staff have a rich sharing framework in place, disturbing that will be costly. Telling all your external collaborators that all the Google docs you’ve shared with them will now only be accessible as Word documents in a completely different platform with its own identity authentication scheme may be a hard sell. 

Migrations and new implementations require a great deal of change management and are very disruptive. If you can keep both platforms in a hybrid enterprise system that makes sense, we would recommend that. Doing an assessment of your IT needs and taking into account your current culture and internal affinity for one system or the other will help you make a decision on Google Workspace vs Microsoft Office 365.

Ready get strategic about your IT?

We’ve seen real growth in the number of nonprofits using Google Workspace and we are one of the only Managed Service Providers of outsourced IT for nonprofits that confidently manages hybrid or all-Google nonprofit environments at the organizational level.

At Community IT Innovators, we’ve found that many nonprofit organizations deal with more IT issues than they should have to.

Community IT has been serving nonprofits exclusively for twenty years. We offer Managed IT support services for nonprofits that want to outsource all or part of their IT support and hosted services. For a fixed monthly fee, we provide unlimited remote and on-site helpdesk support, proactive network management, and ongoing IT planning from a dedicated team of experts in nonprofit-focused IT. And our clients benefit from our IT Business Managers team who will work with you to strategize your IT investments and technology roadmap, if you don’t have an in-house IT Director.

If you’re ready to gain peace of mind about your IT support, let’s talk.