Comparing Office Productivity Suites for Micro Businesses

The Office Productivity space has been dominated by Microsoft’s Office product since the 1990’s.

However with the advent of Cloud Computing some real alternatives with advantages for micro businesses have appeared. Here we look at 2 of them (Google Apps & Zoho) and compare them against Microsoft’s own cloud version Office 365.

What you get


Google’s suite of productivity and collaboration products for business is called GoogleApps and comprises of Gmail, Calendar, Drive (online storage), Docs (document creation) and Sites (shared workspaces such as Intranets). Gmail has inbuilt instant messaging (IM), voice and video chat.

Microsoft Office 365Microsoft

In Office365 Microsoft gives you hosted (Exchange) email, shared calendars, web based document editing and Sharepoint Online offering online storage and site creation functions. Microsoft also offers IM, voice and video chat.


Zoho has a myriad of different modules covering not only emails and docs but accounts, CRM, project management, databases and much more For the purpose of this comparison we will focus on their Zoho Mail and Zoho Doc’s products.

Storage Limits


Email either 10GB (free) or 25GB and Document Storage (Drive) of 5GB per user. You can purchase additional Google Drive storage if required. Sites comes with 10GB + 500MB per user of storage and you can have unlimited Sites. For both Drive and Sites documents in Google Docs formats do not count towards these storage limits.


Each user gets 25GB for email storage. Document storage and workspace are part of Sharepoint Online and for the P1 plan is capped at 10GB plus 500MB per user and only 1 workspace.

zoho emailZoho

Email – Free version is 5GB, paid versions are either 10GB or 15GB. Docs either 10 workspaces and 2GB per user (Standard) or 50 workspaces and 5GB per user (Premium) these Plans both allow an extra 5GB of storage for $3. The Personal plan is only 1 workspace and 1GB of storage with no sharing/collaboration features.


N.B: All costs are quoted on a per user per month basis


Google Apps costs just £3.30 with a 99.9% uptime guarantee and 24/7 email/phone support, there is no limit to the number of users allowed. There’s also a free version (advertising supported) which doesn’t include email/phone support and is limited to 10 users.


Office365 has a number of different pricing levels, but no free plan. For comparison purposes I’ve used their Small Business Plan (P1) which costs $6 which offers 99.9% uptime guarantee but with support. The P1 plan is limited to 50 users with no easy option to upgrade to a different plan with more users


Zoho Mail’s Standard 10GB and Standard 15GB plans cost $2.5 or $3.5, these both include email/phone support, these also have no maximum user limit. They also have a free plan limited to 3 users with only email support. Zoho Docs also has a free plan as well as their Standard plan ($3) and Premium plan ($5).

Pros & Cons

google driveGoogle

Pros – Easy to use and very flexible with their free plan offering great value to micro businesses. Integrates with lots of 3rd party applications Constant updates and improvements.

Cons – Users used to MS Office products will have an initial learning curve. Power users of Word and Excel won’t find all the functionality they need and there are occasional formatting issues when converting MS Office documents into Google Docs formats.


Pros – Easy to use for those already using MS Office and Exchange.

Cons – No free plan and their Small Business plan is expensive especially as you will still need MS Office installed on your machine. Is more complicated to setup and configure than Google Apps and Zoho.


Pros – You can pick and choose which modules to use and is great for businesses using Zoho’s other applications

Cons – Will take awhile to learn how to use and takes some time to set up each module. Can prove expensive once each modules costs are added together. Small storage limits.

micro business actionToday’s Micro Action

Whilst the above comparison is a great starting point you should investigate these solutions in more detail to make sure that they meet your requirements now and in the future. So today’s Micro Action is to investigate these different solutions in more detail weighing up how each will benefit your business.

Tanya Jayne Park

Tanya Jayne Park is a cloud computing evangelist and all round girl geek. Constantly connected to the internet helping micro businesses and non-profits increase profitability whilst reducing IT headaches. If you need some guidance on setting up cloud based apps then Tanya is a Google Apps and Capsule reseller.

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  1. Thanks for this. GMail stopped working for me last week (enough working for me not to notice email wasn’t getting through for a week) and so I’m moving. Looking into options and thank you for the direct comparison of Zoho. I’m not going Google Apps or Microsoft way but the head to head comparison makes it easier to assess Zoho against others.

    Now, just to migrate over. Nah, a tiny task!
    Rosie Slosek recently posted..How a budget got Cinderella to the Ball: How To Manage Your Cash FlowMy Profile

  2. Why not Google Apps?
    Tanya-Jayne Park recently posted..The right IT solution – more than just functionalityMy Profile

    • I don’t want to go Google if I’m moving, and I haven’t heard a good story yet about their support. I know many who moved from GMail to Apps and regretted it.

      Mainly though, just moving away from Google. Not because it’s the evil empire, more because they are so big I don’t want my email (which is the lynchpin of any business) under the possibility of having the service closed (see notes on Reader, and I am nearly caught up after moving from that 2 months earlier).
      Rosie Slosek recently posted..7 Step Plan To Making Your Tax Return EasyMy Profile

      • Hi Rosie

        I understand about Reader it was a huge tool for me also. However Gmail is never going to be turned off by Google for a number of reasons –

        1.Gmail has more users than any other webmail provider and this creates huge revenue through advertising for Google. Reader had a very small number (relatively) of free users with no display of advertising.
        2.Google Apps has millions of users world wide including many top international companies as well as UK and us government departments / councils etc.
        3. Gmail is backed into Google+ and is the corner stone for a lot of other Google users Apps.

        I understand some users of the free Google Apps product may have had support issues but the free product had no support that was the trade off you make for using a free product. If you’re a business and using a free product for something as core as email you should think again in my opinion.

        Google Apps for new users is no longer free so you have to pay £3.30 a month but for this you get email and telephone support. And 99.997% uptime.

        Even better if you use a Authorised Reseller they can migrate you and provide additional support also.

        If you want to hear good stories about Google support I can provide them…. Don’t forget for most things those complaining have a louder voice than those happy about something, that’s true for software as well as restaurants and hotels.

        I’m sure I’m biased as I’m a Google Apps reseller but I still feel Google Apps shouldn’t be discounted.

        If you’d like to discuss this more do feel free to call me on 07596 8844 81. I’d be very happy to help with no obligation or cost.

        Tanya-Jayne Park recently posted..The right IT solution – more than just functionalityMy Profile

        • I didn’t say I expected it to be free. I also don’t think they will sunset it, by that is by the by. I’m moving my personal email from Yahoo to GMail for the reason, as I think it’s quite possible Melissa will sunset Yahoo Mail.

          I’m not unless it’s on my own servers it isn’t safe, but to have all my business on Google, it’s not wise for me personally. It’s more of an eggs in one basket issue, and also why I host my domain and website with different people for example (and similar to why a lot of people have self-hosted WP, so they have more control).

          I quite agree with you about expecting the world for free 😉
          Rosie Slosek recently posted..How a budget got Cinderella to the Ball: How To Manage Your Cash FlowMy Profile

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