Microsoft Office 365 vs. Google Apps for Education

When it comes to school-wide cloud collaboration tools, tech giants Microsoft and Google have created highly appealing propositions in Office 365 and Google Apps for Education respectively. Both solutions are education-friendly, feature-rich and free for schools at the core level – with some optional paid extras.

But which one is better suited for your school? Here are some pointers to help you decide:

Microsoft’s Office 365 provides access to the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.) online as well as through the desktop version of each programme. This means that staff and pupils can create, share and store Microsoft Office documents through a browser or using the equivalent ‘full fat’ desktop programme – and interchange between the two as they see fit. The cloud versions of these programmes are free for schools while the desktop version is charged for but at a reduced price for education.

Google Apps for Education also boasts a free online suite of a user-friendly but slightly more ‘light-weight’ tools that facilitate quick online collaboration between students and teachers.
It enables teachers to create ‘classes’ online, add students, share content and review grades through Google Classroom. Office 365’s equivalent is Class Notebook.

Both solutions also provide tools for schools to facilitate the building of websites and uploading and sharing of videos.

Storage and security

Office 365 offers students and staff 50GB of storage for each email account and 1TB for documents and files. The storage space can be interconnected among groups and this facilitates sharing and editing of documents – allowing members of the group to identify what changes have been made and by whom. It also allows IT administrators to control and monitor the system – SharePoint allows individuals to manage security, making documents as public or private as required.

Google offers similar collaboration tools through Google Drive. IT administrators are also given a great degree of control over both user access and the school’s Gmail accounts. Storage is currently unlimited for Gmail, Google Drive and Google Photos when accessed through a school account.

Below is a like-for-like comparison of some of the features for both solutions:

How do they ‘stack up’?

For schools looking for access to tools both online and offline – Office 365 is the cloud of choice. Microsoft Word, Excel and Power point have desktop versions available, enabling students to work even without connectivity. Office 365 also has the advantage of honing students’ practical skills in utilising Excel and Word which are transferable to the working world.

On the other hand, many of today’s learners have grown up with Google’s products (such as Gmail and Google+) so they may very well prefer them and take to them with greater ease.
Both Office 365 and Google Apps have a portal for third-party extensions and additional apps for education (Office Store and Google Marketplace respectively). In this area Google has had a slight ‘head start’ and schools will benefit from a more extensive library of free educational apps.


In choosing between the two, schools must decide which solution meets their unique needs. For example:

What’s more important in your school – streamlined collaboration across staff and students or having a more ‘robust’ solution which works well with existing legacy systems? How important will offline accessibility be to your school? There are many instances where Google Apps and O365 overlap but there a few areas where there are stark differences.

We hope this article was useful in identifying which areas are most important to your school.

If you would like a full assessment of which solution will meet your school’s needs, we would welcome the opportunity to help. Simply contact one of our consultants or email us at

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