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G Suite review

If you’re a local business in Hillsborough, office and productivity apps can be quite an expense. You either have to pay up front or per month per person to access Microsoft Office or use a free alternative such like Libre Office. Now there is a third way. Google Apps for Work or G Suite as it has recently been renamed.

Google Apps have been around for years. They are free online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook that you work with in your browser. They aren’t as powerful as their Microsoft counterparts but they are effective enough for most of us. The business versions in G Suite offer more features, more storage and the ability to use your own domain.

G Suite

Unlike their personal counterparts, the apps in G Suite are not free. But they are cheap. Currently running at $5.66 per user per month for the basics, rising to $11.32 for all the bells and whistles. This is less than Office 365 which starts at $6 per month and goes all the way to $35 per user for Enterprise E5 level.

I am testing out G Suite for Dave’s Computers so this piece is part of my own reviewing process.

G Suite applications

There are eleven applications within G Suite under four categories.

  • Communicate – Gmail, Hangouts and Calendar.
  • Store – Google Drive
  • Collaborate – Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides and Sites.
  • Manage – Admin and Vault

We all know Gmail and most of us have at least one Gmail account. G Suite utilizes Gmail but allows you to use your own domain. This allows you to make the best of the email app while also presenting that essential professional image. All while utilizing the familiar interface and email functions we already know.

Hangouts and Calendar are very similar to their free counterparts but offer a few more features such as video conferencing, internal instant messaging and more.

Google Drive offers 30GB of storage in the basic plan and 1TB for the premium plan. That latter storage goes to unlimited if you have more than five users. Again, most of you know Google Drive and it works much the same way here.

Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides and Sites

Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides and Sites are the main applications you will be using in G Suite. They are mostly direct competitors to their Microsoft counterparts but are simpler and not quite as powerful. Yet they are also easier to use and to master.

Docs vs. Word. Docs is a simplified version of Word that works in much the same way. You can be up and running in seconds and be creating good looking documents with ease. It isn’t as powerful at creating more complex documents as Word but if your needs are for creating basic documents in an app that prioritize ease of use, it’s fine.

Sheets vs. Excel. The same can be said for Sheets. It is a credible competitor for Excel but isn’t as deep or as powerful. For creating basic spreadsheets, forms and charts it is fine but if you need complex formula Excel is still the winner.

Forms vs.? Forms doesn’t have a direct Microsoft competitor. It allows you to create online forms for any use and works much like Docs. It is simple to get to grips with, can perform some pretty nifty tricks and makes it easy to publish forms on the web or intranet.

Slides vs. PowerPoint. Again, slides is a more simple version of PowerPoint that prioritizes ease of use. There are a lot of options to create great presentations but not quite as many as PowerPoint.

Sites vs. ? Sites is designed to create intranet or websites and doesn’t really have direct competition in Office. It is useful for creating simple sites without advanced features but isn’t really competition for Dreamweaver.

Managing G Suite

G Suite Admin is exactly that. The place you go to manage users, options, features, storage subscriptions and more. It is a simple interface that allows you to control every element of G Suite. Vault enables Mobile Device Management, which controls what mobile devices can access your apps, when and how. It also allows Google Sync, encryption, Wi-Fi settings and also allows you to wipe devices remotely.

Vault is for compliance. If your organization needs to store emails, chat and other communications for compliance then Vault is where they are stored. It is only available with the Premium subscription.

Usability

After spending a little time with G Suite, it is obvious that usability is at the center of everything. All elements of the platform are simple, logical and easy to use. While this inevitably involves dumbing down some features, this works in your favor if you’re new to productivity applications. There is a lot less to learn and a lot more to achieve in this way.

All menus in the different applications look and feel similar. Many feature the same options in the same place, something Office has only managed to do recently.

Once you get used to working in your browser, it quickly becomes second nature. Chrome works very well and the apps work best in their own environment. You can use the standalone Google Drive app if you want to and the optional Gmail desktop apps if you need to. The rest is all in the browser. You can use all apps on mobile devices with the appropriate app too if you prefer.

My verdict of G Suite

I have used Office for years and have resisted moving from an installed version to Office 365 because I like having control. Once I managed to let go, I managed to embrace G Suite. It’s simple, intuitive and lets you get on with being productive without getting in the way.

It isn’t as sophisticated or as powerful as Office but it doesn’t need to be. For smaller businesses or new ones who don’t need to create fancy documents or complex spreadsheets it could be ideal.

The main consideration between installed Office and G Suite is that of privacy. You work online, within the Google ecosystem. Even though you’re paying for the privilege, I expect Google will still scan and harvest your data as part payment. If you can get over that, I think G Suite is well worth trying.