Taking a walk in the Cloud with Google Apps, Zoho and Office365

Entrepreneurs are always looking for innovative ways to save cash… right? Let me answer on my own behalf. I am always looking for web applications that take away the drudgework I like to call admin.

Yes, some of us may enjoy this part of business. Others just don’t. In my search for the perfect online collaboration and business tool, I started (as most of us do) with Google documents. I then progressed to Zoho and now I find myself evaluating a Microsoft Cloud offering called Office365.

In fiddling with Google Documents, I discovered Google’s other offering in this sphere. Introducing Google Apps.

Most of us are more familiar with Gmail, Google Documents and Google Calendar. You’ve probably used Gmail more than you’ve visited your mother since you were born, but have you tried their other services? These include Google Cloud Connect, Google Groups, Google Sites, Google Video, Maps and Analytics. View their full list of business apps here.

Zoho I like to call the Godzilla of web applications. With over 20 different applications ranging from collaboration to productivity, it includes plugins to both Google Documents and Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Office.

Microsoft Office365 is the result of combining Microsoft SharePoint Server, Microsoft Lync Server and Microsoft Exchange Server. Need I say more?

Can these tools really be compared to each other? With the infinite number of online collaboration and document sharing tools out there, why compare these three?

The first two discoveries — Google and Zoho — stem from trialing various single-use applications and either finding them too cumbersome or missing certain key criteria, then stumbling across these ones. I heard about Microsoft 365 through the grapevine (probably Twitter) and was intrigued to see if Microsoft’s new offering started speaking to needs of the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) market.

Let me introduce the analyst in me. I always compare every application I trial with a matrix of “desired criteria”. Voila!

What then is the bottom line?

Google is so focused on throwing people into circles and networks these days that the features of Google Documents seem archaic in comparison. However, their Google Applications suite ranging from maps to Webmaster tools for Business make up for it.

Zoho with its full business suite and offering (free in most cases) makes business sense since it handles document collaboration, sharing, versioning, support and more under its umbrella of 20 applications.

Office365 is easy to setup and cost effective for a Microsoft product. It is not, however, available in South African for purchase yet. Rumour has it, that it may grace our cyber shores in early 2012.

My final answer?
Zoho wins this round for its comprehensive suit of business and collaborative applications. It is currently available globally, cost is (virtually) free and the offering is much wider than that of Google Apps.

Image: ibtimes.com



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