Tech tools for start-ups: Data storage and documentation

– Aug 1, 2021
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This is the second article in our tech tools series, where we compare, contrast and recommend technology for all the major challenges faced by a business. In this article we look at how Google Workspace and Office 365 stack up as data storage and documentation solutions. Specifically, we look at how they perform when it comes to collaboration, features, user interface and storage.

The Google and Office suites come with email and other messaging and communication tools. Check out our detailed review in our previous article on messaging and communication tools.

Our history

Since this review is based on our own experience with these tools, it’s worth giving you a short overview of our history working with them.

When our business was just getting started, we were using both Google and Office tools. We used Gmail and Google Drive but we also built our proposals in Word and Excel. One day we decided that we wanted to experiment with Office 365 so we moved everything over to Office. It wasn’t long before we got fed up with many of the Office tools. In the end we migrated most of our business back to Google.

Our set-up

Through this process of trial and error, we have landed on a hybrid of both Google Workspace and Office 365. One of our guiding principles is ‘right tools for the right job’ and we need both systems to effectively deliver on critical tasks.

Google Workspace is our primary solution

We make the biggest investment in Google Workspace. Workspace is far superior when it comes to collaboration which is a key requirement for us. We also put a high premium on productivity and great user interface which Workspace delivers across all its tools.

We use Office 365 to create professional documents

Our recommendation

Our best advice for start-ups is to subscribe to the license(s) that allow your business to deliver effectively on its critical, core jobs. Don’t sign-up for additional features that won’t add any meaningful value.

Read on to understand which solutions will allow you to best deliver your business’ priority jobs.

Office 365

Collaboration misses the mark

Office 365’s collaboration functionality feels like an afterthought. Documents saved on SharePoint (file management system) require each user to check a file in and out each time they want to edit it. The set up allows multiple people to co-author a document, however the process is clunky and we have experienced several issues with corrupt documents.

Enhanced and increased features

Office delivers features and functionality that aren’t replicated in Google Workspace; a requirement of our business.

Office applications have significantly more and better features than Google. Word, Excel and PowerPoint have an extensive range of templates and charts, which translates to creating more professional-looking documents in Office than what Google will produce. Since the quality of our proposals, reports and presentations impact the value we deliver to clients, we continue to subscribe to Office 365.

The review function in Office is also an important drawcard. It sounds like small element, but it is critical to working with our legal team. Our lawyers need to mark-up documents rather than edit them directly. Google Workspace does not have that required functionality, which is another reason why we aren’t all in with Google.

Average user interface

The Office interface is not intuitive and lacks the simplicity of Google. This really is a catch-22 because the complexity of the interface is linked to the wider range of features and functionality.

Clunky and complex storage solutions

We found SharePoint (the file storage solution) a nightmare to set up and difficult to use – and we’re a tech company. There is a lot of administration required to configure a new SharePoint site. Once it is set up, the interface, rules and controls make collaboration really difficult. We found that users resorted back to email distribution of documents rather than relying on SharePoint’s functionality.

The one instance where we appreciated SharePoint’s stringent collaboration controls was again when dealing with our lawyers. SharePoint has strict version controls which our legal team requires when they deal with our legal documents.

We’re not a fan of Office 365 communication tools

Outlook does not cooperate with our key systems

We use Salesforce and sales optimization tools in our business. Unfortunately, Salesforce extensions do not work as well in Outlook as they do in Gmail, particularly for sales users. Microsoft is actively working on this, but we doubt they will be able to catch up with Google.

If you are not a Salesforce user, Outlook has a few quirky features that businesses might like. There is a focused inbox which organizes the messages you should read and respond to first. There is a clean-up feature that simplifies long email threads so they are easier to follow. These features are nice to have, but they are not game-changers.

Quite frankly, we hated Teams

We are not fans of Teams. It is a sophisticated product that requires a lot of administration. Teams worked well for our business model because we were able to create a team for each client and we used this as our client site. But each time you set up a new team you need to individually integrate all of the apps you wanted Teams to sync with. There were a bunch of other issues we had with Teams which you can read all about in our previous article.

Google Workspace

A home run for collaboration

All of the Google applications (Docs, Sheets and Slides) are purpose built for collaboration. The storage solution, Google Drive, is simple, easy to use and is a game changer for collaboration.

Clean and simple interface

The user interfaces across all applications are clean, fast and simple. It all just works. Workspace is a web-based program which means it performs on any operating system.

Applications deliver the basics, but nothing more

Workspace has all of the same applications and tools as Office (word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, email, video conferencing, messaging and note-taking etc.). The key difference is that Google’s applications are simple and paired back.

The upside of Google’s application simplicity is that the interface is easy to use. It is also a reason why the collaboration functionality is so effective. However, the downside is that you do not get access to the full range of charts, templates, graphics and other features that Office 365 provides.

Simple and effective storage solution

Google Drive makes it super easy for multiple people to be working on the same file. The search functionality is also second-to-none.

Businesses have the option to subscribe to Team Drives, which is similar to Google Drive, except files are set up to belong to a team rather than an individual.

Google Drive does not have strict version control. While this can be a blessing for collaboration, some businesses may find that they need this functionality. We require version control when working with our legal teams, so (unfortunately) we have to store our contracts and other legal documents on SharePoint.

The communication and messaging tools that work for our business

Gmail works best for our business model

We spend a lot of time in Salesforce which works a lot better with Gmail than Outlook. We also feel that Gmail is a much better email solution because of the cleaner interface and intuitive UI. As with all Google tools, it’s custom built for collaboration and integrates seamlessly with the rest of the Google toolkit, making it easy to get stuff done.

Gmail has a few other features which are nice to have but should not be the tipping point for choosing this tool. AI that can suggest words and phrases as you type, which cuts the time it takes to draft an email. There is also a nudge feature which reminds you of emails you may have forgotten about.

Workspace delivers (one of) our preferred messaging and communication tools

In our previous article, we share that Slack and Workspace are our preferred messaging and communication tools. Collaboration is critical to our business, and Google is ahead of its competitors in supporting collaboration. This is a key factor in our decision to align with Google Workspace over Office 365.

Contact us for more information on the right data storage and documentation tools for your business.

Next in this series is an article on our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions.

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