Today’s guest blogger is Kenneth Lo, CEO of Kattelo Consulting, a consulting firm that builds solutions using Microsoft SharePoint and the .NET platform. Headquartered in San Francisco, the firm works with businesses, nonprofits, and government clients across the U.S.

Interest in cloud computing is rapidly growing.  It seems like every time our clients turn on the news, they’re reading about the cloud. Even those who aren’t as knowledgeable quickly catch on once I explain the benefits to them—that you don’t need to worry about maintaining an IT infrastructure and can reduce your IT administration costs. All of our clients are interested in saving money. And especially for startups and small businesses, whose needs can change very rapidly, the ability to scale up and down is huge. Being in the cloud with Office 365 fits right into their business requirements.

Since the beginning of 2012, we’ve migrated more than a dozen small- and medium-size organizations to Office 365. About 60 percent initially used Google Apps, usually because of price, only to discover that Google Apps is both hard to use and nothing like Office.

Dissatisfaction with Google Apps
Most organizations have been using Office for decades. Their employees understand how to use it and find it intuitive. So when they start using Google Apps, there’s a lot of dissatisfaction. The biggest complaint I hear is that the Gmail user interface is confusing; people find it difficult to adjust to the inbox and the threaded email discussions—they just get lost.

Many customers also complain about limited functionality. For example, Excel users can automate tasks with macros, which they can’t do with Google Apps. They also aren’t limited by the number of columns they can work with, or the types of datasets that they can import into Excel—as they are with Google Apps. And they can easily copy charts into PowerPoint and Word without losing formatting. 

Using Gmail, knowledge workers can’t sort email by name, subject or date, or put email into folders, which makes it difficult to stay organized. Personally, when I’ve used Gmail with Outlook, it was very finicky, and I lost meeting invitations all the time.

On top of that, privacy is an issue. Google maintains a lot of access to your information. You just don’t know where the data is stored, or how it gets handled. What’s more, Google’s support is mediocre, at best. Yes Google has videos, FAQs and documentation, but none of it is very user friendly.

Office 365: Familiar and Intuitive
Once our clients begin using Office 365, the learning curve is low. Most are already familiar with Office and since Office Web Apps is so similar, they know where to click. They like the predictability of a monthly subscription over purchasing licenses. Freed from the expense of having to purchase software and maintain servers, they can invest in more strategic parts of the business. 

As a SharePoint consultant, we often work with business groups outside of the IT department that want to set up workflows to help them work more efficiently. And I have to say that SharePoint Online alone makes Office 365 well worth the money. When it comes to sharing files, SharePoint and Office 365 are miles ahead of Google. When I show customers how easy it is to create forms and automated workflows, the advantage becomes clear. Office 365 is really a complete solution.