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For many businesses, their first venture into outsourcing is the use of a hosted application – most won’t even realise that this is even a form of IT outsourcing. But because the infrastructure required to run the hosted app is managed by a service provider, it most certainly is a form of outsourcing.

Hosted applications have gained a lot of attention – the outsourced approach helps to keep licensing costs low for instance. So when it comes time to upgrade applications, many businesses are looking at the options available in the Cloud.

Productivity tools – gateway to the Cloud

Microsoft Office, a key part of almost every organisation’s operations, is an obvious candidate for replacement with a hosted variant. So when it comes time to arrange an upgrade, or to purchase new licenses, a subscription-based Cloud tool gives your business an opportunity to try Cloud systems out with minimal outlay, or fear of “damaging” any mission critical processes.

Microsoft’s Cloud productivity suite, Office 365, is not your only option. Google’s newly renamed G Suite includes email, word processing, spreadsheet and presentation tools – just like Office. To help drive take-up, G Suite pricing is incredibly keen – but there are several other factors to consider before being seduced by a low price tag.

The key to productivity is productivity

The goal of any software purchase is to help your business become more efficient. So productivity tools should help your team be more productive. When comparing Office 365 and G Suite, you cannot underestimate the importance of familiarity to productivity.

Shortcuts and desktop icons help to speed up your workflow – try deleting one and see how much it slows you down. In the same way you get very used to specific software – knowing where key tools and functions are accessed helps make you work more efficiently. If your employees have been working with Microsoft tools for years, a switch to a new system will cause an instant drop in productivity as they have to re-familiarise themselves.

Office 365 is almost identical in appearance and function to the version installed on PCs – including the smartphone apps. The transition from Office 2014 to Office 365 is virtually seamless, and any productivity impact will be minimal.

G-Suite on the other hand is a different story. The basic functionality in Docs and Sheets is roughly equivalent to Word and Excel, but the difference is just enough to slow your users down. The associated smartphone/tablet apps (particularly on Apple devices) is also markedly different – and a lot less functional.

For a business with an ingrained Microsoft culture, the switch to G Suite is unlikely to be smooth, and the long term effects could be damaging to productivity and profits.

The data sovereignty question

Storing data in the Cloud is incredibly helpful for enabling flexible working and collaboration. But your business has a responsibility to know where that data is physically stored – transferring personal data outside the EU can have serious legal ramifications for instance.

In order to improve availability and reduce the risk of loss, Cloud providers typically copy your data to physically separate data centres. In the case of Google, some of these data centres are located in the US. Currently this is legal under the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement, certifying that Google uses a level of security that complies with EU law to protect your data.

The decision for the UK to leave the European Union throws these agreements into question however. As yet there is no evidence that the Privacy Shield agreement is in jeopardy, but that could change as we progress towards Brexit. It could be that transferring personal data out of the UK is made illegal again.

Some of Microsoft’s data centres are based in the UK however. So any data stored in Microsoft OneDrive or Office 365 never leaves UK jurisdiction – it will always be compliant, even if the Privacy Shield agreement remains in place. Choosing Office 365 is actually another step towards de-risking your IT operations.

Learn more about Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 offers many other significant benefits including better performance, wider browser support, full software downloads included in the subscription fee. To learn more about what Office 365 offers, and what that means for your business, please get in touch