When it comes to what software your business uses, it is important to not be slowed down by the software that your business employs. What type of software (office software, cloud services, etc.) your business chooses is up to you, and as such this article is written to help you make the best possible decision. The best software will interface easily with other software, be simple to work with, and provide employees and managers alike with the tools they need to do their job effectively.
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What are the Major Software Platforms?
When it comes to major software platforms, the two major options come from Microsoft and Google in the form of Microsoft’s Office 365 for Business, and Google’s Apps for Work. Both of these platforms represent the combination of productivity apps such as Microsoft Office and Google Docs, cloud storage and collaboration, email, calendars and more.
Other options such as Libre Office and Dropbox exist, but none of the other options represent the same level of productivity (other solutions do not include productivity software, or do not include cloud software, etc.).
These productivity solutions can all be implemented from scratch without any prior setup or existing technology. A business can be fully equipped with either the Microsoft of Google solution is a little as one business day, depending on company size.
What About Choosing the Right Operating System (Windows vs Mac vs Linux)?
The choice of operating system that a business would use was historically an important decision that would govern what software a business could run for years going forward. In today’s virtual world, the type of operating system that one chooses has very little bearing on productivity, as virtually all major pieces of software are available across all major operating systems, and all of these systems can interface with each other with ease.
If your business simply needs access to productivity software, cloud services, and email, then it cannot go wrong with any of the major operating systems. Google’s Apps for Work runs entirely in a web browser, so it is entirely operating system and device independent. Microsoft Office runs on both Windows and Mac, but has not been ported to any of the popular Linux distributions.
Microsoft Office 365 for Business
Office 365 for Business represents the most powerful productivity software suite that a business can buy. The various office apps have been the benchmark for office software for the past decade, and Microsoft continues to improve and innovate its office solutions.
Cloud services and email services come in the form of Microsoft OneDrive and Outlook, which are both proven platforms that provide businesses with the tools that they need.
The main strength of Office 365 for Business is the power of its Office apps (Word, Excel, etc.). No other office software has quite measured up to Microsoft’s. The weakness of Office 365 for Business is that it is much more reliant on local storage on a device - meaning if a device is lost or stolen, the company data is gone with it. Businesses who need the extra features the Microsoft Office apps offer should utilize Office 365 for Business.
Office is also the standard for many businesses across North America, and as such if you receive files from other businesses or clients on a regular basis then Office 365 will be the more powerful solution.
Google Apps for Work
Google’s Apps for Work program represents a bundling of Google’s various services that are tailored towards a business settings. Users are given their own account, which gives them a customized email at their business' URL (firstname.lastname@example.org) that is powered by Google’s Gmail backend. Other services, such as Google Calendar, Google Drive and Google Docs are also bundled into the account, and have simple to use collaboration options to work with other employees.
The main advantage of Google’s Apps for Work is that everything is stored safely in Google Drive, with nothing needing to be stored locally on a device (the option to store locally does exist, however). This means that if a device is lost or stolen, no company data will be lost, and employees who lose their devices can simply login to their account from another device.
Google Docs offers a decent amount of productivity, but does not compare feature-wise to MS Office. Businesses who do not need the advanced power user features of Office will be better served by Google Docs. Google’s solution also offers better cloud integration and collaboration.
Beyond Microsoft and Google’s solutions come many different options that also allow businesses to have productivity software with a mix of different software from different companies. A business can choose to mix and match software from different companies in order to get the services that they desire. For example: a business could choose to use Libre Office for its productivity software, Dropbox for its cloud solutions, and a 3rd party provider for its email services.
Mix and matching a solution to fit your business' needs does have its merits, but it also has the disadvantage of having to learn two or three different software platforms instead of just one. Mix and matching will also likely have a higher cost, and possibly lead to software incompatibility issues.
If your business relies on a particular set of software then a custom solution can serve your business' needs. However, if your business has no allegiance to any particular service, then I would recommend going with an all-in-one solution from either Microsoft or Google.
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