Productivity tools like Google Workspace and Office 365 allow law firms to use a web browser to perform their tasks ‘in the cloud’. Which of the two offers the best cloud solution?
Pricing, security, features, and ease-of-use are some of the most important areas that law firms consider when they decide they need to move to the cloud for more flexibility. Google Workspace and Office 365 allow lawyers to access their data from any place with an internet connection, allowing them more mobility.
Understanding productivity tools
Performing common legal tasks become easier with productivity tools. Both Google Workspace and Office 365 offer robust services with reliable cloud infrastructure and are covered by global data centers. Their features include:
- Legal email services
- Word processing
- Shared calendaring services on custom domains
- Online document storage
- Shared space for collaboration with plenty of personal storage space for each user
- Productivity apps allowing collaborations on all documents, presentations, and spreadsheets
- Various professional communication tools for messaging, online meetings, and video conferencing
- A management interface offering advanced features for compliance and archiving
- Security features including two-factor authentication
Deciding on the best tool
Each industry tends to have a dominant tool for tasks. Google Workspace is very popular in tech and start-up environments, whereas Office 365 is more dominant within the legal industry. Deciding on which tool is best for a law firm can be a bit of a dilemma. Some users may prefer one over the other, or some prefer to use both.
Therefore, a law office will have to decide on the subscription costs based on their needs, which productivity tool suits the needs of the firm best, and which offers the most functionality.
Price and benefits
Both product suites start their basic pricing at $6 per user with some restrictions. In both products, the option that best suits most law firms and that offer suitable features are Google Business Plan at $12 and Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium Plan at $12.5. These prices are per user with a small difference as far as pricing is concerned. However, Microsoft offers more options and features on their plan.
Law firms can get their data into the cloud relatively easily with both Google and Microsoft, and both work well with all browsers and on mobile devices. With Microsoft, access to emails, calendars, and groups is through Outlook, and offline access is available for documents stored in OneDrive. With Google Workspace, offline access to Gmail, Calendar, and Google Docs is available through Chrome.
Manageability and ease of use
Manageability may seem more important to larger law firms, but it is important for smaller ones too. Office 365 has several advantages. It has better management tools, integrates with Active Directory, and supports hybrid environments in law firms that want to migrate slowly to a cloud environment. This means the law firm can use some cloud services while using some functions on the computer until the migration is completed. With Google Workspace this is not possible because it is completely cloud-based.
Ease of use is important for some law firms. Even though Google Workspace is not as powerful as Office 365, it is far easier to use.
Lawyers need to ensure that documents are in a secure environment, so they can meet their commitment to keeping their client information confidential. Google and Microsoft both provide excellent protection of data as it is sent or stored. Both productivity tools support Information Rights Management (IRM) and Data Loss Protection (DLP). Additionally, Office 365 Message Encryption and transport rules provide additional protection for emails and documents on the Microsoft rights management templates.
Windows users prefer Office 365 and many lawyers generally prefer the features in Word and Excel which offer them more flexibility for formatting documents. G Suite is considered more limiting for legal documents requiring various capabilities like document styles, redlining, bullet hierarchy, table of authority, etc.
Office Suites has been developed over a long time and other application providers integrate easily with it. These integrations include case management, document assembly, document management, billing, and Outlook add-ins. Even though G-Suite is not as accessible to other applications yet, it does work with some case management software.
Google is fast catching up with making their calendar smarter to match the features of Office. Google also has added a feature that determines which files are most relevant to legal teams through calendar interaction with colleagues.
Machine learning is an area where Google excels, but the ease of integration from various applications still ensures Office 365 remains popular in the legal world.
Deciding on which cloud solution is best can be difficult but usually, the one preferred by most users in a law office takes precedent,