Microsoft Office has been the go-to office suite for businesses around the world since its introduction in November of 1990. With very few viable alternatives to choose from, small businesses have had to rely on the tech-giant’s applications for the better part of the last 24 years. The price of running the programs can cost small businesses a small fortune (Office Professional 2013 costs $399.99 per computer) that they could be spending elsewhere. But no other suitor existed, businesses were forced to pay for the software, and there were troubling times in the kingdom as the people waited for a champion.

The wait would end in July of 2009. Enter Sir Google Docs! The savior of small-businesses and group presenters alike (though it entered the battle nearly two decades after it had begun). Nonetheless, with one fell swoop of its mighty Google-backed sword, the service dented the armor of the previously untouched Sir Microsoft Office. Google Docs gave people applications that were free to use, could work through a cloud, and encouraged them to collaborate in real-time.

Brooding in the shadows, Microsoft planned a counter-attack to break Google’s siege. A new, free version of the Office suite was created, and Office365 (a competing cloud service) was launched in June of 2011. Since then, both armies have gathered at opposite ends of the web-based battlefield in preparation for what will be a long and arduous campaign, as the upstart Google Docs continues to improve its technical capabilities in an attempt to match Microsoft Office. The competition between the two providers will greatly benefit the consumer as the two giants fight for user-loyalty.

With the recent re-release of Office Online, Microsoft has attempted to match the services offered by Google Docs (which has been recently re-named Google Drive). The result: more free options for you and your company to choose from. Given most users have some familiarity with Microsoft Office, the rest of this article will focus on the features of Google Drive, because many are still unaware of Google’s cloud-based services.

True or False: Google Drive offers up to 15GB of free storage.

  • TRUE. Google Drive gives users 15GB of free storage, which is a nice place to start. Office Online only offers 7GB of free storage, so Google Drive may be better for those businesses who will only need up to 15GB of space on the cloud. If you would like to expand the amount of storage you have on the server, you may have to pay a bit more. Payment plans start at $1.99/month for 10GB and go all the way up to 30TB for $299.99/month.

True or False: Since Google Drive is a cloud-based computing service, I’ll need to be connected to the internet in order to access my files, right?

  • FALSE. If you use Google Chrome as your web browser, you can turn on Drive offline, which will allow you to access any of your files, and work on them even when you have no access to Wi-Fi. However, if you’re using Office Online, you will need to have an internet connection to both access and work on your online documents.

True or False: Google Drive will only recognize files that are created on its platform.

  • FALSE. Google Drive recognizes over 30 file types, which range from .JPEGS to .PAGES to .DOCX files. Microsoft Office will only recognize Office files (.DOC, .DOCX, .PPT, .PPTX, .XLS and .XLSX).

Google Drive offers a multitude of compelling features, but Microsoft definitely has a friendlier user interface. Either way, there are plenty of free office suite alternatives for you or your business that could help you improve your bottom line.

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