Some basic things to think about when comparing Google Apps for Business and Windows Live and Office 365 for your business's email.
With Google Apps now no longer free, what are the other systems for handling email and calendars for your business?
What are the alternatives for your company email?
The great thing about Google Apps was that it was one stop shop for online email, storage, calendaring and other useful functions.
And the free version was a great fit for small businesses with just a few staff.
At its most basic level, Google Apps let you have a bunch of email addresses for all your staff in your company name - like “my-business-name.com.au”.
New users can still do this with Google Apps for Business but it will cost US$50.
But there are other ways of doing this. Lifehacker recently provided a nice overview (which we recommend you read in full).
One option: Windows Live
An alternative is to take a dip in the Microsoft pool and go for their Windows Live service.
Windows Live allows you through the new Outlook.com to use a very attractive system.
It also integrates with SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage system, as well as a calendar and contact list.
One of the features we really like about SkyDrive is the ability to easily create and edit Office documents online without the need to launch of the desktop Office applications.
The trouble with Windows Live is that it’s designed to be a personal service for one user.
While that doesn’t preclude you using it for business - you can use it to send and receive email using your own domain name - it’s really only a single user service.
If you like the look of Windows Live but want to use it for your business with multiple employees then you need to look at Office 365. This is Microsoft’s business cloud solution.
As well as features such as handling your email and calendars just like Windows Live, Office 365 can also host your business’s website.
How much do they cost? Office 365 vs Google Apps for Business
There are several different service levels available with Office 365. The most basic service costs $6 per month per staff member.
In comparison, Google Apps for Business costs $50 per user per year. However, Google Apps doesn’t include hosting for our business web site so this needs to be factored in.
We think that Microsoft’s online email looks better than Google’s, though it lacks some of the power features we like, such as being able to create rules for automatically filing messages as they arrive.
If you’re familiar with Microsoft applications then the Office Web Apps will probably be more comfortable to use than Google’s online programs.
Microsoft’s service costs more per year than Google’s but offer a broader range of options.
Potentially, you could replace almost all your business’s servers, which may make sense if you have limited IT expertise and space.