Google G Suite for a better workflow and remote collaboration

What is G Suite? Under this name, Google groups together a number of cloud-based applications that can be used to create a virtual working environment. Google G Suite is a multifunctional collaboration software provided via a cloud. The Google cloud allows teams access to data, online calendars, and project schedules, and enables them to coordinate tasks regardless of location – all that’s needed is an internet connection and a browser. The sharing function and real-time synchronisation make it possible to edit a document simultaneously.

The complete package, including word processing programs and communication tools, is also known as Google Apps for Business. In 2016, Google rebranded several apps under the name G Suite and added new features to the series. This brought Google into direct competition with Microsoft. Many components of the app series resemble Office applications and the cloud-based solution by Microsoft, Office 365. Since then, Google offers a collection of its tools in a subscription model. The following services belong to the paid Google G Suite service:

  • Gmail (e-mail program)
  • Google Drive (cloud space)
  • Google Calendar (online planner)
  • Google Hangouts (videoconference and messaging service)
  • Google+ (social media platform)
  • Google Docs (word processing tool)
  • Google Sheets (tool for table creation)
  • Google Slides (presentation tool)
  • Google Keep (notetaking tool)
  • Google Vault and admin (archiving and management function)
  • Google Sites (tool for creation of public and internal websites)
  • App Maker (development platform)

Although many individual services such as the e-mail program Gmail or the Google calendar are also available free of charge to private users, they are mostly available in a slimmed-down version. The G Suite differentiates itself from a private Google account in other respects. For example, it is only possible to set up a Gmail corporate account and use a company e-mail address with the G-Suite tools.

The subscription variation is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, but also at large corporations or self-employed persons. In principle, for a monthly or annual fee you get an all-round carefree package. You can use the entire range of features without any restrictions and benefit from additional management tools. The latter allow project managers, administrators, and superiors to define approval options for certain files via a central dashboard and to better connect different apps with each other. In addition, telephone support is available at all times.

The Business and Premium versions offer companies unlimited storage space. Also, they offer better compatibility with software solutions from other providers so that, for example, external archiving functions can be integrated. Those who greatly value data security can receive additional security options. For example, a multi authentication procedure makes access by unauthorised persons more difficult.

With the cloud solution, Google G Suite is dedicated to the groupware concept. Whether doing home office or on a business trip, all employees can work seamlessly in the digital workspace independent from time zones or location. All applications are optimised for mobile devices. With cloud computing, companies can outsource their IT infrastructure to the virtual cloud while accessing unlimited storage capacity. The only requirement is a fast internet connection, because the full range of services can only be used online. Alternatively, it is possible to save data on your PC or in your own data centre and to work offline.

The following tools belong to G-Suite

It’s worth taking a closer look at each of the Google G Suite tools. This way, you can better assess whether the fee-based software package would make your daily work easier and how individual apps differ from common Microsoft Office tools and other applications.

Gmail

There is also a corporate version of the well-known e-mail program that is available as part of the Google G Suite. Once logged in, employees can access their e-mail and see the latest of their correspondence, regardless of their location or which device they’re using. Additionally, administrators can manage accounts from one central place. Unlike a private account, it’s possible to individualise your e-mail address and incorporate the company name into the domain. The paid-for version is completely free of advertisements.

The additional features prove to be just as practical. The inbox has a chat function and, because it is connected to Google Hangouts within the G Suite, it also serves as a video conferencing tool, allowing you to collaborate with colleagues and formulate important e-mails together.

Google Calendar

With an online calendar, colleagues can keep an overview of all upcoming deadlines and client meetings and, if desired, can be reminded of them in advance. Entire teams can also use the shared calendar to enter meetings or keep track of holidays and other absences. Rather than organising appointments with each individual, the tool automatically checks if a colleague is available at a certain time for a meeting. Google Calendar is also compatible with some other online planners, saving you duplicate entries and extra effort.

If you want to keep your entire department or your partner organisations up to date on important events and projects, integrate the calendar into an intranet site created via Google Sites. This allows managers to determine at any time who has access to the calendar and what details can be viewed. Another useful feature is the room planning function. You can integrate a plan of free meeting rooms or have the tool search for externally available conference rooms and reserve them via G Suite.

Google Drive

Google Drive is the heart of the G Suite. This cloud system provides you with a central place where you can store all the data you need to work together and access it from anywhere. It’s fundamental for sharing and collaborating on updated data in real-time.

If you don’t want to build your own data centre, you can easily move everything to the cloud. The storage space is almost unlimited with 1 TB per user. Only the Basic subscription limits the capacity to 30 GB. It is important to know that the data of all tools is stored on Google Drive. This means that all e-mails managed by Gmail are also stored there and deducted from the storage quota accordingly. If you want to do without an IT infrastructure, the Basic version might not suffice.

Would you prefer to store important data locally and make it available offline on your desktop computer? This is also possible: the data will then be synchronised automatically with the cloud. Various control elements allow you to define approval options and control access for each individual employee and entire departments. In addition, a machine learning function has been integrated, which independently evaluates which data is currently relevant and makes it visible for quick access. The storage space can also be subdivided in favour of a better overview. Anyone who has previously used Microsoft Office can import the documents via a plugin in Google Drive without having to enter complicated data.

Google Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides, and Keep

With these applications, Google G Suite offers a complete office package that allows you to create texts, conduct surveys, share spreadsheets, and create slides for a customer meeting. With these applications too, users can benefit from the cloud-based solution: all remote employees can work together simultaneously on one document. The changes can be seen by everyone immediately and can be easily undone. The chat feature saves you the hassle of sending big data packages back and forth and allows you to communicate feedback via the comment function. All tools can also be operated in offline mode, but only via the Chrome browser. 

The look, feel, and interface are very similar to Microsoft applications, so if you're used to Microsoft Word, you and your staff won't have much trouble making the transition. However, you will have to cut back on the range of services you offer. If your style is dominated by graphically sophisticated presentations and relies on a variety of formatting options, the G Suite can definitely not keep up with the competitor product, Office 365. Consider whether or not you can do without it and whether the other tools in the G Suite outweigh this disadvantage. Since the Google Suite is compatible with Office applications, you can use them as well. Below are the tools on offer:

  • Google Docs: This word processing program is very similar to Microsoft Word. It has all the basic tools for text formatting and page layout. However, the design options are much more limited. You can use add-ons to insert some fonts and other elements. You can easily import many third-party formats from Microsoft and Adobe and, for example, save them in such formats.
  • Sheets: Make calculations, evaluate data, and visualise it as a diagram – this is all possible with the Sheets app from G Suite. Excel tables can usually be imported without any problems. Only the commands for entering formulas differ occasionally. The Google copy of Excel contains all common cell formulas. However, Excel is still the first choice for more complicated tables.
  • Forms: Forms allows users to create a questionnaire or a survey quickly and easily. There are a number of pre-built elements to suit different types of questions. It also allows you to insert images and a company logo so you can maintain the visual design of your brand. The advantages of a software package are evident: the table tool evaluates answers in real time and displays the results graphically.
  • Slides: With this function, each employee can present their project results in a diagram or illustrate their ideas with drawings, videos, or animations. Using different templates, even novice employees can experiment with the graphics. With regard to the variety of templates and the design functions, however, this app does not stand a chance next to PowerPoint. 
  • Notes: With Google Notes, you can jot down a fleeting thought and then create a mind map for the start of a project without running the risk of misplacing the note or losing it. Additionally, the app helps with organisation: you can create to-do lists and set up reminders for tasks and appointments. You can highlight notes in colour and add photos, drawings and audio files. You can also use the search feature to filter annotations by colour, label, and other categories.

Google Hangouts

Users can save on travel expenses and valuable time with this virtual conference room. Is the team spread out across numerous locations? Or is one of your colleagues doing home office? Regardless of where your employees are, you can still hold meetings or face-to-face conference calls. Hangouts include video conferencing, voice-only messages, and text-based chats. When you integrate your Google G Suite with other tools, the Google Calendar reminds you of upcoming meetings or easily sends invitations via Gmail. Internet-connected colleagues can connect on the go using their individual dial-in number. Connections are easy to set up.

In comparison to Microsoft’s Skype, Hangouts offers more features, however, the video quality is poorer.

Google Sites

Even without IT knowledge, you can set up a website in the blink of an eye. With the G Suite, you can do this within the framework of a multifaceted platform and integrate data more quickly if necessary. It is possible to use Google Sites to build an intranet for seamless communication. With easy-to-use templates for the layout and the user interface, the process of setting up a website couldn’t be easier. Sites also allows users to grant certain access rights to certain users.

Tip

In order to create a public website, you will require a domain. This is not included in the Google G Suite. However, with 1&1 IONOS for example, you can purchase a domain with a name that appeals to you.

Google Vault

This app serves as an administration tool and simplifies the archiving and legally secure storage of data, e-mails, and other content. To do this, you can divide the data generated by the Google G Suite into different packages, arrange them clearly and export them. It is also possible to view history logs and collect data specifically for audits. In addition, Google Vault is used to manage user accounts. You can define retention periods to comply with privacy policies.

Google+

Google+, the social media app, can also be used as part of the Google G Suite. This has the advantage that more functions can be controlled that are specific to each company. This also positions Google as a corporate communications platform that makes it easy for businesses to connect within the network.

App Maker

With App Maker, you can create apps for your company or organisation according to your own ideas. For example, you could create one that facilitates the specific distribution of tasks with your department and that simplifies other work processes. The tool is designed as a low-code development platform, i.e. you develop your app using different templates without having to write time-consuming code. It is also possible to connect the app with other G Suite applications.

Is the G Suite Business version worthwhile for companies?

The cloud-based Google G Suite has many advantages, but it also has its limitations. How serious the disadvantages are depends on the company. Every company needs different software solutions depending on the industry, its employee structure, and its company culture. It is therefore important to consider whether or not the G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Business) is actually beneficial and simplifies work processes. In order to assist with this decision-making process, we compare the relevant advantages and disadvantages below.

Advantages of the cloud-based platform

The key feature of Google G Suite is the complete relocation of data storage and data processing to the cloud. This is what distinguishes it from Office 365, making it the ideal platform for location-independent teamwork and collaboration. Employees who are constantly on the move for client meetings, conferences, or sales tasks, can stay up to date, have access to all data, and can participate in important meetings regardless of their location.

Companies that allow employees to work from home are also guaranteed to stay up to date with G Suite. The same applies to companies that are spread across numerous locations or need to consult regularly with external partners, service providers, and clients. The communication platform with cloud storage space ensures that every active user, wherever they are based, has simultaneous access regardless if they’re using a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone.

Start-ups and smaller companies in particular save resources if they don’t have to install any hardware or software of their own; data storage and computing processes are then carried out externally. This eliminates the need for an in-house data centre and its maintenance. For this reason, the Google G Suite can also be an attractive option for self-employed people who often communicate directly with clients and collaborate on projects from outside. G Suite is therefore a step ahead when it comes to cloud-based collaboration.

In comparison to the G Suite, Office 365 offers a rudimentary cloud solution. While the Google G Suite synchronises all editing processes in real time, the Microsoft counterpart usually requires an intermediate step and is in any case not automatic. Office saves locally first; it is only when you then save the document to the OneDrive cloud storage or the SharePoint content management system, or you activate cloud functions, that it is visible and editable for others. Office 365 also offers an interface to the cloud and groupware functions, but networking is not completely automatic.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for a hybrid solution and hard disk and data centre storage, Office could be a suitable solution. However, the collaboration element is strongest with the Google G Suite.

The disadvantages of the cloud system

A complete cloud system tends to make people dependent. Google G Suite requires a fast internet connection and the suite’s limitations are particularly noticeable when using mobile devices. However, if the connection is cut off, many functions have the option to switch to offline mode and to synchronise files at a later point.

If you don’t make local copies, they will only be stored by an external provider, in this case Google’s servers. Google employs security experts and, as a large corporation, has a sophisticated infrastructure in place to prevent data loss. However, even the best system is not 100% immune to technical glitches, temporary server downtime, data theft, or hacker attacks. Google also reserves the right to block the account for certain reasons ­– as a worst-case scenario solution.

As a G Suite user, you place sensitive data in the hands of the company and must trust that it is protected against unauthorised access because you can’t exactly exercise your own control. The fact is that your data will end up on potentially unsafe third-country servers to which different data regulations generally apply. Security certificates such as ISO 27001, which certifies that Google complies with international standards for IT security, are intended to remove such concerns. Nevertheless, the NSA affair, in particular, proved that secret services have no problem gaining access to data at server locations.

Additionally, Google’s data protection regulations are not completely transparent. This suggests that Google intends on retaining certain freedoms – after all, the processing of user data is Google’s largest business pillar. This regularly calls on data protection experts.

It is also important that you pay attention to data security within your own company. Although a one-time login may be practical, it does not pose a major hurdle for hackers. If the password is hacked or accidentally falls into the wrong hands, a lot of data is visible because it is all connected on Google G Suite. For increased security, Google alternatively offers multi-level authentication and other security features. The admin account allows users to change their credentials at any time. Mobile device management lets you back up data from mobile devices in the event one is lost. In some cases, G Suite also allows you to integrate external security tools. This applies, for example, to Gmail, where you can also use your own certificates for S/MIME encryption of e-mail correspondence.

It is also necessary internally to keep things private across different departments and levels, and to additionally protect particularly confidential data, especially personal data of customers and employees. To ensure this, you can define, for example, individual access rights for each user so that not everyone can view, edit, and download all documents.

The G Suite provides administrators with many options. Administrators can store employee chat logs and manage user accounts and personal data. In addition, there are companies that have agreed their own contractual clauses with Google regarding data processing.

Multiple tools in one

A cloud-based work platform that combines different applications ensures a better workflow.

  • Better overview: The Google G Suite makes it easier to coordinate all work processes and to keep track of meetings, deadlines, and work progress. This saves a lot of time, especially for larger teams and when external parties are involved. A platform that unites different coordinated applications ensures that all employees are up-to-date. The search function makes it possible to quickly extract relevant information from large amounts of data stored in the cloud.
  • Simple administration: There is a central location for administrators that does not require additional configuration files. Because everything runs on a cloud, administrators don’t have to manage accounts and licenses for multiple applications distributed across multiple servers. There are also various options for evaluating, controlling, and managing access rights.
  • Easy to use: One log-in is all it takes to access all G Suite tools and documents. Real-time updates eliminate the need to update multiple files and share them with colleagues. Since most apps such as chat and the word processing features are similar to well-known Microsoft applications, and Gmail is widely used, the G Suite is quite easy and complication-free to unroll across companies. In most cases, it should not be necessary to train employees in using the G Suite. There are also many options for transferring data generated by other services to the Google platform.
  • Integration of external tools: Whether data migration or function expansion tools, the Google G Suite is compatible with numerous external services. These include customer relationship systems as well as accounting programs. A list of the integrated programs can be found on G Suite Marketplace. Additionally, the G Suite is compatible with numerous Office applications: a text created with Google Docs can be saved as a Word document without any problems. This is a major plus for G Suite. Those who miss the functional range of Office applications do not have to do without it, but should consider whether Office 365 alone is worth more than a solution integrated into Google G Suite. And finally, you can also integrate internal company developments via an interface.

G Suite pricing

Subscribers can choose between three different models. These differ mostly in the scope of services they offer. The more functions available, the higher the price. However, sometimes, even the most basic version can meet a company’s requirements. In any case, it is worth comparing the different versions with one another.

  • G Suite Basic: The basic version currently costs £3.30 a month per user (as of November 2018). It includes the most important applications like video conferencing and a word processing program. Fewer functions are only available for administration purposes. Additionally, 30 GB of cloud storage is included.
  • G Suite Business: This costs £6.60 a month. The advantage to this is the almost unlimited storage space. Up to five users can use a maximum of 1 TB each. Additional features include things such as archiving, activity tracking, as well as a low-code platform for developing apps.
  • G Suite Enterprise: The premium version costs £20 per month. It is best suited for companies that require special functions for data protection and administration. In this area, it has significantly more options than the Business version.

If you choose the annual tariff, the G Suite pricing will be slightly less, however, you will be bound to the Google G Suite for a minimum of one year. The annual fee is payable as a monthly instalment. If a team is reduced in size, the number of users can only be reduced after the annual subscription has expired. Therefore, this tariff model is more suitable for companies with a constant number of employees. The flexible tariffs provide more leeway and flexibility, allowing you to add or remove users as you wish so you will only be charged for the current number of users. This billing model is the better choice, especially for companies with higher employee turnover. You also have the option of cancelling at any time.

Nonprofit organisations can get free access to the platform and educational institutions can enjoy significantly reduced costs. "G Suite for nonprofits" and "G Suite for Education" are subject to several conditions.