Google Workspace for your small business: features & pricing overview

INTRO & DEFINITION

Google Workspace, formerly known as G Suite, by Google Cloud is a set of communication tools, office productivity apps, and a cloud storage platform that allow you to create documents, spreadsheets, and slide presentations — and share them easily with colleagues for feedback, online collaboration, or knowledge building.

Starting at $6 per user per month, Google Workspace subscriptions useful for managing business sites include the use of Google’s flexible and secure communications and team-management infrastructure. Managing projects and basic operations is made simple with its centralized platform to enable all users to share and track progress in real-time.

Throughout this article, we’ll take a closer look at Google Workspace’s features and benefits, plus dive into its pricing and how it compares to other providers. That way, you’ll have everything you need to understand how it can help you and your business grow. 

Google Workspace for business: the case for small and medium-sized organizations

If you are starting out as an independent contractor or are founding your first business, Google Workspace gives you peace of mind. You never lose data since it is all in the cloud. You don’t have to worry about backups. When it comes time to send a proposal or an invoice to a client, Google Workspace gives you many options integrated right into the browser and mobile apps. 

For businesses with a few employees, Google Workspace provides solid online meeting tools and business social-networking spaces to help keep teams productive beyond the creaky confines of email. Unsurprisingly, Google Workspace also incorporates best-in-class search functions to help you find the content you are looking for within your organization.

Main features and apps

Gmail, Currents, Meet

Gmail is central to the Google Workspace, recently renamed from G Suite, infrastructure. It is the hub of its online identity. But email communications can be frustrating: the reply chains, the copied attachments, the forwarding... It gets noisy and messy. To get around the shortcomings of email, the designers of Google Workspace created a business social networking app called Currents.

In Currents, teams organize conversations around topics and use tags and @mentions to capture the flow of ideas in ways that make it easy for newcomers to get up to speed and find the essential information on a topic, and to retrace how the discussion formed the consensus.

The Gmail web page is also a hub for many of Google Workspace’s other communication tools beyond email. This is a place where you can initiate text chats, audio calls, and video meetings in Hangouts/Meet. You can always access your whole chat, call, and meeting history.

Calendar, Tasks, Keep

Google Workspace comes with Calendar and Tasks apps that are fully integrated with the communication infrastructure. It is easy to view schedules, create appointments, invite participants, and track meeting resources from your desktop or your mobile device.

For quick and easy note taking, Google Workspace has the Keep app. With it you can jot down personal checklists, reminders, meeting notes, and to-do’s. It also integrates with Google Docs, so you can simply drop notes into your more professional documents if necessary. 

For your serious content-generation needs, Google Workspace’s office apps, Docs, Sheets, and Slides, are easy to use and pack all the essential features that get you professional performance without drowning you in a sea of options.

Docs

The Docs word processing engine allows you to create text documents with sophisticated layouts, tables of content, and mathematical equations. You can embed photos from your Google Photos, from your computer, or by URL. You can also insert drawings that you create using the Google Workspace Drawing interface.

Format the size, color, font, and font decoration of your text and then “paint” a given format elsewhere in the document. You can choose among several levels of title and heading paragraph styles. You can also set a given style to update to match the current text formatting.

Slides

A lot of the same formatting controls are available in the Slides presentation app. The app’s library of stock layouts and themes can quickly get you on the way to clean, color-coordinated decks. Slides lets you add speaker notes and set up a live Q&A forum at presentation time.

Sheets

For reports, invoices, budget proposals, and other table-based files, the suite’s Sheets app provides a powerful spreadsheet creation tool. It comes with hundreds of functions to enter formulas. Data can be filtered, sorted, validated, and conditionally formatted. You can create pivot tables and 30 different types of charts. You can record keystrokes and menu selections in macros to automate repetitive steps when creating your spreadsheets.

Sharing

When the time comes to send your work around to coworkers, clients, or fellow contractors, you can stop emailing separate copies to everyone. You simply share the online version.

Google Workspace’s office apps were designed for multi-user simultaneous editing from the ground up. Every user sees what others are working on within the same document in real time. When you are modifying a paragraph or a cell in a sheet, others are locked out from modifying it to avoid edit collisions.

When you send out the invitation to share a document or a sheet, you can set permissions so that some users are merely allowed to read the document while others can give feedback or edit your work. All revisions are tracked and the document’s history can be pulled back at any time.

Mobile apps

On mobile, there is one app for each component of Google Workspace: Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Calendar, Keep, Tasks, Currents, and Hangouts. This creates a feeling of looser integration than in the desktop Chrome browser. But it also means that on mobile you don’t have to download functionality you won’t be needing.

The mobile versions are not quite as fully-featured as the ones in the Chrome browser running on a Windows PC or a Mac. The options for output formats are more limited. Mobile Docs doesn’t allow Column layout or changing list formats. With mobile Sheets, you can’t create pivot tables, randomize ranges, validate data, create macros, or check the spelling. Instead of 30 chart types, you can only insert 20.

The administrator for an organization can manage a few key aspects of every device connecting to their mobile Google Workspace. They can set up mobile device activity alerts and remotely wipe a user’s account data from a mobile device if they have been compromised. They can also enforce password requirements and view all connection activity from mobile devices to their organization's Google Workspace.

The features don’t stop there

In the Chrome browser, Google Docs supports dictation as an input mode. The feature works in over 60 languages. Voice typing, as it is also called, provides a few commands for punctuation and cursor positioning. It works very smoothly in English.

Google Workspace also integrates the Google Translate engine to allow you to machine-translate any document between over 100 different languages. The outcome will have to be proofread if it is to be published, but in some cases, the results are now good enough to be useful.

The online Google office apps include a powerful Script Editor tool with which you can create your own Add-Ons and utility scripts. You can add menu items to the interface. You can display information on a side panel. You can interact with all the other parts of the Google Workspace system from within a document, a sheet, or a presentation.

Google’s Apps Script is based on Javascript with application programming interfaces for Gmail, Calendar, Drive, and even advanced Google artificial intelligence services. The resulting scripts run on Google’s servers. You can even publish a fully-fledged web app through an Apps Script.

If you need to get some of your content from Google Workspace into a simple website that looks good on PCs, tablets, and phones, the Google Sites website builder that is included in Google Workspace provides a drag-and-drop interface that makes it a pleasure to go live with selected content from your Docs, Sheets, Slides, and more.

How Google Workspace stacks up against the competition

The other big online productivity and communication provider is Microsoft, with its newly rebranded Microsoft 365, formerly known as Office 365. The veteran maker of shrink-wrap desktop software has successfully transitioned into a provider of subscription-based online software as a service.

If this section on Google Workspace’s competition didn’t have at least one more entry, I wouldn’t be doing my job. It took me a while to find a cloud-integrated office suite as fully-featured as Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 have become in 2020. But when I did find one, it was a familiar name — it’s just that I’d almost forgotten about them: ZOHO Workspace.

ZOHO launched collaborative, on-line word-processing and spreadsheet apps in the mid-2000s. In a market crowded with barely functional web-residing office apps, they built good apps and survived. Over the years they have expanded their system with CRM, project management, social streaming, bookkeeping, business intelligence, and lots more.

ZOHO lags far behind Google and Microsoft in users. Its numbers are respectable, at 50 million subscribers in April 2020, but that’s barely a quarter of Microsoft 365’s 200 million monthly active users, or a fortieth of Google’s stated 2 billion Google Workspace users. Granted, this probably includes anyone with a Gmail address. Google only recently declared that it had passed 6 million paid Google Workspace accounts.

The packages in the first table are the ones that line up best at the entry tier for small businesses. Google Workspace in its paid version is a business product no matter what the tier. So here, G Suite Basic is the most basic plan for businesses from Google.

Its closest counterpart in the Microsoft world is Business Basic. Microsoft’s entry-level business tier comes without access to the desktop version of the Office apps. Some might see this as a blessing, others as a curse. The web versions are simpler and guarantee cloud synchronization of data and smoother sharing. Yet they are curtailed in their features.

Missing from the Office web versions are the creation of indexes, tables of content, and bibliographies, cover pages, mail merge, equations, watermarks, and, importantly, scripting. Excel for the web can’t open spreadsheets that are more than 50 MB.

One area where Google Workspacee outshines the others is search. Its search feature is powerful, fast, and intuitive. The most relevant results are usually at the top. They are pulled from all the G Suite content that the user is permitted to see, not just from their documents and emails. Microsoft’s and ZOHO’s search functions still don’t inspire the same level of confidence.

Google Workspace StarterMicrosoft 365 Business BasicZOHO Professional
Monthly$6$5$6.30
Storage per user30 GB1 TB Files,
50 GB Email
100 GB Files,
100 GB Email
Maximum File SizeDocs up to 1.02 million characters,
Sheets up to 5 million cells
Docs up to 100 million characters,
Sheets up to 50 MB
Sheets up to 256 columns
Export formatsdocx, xlsx, odt/ods/odp, rtf, txt, pdf, html, tsv/csv, pptx, epub, jpg, png, svgdoc/docx, xls/xlsx, odt/ods/odp, rtf, txt, pdf, html, tsv/csv, ppt/pptx, pps/ppsx, jpgdoc/docx, xls/xlsx, odt/ods/odp, rtf, txt, pdf, html, tsv/csv, ppt/pptx, pps/ppsx, sxi
Plugins Availablehundreds of Add-Ons in the Google Marketplaceover 800 Add-Ins for Word, Excel, PowerPoint,
over 600 for Outlook in the Microsoft 365 marketplace
Main ClientRequires Google Chrome browser for full support on desktop OSesBrowser-based on all desktop OSesBrowser or desktop apps
AutomationForms, Apps Script, Sheets macrosForms, Deluge scripts
2FAemail, authenticator app, USB keySMS, email, authenticator appSMS, voice call, authenticator app
Publish toa website through Google Sites
social media, blogs through Add-Ons

ZOHO’s small-business offerings end there. The next step up their product ladder is an all-inclusive package that adds customer-relations management, company-wide payroll, bookkeeping, analytics, enhanced directory tools, help desk, and more. It is well outside the scope of the offerings we are looking at here and costs over $80 per user per month.

Thus at the next tier, we compare the Google Workspace Business plan with the corresponding Microsoft 365 plan, Business Standard. This plan gives you access to the desktop Office apps.

Compared to the Google apps, the desktop versions of Microsoft’s Office applications offer a slightly greater range of document and spreadsheet creation tools. However, their collaboration features are not as easy to use as those in Google Workspace. Microsoft didn’t design the apps for multi-user editing from the beginning. That’s why collaboration can feel finicky and unintuitive in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Google Workspace Business StandardMicrosoft 365 Business Standard
Monthly$12$12.50
Storage1 TB/user up to 4 users,
Unlimited >4 users
1 TB/user
Export formatsdocx, xlsx, odt/ods/odp, rtf, txt, pdf, html, tsv/csv, pptx, epub, jpg, png, svgdoc/docx, xls/xlsx, odt/ods/odp, rtf, txt, pdf, html, tsv/csv, ppt/pptx, pps/ppsx, jpg/png/gif, mp4/wmv
Main ClientRequires Google Chrome browser for full support on desktop OSesDesktop apps for Windows, Mac
AutomationForms, Apps Script, Sheets macrosForms, Planner, PowerScripts, ScriptLab Javascript/React API
2FAemail, authenticator app, USB keySMS, email, authenticator app
Publish toa website through Google Sites
social media, blogs through Add-Ons

What about security?

Google Workspace’s anti-spam system is so good you forget it’s there sometimes. For well over a decade now, Google has been training its malware-sniffing artificial intelligence on real-world traffic, including its publicly available Gmail service. Most nasties don’t even make it into your vicinity. 

Microsoft has gotten much better at security, all around. However, its desktop clients still succumb to attacks every once in a while. A recent Outlook vulnerability allowed attackers to bypass a security mechanism with a maliciously crafted message.

Microsoft recommends multi-factor authentication be enabled for all its services, but it does not make it easy to use a hardware key. You still have to either go through the trouble of bolting on an external solution or subscribe to their pricey Enterprise tier.

Plans and pricing

Namecheap’s Google Workspace plans start at $6 per user per month for the Starter package in monthly or yearly billing cycles at $72 per year. This includes business email through your own company domain name in the Gmail system. You can sign in via the web interface or the Gmail mobile client. You can also use any IMAP or POP3 mail client if you prefer. 

You can immediately start video and voice conferencing. You get access to smart shared calendars, documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. The Starter plan comes with 30 GB of cloud storage per user. It also includes a basic administration dashboard and security controls.

In addition to Namecheap’s 24/7 email and chat support, there are countless tutorials and resources online from Google to help users and admins make the most of Google Workspace’s many features.

When you hit the limits of your storage on the Starter plan, you just have to upgrade to the Business Standard plan at $12 per user per month to unlock unlimited storage if you have 5 or more users, 1 TB per user if fewer than 4.

The administration controls are beefed up in the Business Standard version. Your administrator can archive emails and chats for the whole organization and set email and chat retention policies at a granular level.

Compliance tools that come with the Business tier include eDiscovery for emails, chats, and files, as well as audit reports to track user activity. These can help your organization automatically navigate the regulatory and legal demands facing your industry.

Conclusion

Staying connected to your clients’ needs is vital to maintaining your competitive edge. Fostering efficient knowledge-sharing and collaboration within your operation is how you translate your talents into a culture of innovation. Your best chance to make this happen is to adopt integrated tools that allow you to communicate effectively across different media and formats.

This is where Google Workspace (G Suite) comes in. The combination of business social tools, video meetings, text chats, and a whole array of office productivity applications topped with the best search in the business offers a powerful yet intuitive way to stay on top of all your communication needs. 

Whether you start fresh or are looking at a migration of existing users and data to Google Workspace from another environment, this is a great time to start.



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