Google Workspace, formerly known as GSuite, remains one of the top business-class email hosting choices. You get a maximum of 300 users, a hefty 2TB of cloud storage per user, 150 participant video meetings with recordings through Google Meet, and the suite of Google tools that make the platform so popular including Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and of course Gmail. Workspace isn’t better than Microsoft 365 Business Premium, but it’s a first-class alternative that joins that platform as well as Intermedia Hosted Exchange in earning our Editors’ Choice designation.
Google Workspace Pricing and Plans
Google Workspace starts at $12 per user per month for the Business Standard edition we tested. Besides the features mentioned above, the package includes hosting for video meetings with up to 150 participants and dedicated management and security tools for IT administrators. A free 14-day trial is available on the Google website.
If that’s too rich for your blood, there’s a Business Starter plan that runs only $6 per user per month. This also includes access to the Workplace productivity suite, though with some feature disparities, such as a cap of 100 participants in video meetings and no noise cancellation feature. Also, file storage is reduced to 30GB per user.
Overall, Google Workspace is a good value but only because it includes one of the leading online productivity suites. If you compare it to our lowest-cost competitor, IceWarp Cloud, Google’s offering certainly looks expensive—IceWarp’s lowest tier starts at just $2.50 per user per month and even its mid-tier package only raises that to $3.90. Then again, IceWarp’s productivity suite lags far behind the capabilities of Workspace and its next-closest productivity competitor, Microsoft 365.
During the sign-up process, you’re required to supply a domain name. I have mixed feelings about this being such a prominent and in-your-face item, since setting up a domain tends to be somewhat painful the first time you do it. However, Google provides enough instruction that experienced IT pros shouldn’t have too much trouble handling it. Once you’ve added the appropriate information and verified your domain, you’re off to the races.
Unfortunately, I was not able to test the account management piece due to the restrictions on my test account, but it’s done through the same application where you set up a domain (called Google Domains). Permissions can then be set to reflect whether you’re adding a standard user or an administrator. You can also customize specific roles in case you don’t want to give every administrator the keys to the kingdom.
Much of Google’s magic is in how little you actually need to configure, but you still get the same kinds of options you do elsewhere. Policies, quarantines, and retention policies are all fair game, though I wasn’t able to do much testing of them due to my account’s restrictions.
Email Client and Collaboration Tools
While Workspace extends to a large set of tools, the most popular one is probably Gmail. Love it or hate it, the interface is intuitive and modern, with nearly everything you want to see on screen. Hangouts, meetings, and your email are in quick reach along with the rest of Google’s Apps menu. Google has paid attention to the details of a typical workflow and understands that a lot of us live in our email. Because of this, the most popular items like Google Chat, Tasks, and Google Meet are quickly accessible from the same screen.
When you need to open an attached document, you click to save it to Google Drive and start working on it. If needed, you can share that document with others, and work at the same time. Combine this with Google Meet and Jamboard for whiteboarding, and you’ve got a great toolset for remote work, with the ability to quickly share ideas and get traction on your documents at the same time. For those who need to level up on collaboration, Google Chat allows you to create virtual rooms that let you have threaded conversations with shared files and tasks, similar to Microsoft Teams.
Google has some unique mail features, too. One of the most annoying aspects of email is the person who can never remember to reply. Gmail has the ability to “nudge” someone about an untouched message as a reminder to get them back on track. This seems like it would be an effective strategy for folks that only look at things at the top of their inbox.
Calendaring has also undergone a significant upgrade. As in Microsoft 365 Business Premium, calendar entries can be public or private so only the right level of information is available to your coworkers. I especially liked the automatic message you can set right from the calendar when marking yourself as out of the office. There’s also a one-click option for adding Google Meet video conferencing to a meeting. Of course, as with nearly all other calendar apps, you can set reminders at a specific time, or repeating reminders if you’re prone to snooze alerts as I am.
Perhaps one of the most useful features is the appointment slots component. Sometimes you and your team have a busy schedule, and it’s hard to find a time when everyone can meet. You can hand Google Calendar a meeting length and a set of participants, and it will try to pick the best time for you. This only works, of course, if everyone keeps their calendars up-to-date.
Google Workspace Security and Integration
Google’s data centers are some of the best in the world. In addition to being geographically distributed, they’ve completed all of the relevant SOC audits and meet all necessary standards to ensure that your data is safe. While this doesn’t mean that an attacker couldn’t steal your password and read your email, it does mean that nobody is going to be breaking down Google’s data center door so they can steal your server’s hard drives.
On the software side of things, Google supports several forms of two-factor authentication, and the website states that data is “encrypted when it’s stored on disk, stored on backup media, or traveling between data centers.” New to the service is the ability to send secure emails, which adds additional legitimacy to Google’s growing presence in business. For those that aren’t on Google’s platform, you’ll get a hyperlink that will ask you to validate with a passcode to view the email’s contents. This is very similar to Microsoft 365’s secure email feature.
In terms of integration, Google Workspace, much like its Microsoft counterpart, is well integrated with a wide variety of products and services, including all the popular ones, like Slack and Salesforce. It’s almost more surprising to find a service that isn’t integrated with Google than one that is.
Everything You Need for Email Hosting
Google Workspace has everything you need for a productive office environment, both on-premises or for employees working remotely. Plus, since there are so many folks that are already used to using Gmail for their personal correspondence, it’s not much of a jump to move to the business edition. With the added video conferencing, document editing, and collaboration tools included, Workspace is a strong competitor to Microsoft 365 Business Premium at just over half the cost.
The only real drawback is the lack of 100% compatibility with Microsoft Office documents. This really applies mainly to Excel and for certain data-centric operations, but as long as you have to pull out Microsoft’s software for something, Google Workspace will never totally replace that suite, though the online giant is constantly working to refine that process. For this reason, Google Workspace stands as a close runner-up to Microsoft 365 Business Premium but joins it as an Editors’ Choice award winner for bargain hunters.