Hello Folks. I have a client, a church of about 3000 in weekly attendance, that is on the brink of migrating most operations to the cloud. I’ve done this for a number of other clients, with O365 being my platform of choice. In this case, “shadow IT”, with folks using personal Google accounts (with admin approval) had become a real issue. Since we have an all MS backend, with AD/Exchange currently set up in hybrid mode with O365, that would be my preferred direction. Also, we would have to pay for Gsuite anyway, as we can’t make use of the non-profit version.
However, leadership is still leaning towards Google, though the discussion is still open. What they would really like is to be able to talk to some folks who use one platform or the other at a similar-sized (or larger) church, and really like it. I was just wondering if anybody out there would be willing to spend a few minutes talking with our leadership team about your preferred platform?
Our church, not quite as big, uses O365 and find it works well. The school I work at uses GSuite, and it also works well, especially because of the education features included for schools.
The most important issue is to pick one and eliminate the shadow IT and explain the need for a standardized platform, including any cost comparison. The most difficult problem I faced when migrating our church to a new ChMS and eliminating shadow IT was that most employees have never worked for a larger organization and always turned to familiar consumer tools for business functions.
Also, some functions the staff wanted to use other services for are now available in our ChMS (CCB).
Hey Joel! We are just ahead of you - around 5000 weekly across 6 campuses. We have kind of a hybrid solution - we are heavy Gsuite users (mail, docs, sheets, etc), but also put O365 on most machines so people can use Excel, Word, Powerpoint or whatever if they want. I believe our non-profit cost for O365 is $3/user/month, which is not too much. In reality 90+% of what we do is in Gsuite.
Absolutely agree with Greg - it is important to pick a path and stick with it, starting with lead team approval. As a related example, we wound up migrating off of Dropbox last year, moving everything to Google Drive. Besides the cost savings, as a nice bonus, we were able to institutionalize a shared drive structure and most important artifacts are getting saved in that structure.
I would be happy to speak with your LT if that would be helpful.
Joel, we also are a church of similar size and we migrated back in 2010 to Google Apps (now G-Suite) and have never looked back. Since 2010 the tools to manage G-Suite have gotten better and better as have their offerings. We have no plan to leave anytime in the near future. We did provide old versions of Office, for those who just can’t handle change (our “Excel evangelist” just retired last year,) but most of our staff is now fully comfortable and happy with the move. As are we as an IT team.
As has been said, the key is to pick something and then go with it. They are both quality tools, but have different approaches and ways of doing things. You just have to adapt to that platform. My concern would be if you take a group wanting G-Suite and push them toward O365, you’ll always be dealing with “what if…” You need to get buy-in one way or the other. Just my opinion
Several additional thoughts, since Excel was mentioned:
Find out what you need locally installed for applications. The apps in O365 and GSuite have rather basic features compared to local Excel, Word, etc. You may still need local installs of Office, especially for Excel.
The choice of your online suite should focus on collaboration, document/folder structure, and email features, including setting up email groups for staff.
GSuite is better about downloading an online document to different formats, and easier for multiple users to edit a document.
You may also want to evaluate each suite on a tablet and phone, since some staff may mostly work on mobile devices.
O365 is better if you want the option to open a file online or in a local install.
Another important point for the staff is that use of personal email accounts for church business should be replaced by accounts in the church name.
It seems to me the real issue is identity management. The “pick G-Suite OR Office 365” seems like going back to the “PC OR Mac” mindset. Technically, you can have both.
We’ve had G-Suite/Google Apps apps since they came out, but just recently integrated it with our Azure AD. It wasn’t that hard to do. Now users can log into Google sheets with their normal Outlook username and password. I’m hoping to have everyone off of their @gmail.com logins for sharing this year.
It does make sense to me to choose either Exchange or Gmail for an email delivery standard. We have some departments using Gmail and it’s doable, but not ideal. The spam filter in Gmail is better than Outlook 365.
Thanks folks. Some good comments so far. Much appreciated.
To expand further, the environment is pretty well developed, with Exchange (locally hosted at the moment), but set up in a hybrid config with Office 365. The accounts are synced with Azure AD, and as Brendan suggested, I have some test Google accounts set up to authenticate against Azure AD.
While its fairly easy to directly compare the typical office apps and their google counterparts (Excel vs sheets, etc.), I see so much potential with Teams, Planner, PowerBI, and a number of the other Office 365 applications. I’ve seen these leveraged quite extensively at other clients. A couple of folks suggested a mixed environment, but I suspect that in such a case, it would be difficult to really leverage the advanced functionality of either suite to its fullest potential.
Are any of you using some of the other O365 apps, like Teams, Planner, Flow, Forms, PowerApps, PowerBI, Video, Stream, etc.? I see these as having huge potential.
Have you thought about a SSO through SAML? I’m not 100% sure what our school is using but they have O365 and Clever to allow easy access to sites through the Sign in with Google buttons. We had help setting it up but basically their O365 and Azure AD credentials get them into Google as well. If you want to know more, I can put you in contact with our school IT guy.
So many great comments on this topic, we have fully embraced to O365 suite including Teams, Sharepoint, even a couple of powerapps and flows figuring we might as well take full advantage of a very inexpensive solution. One thing I have noticed is that Microsoft is getting better and better every month. When we first migrated from on-prem 2 years ago we had all sorts of issues with onedrive, collaborative documents, email rules etc. but now with consistent updates we have very few “Microsoft” problems outside of training issues and end user mistakes. Onedrive is rock solid and “Files on Demand” is an absolute life saver for storage issues and ease of sharing. They have also done a great job of making everything work cross-platform, we are a mixed organization of Mac, PC, iOS, and Android and are able to train easily and effectively because of the similarities.
Thanks for all your great responses. I may reach out to a couple of folks to see if they’d be willing to have an informal chat with our lead team. As I reflected, I came up with a question for those churches who are using G-Suite. I assume that a number of the churches using G-Suite signed up before Google introduced their discrimination clause in the eligibility criteria.
So, would you still select G-Suite over O365 if you had to pay full price for the Google product?
That is the situation we’re in. With the upcoming G-Suite pricing changes, that would put Basic at $6 vs O365 E3 for Nonprofits at $4.50. G-Suite Business Edition, which is a closer match to E3, will be $12.
What I’m getting from one or two people on our lead team is that they really value the simplicity of G-Suite, especially for a few non tech-savvy users. While I agree this is valid to a degree, I feel we may forgo a lot of the great products and features available to us (for less $) that would be of value to the rest of the team, to cater to two or three users.
Well said, Joel. You’re exactly right when you said that we signed up
before the discrimination clause and have not had to, to continue to use
the product. Having read many of the responses in this thread, I would be
hard pressed not to go with MS. The cost is lower, the features seem to be
really robust… However, your leadership-team people are correct from my
experience in that there is a simplicity to G-Suite that has made our
onboarding process pretty easy especially with the younger generation, and
things just seem to work with minimal admin involvement. Not an easy
My encouragement is to trust God to work through you and the leadership of
your church to guide you towards the right decision for your organization
and not allow this decision to bring in bitterness or other such things
that don’t reflect the fruit of the Spirit. God’s glory and power are much
bigger than either MS or Google and he can work with either one I’m sure
Thanks for initiating this great discussion. Grace and peace to you.
A couple of years ago, I would have picked G-Suite (even paid) hands down. Today, I’d go with O365/Azure. The Church IT world just loves Microsoft and almost every “church” product or service is designed with Microsoft integration in mind. Azure is also a heck of a lot easier for non-programmers to figure out than Google Cloud.
It has probably helped that G-Suite is really good and the competition is motivating MS to improve all the time. It also helps to know that Microsoft isn’t subsidizing their products by mining user data to sell ads.
Thought I would jump back in on this topic, since I am once again fighting with M$$ trying to get the free Office 365 A1 licenses working for our school so we can use the built in Immersive Reading features. All M$$ gives me is endless loops of not working, from “support” staff who give instructions that do not work.
If you want lots of features, go with O365; if you want features that actually work, go with GSuite.