G Suite is Google’s flagship hosted email, collaboration, and productivity suite. The Basic edition includes access to the familiar email, calendar, video conferencing, and document editing apps, but there’s an important difference in storage. While the Basic edition has a sizeable 30 gigabytes (GB), Google G Suite Business (the edition we reviewed, which is priced at $10 per user per month) offers unlimited storage for your team, with added security and file management features not available in the Basic edition. While the business edition is a bit pricey when compared to Editors’ Choice winner Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium, its depth of features will still make it worth evaluating for most organizations.
Google G Suite Business also boasts a 99.978 percent uptime for its email service, which is often a necessary metric for companies that rely not just on Gmail but the rest of G Suite for their productivity operations. After all, having a service go down usually means not having access to your day-to-day office software, especially in the case of web-based apps. By using multiple Google data centers, which are comprised of even more redundant systems, it’s a fairly safe bet that your data is resistant to loss. A free 14-day trial is available on their website.
Getting started is a simple process, about on par with Amazon WorkMail. Once you have entered in the basics, including administrator contact information and the size of your company, you will need to associate a domain with your account. If you have access, then Google requires that you add a text (TXT), Mail eXchange (MX), or Canonical NAME (CNAME) record to your domain to verify that you are the rightful owner. You will also need to point your MX records to Google’s mail servers. If you purchase your domain through Google, then you can save some steps here. Creating users can be done one by one or by importing a CSV file. Sadly, users cannot be created via Active Directory (AD) sync, but details can be matched up after the fact if the admin is willing to do some manual work.
When it comes to using email, your users will find that the Gmail user interface (UI) is both straightforward and familiar if they’ve ever seen or used the Basic edition. Email appears along the right-hand side, grouping email into Read and Unread. The general flow places a focus on archiving mail that’s been dealt with to get it out of the way. It lends itself well to a “zero-inbox” approach, something I love. Other Google G Suite users are visible along the left-hand side at the bottom where they’re easily accessible for chat, phone calls, or video conferences. Nothing in the UI is overbearing, and nearly everything you want to do is buried no more than a page or two down. If, for whatever reason, you find that the UI isn’t to your liking, then you can always enable Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) and use your favorite email client. If I had a major complaint with email, it’s that there is no built-in way to send encrypted emails, like you can do with Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium. This is becoming not only more and more common, but often a requirement, especially in larger IT shops.
While Gmail is the highlight of Google G Suite, there are plenty of other ways to collaborate with your team. Google Hangouts lets you engage in video conferencing as well as share your screen to solve problems collectively and run remote meetings. If your organization standardizes on Google Calendar, then you can also combine that and Google Hangouts to manage conference room resources. It’s also possible to edit documents in real time with other team members,. However, Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium and a number of competitors that have built their own email hosting services by reselling MicrosoftOffice 365, such as web hosting provider, GoDaddy Web Hosting, can also boast all of these features. One of the major challenges with any email system is that email itself is an objectively terrible form of communication. Google has made sure to provide enough alternate channels of communication to ensure that whatever the conversation is, you will be able to choose an appropriate medium in which to conduct it.
Calendars were the one component with which I had issue. For the most part, Google’s calendars are intuitive. But when receiving invites from a Microsoft Exchange server, I noticed some significant formatting issues in some cases, and even location and cancellation errors when receiving Google invites or updates into Microsoft Outlook. That’s probably because synchronizing your calendar with Outlook (or Mozilla’s Thunderbird for that matter) can’t be done without relying on a third-party plug-in.
The Microsoft Office-style apps also have a lot to offer. Google Docs delivers a writing, spreadsheets, and presentation app where all facets support collaborative editing. This is a fantastic feature for situations that require working on larger documents in a team setting. While it’s still not perfect, there is also a high-level compatibility with standard Microsoft Office formats. While the Sheets app tends to diverge a little bit with some of the more advanced features, most of the basics are there and supported.
Privacy and Security
Gmail has been known for its fine spam-filtering capabilities since its inception. Google G Suite Business in no way detracts from this well-deserved reputation. Throughout testing, I never once had a single spam email get through, though I have seen a few rare instances in which spam did get inappropriately flagged. In those cases, it’s an easy fix to recategorize the spam as legitimate. Gmail figures out the rest, ensuring that the sender is whitelisted in the future.
There is also a sophisticated anti-phishing capability. If an email is suspected of being a phishing scam, then it’s clearly indicated in a warning across the top of the email that the link in question is suspicious. While you could still click through, it isn’t without due process and seeing one or more warnings indicating a potentially fraudulent page. This is extended even further if you use Google’s Chrome to access the Google G Suite apps because it adds additional safe-browsing features.
When it comes to user privacy, Google has something of a checkered past, as it used to have a reputation for mining metadata in its consumer products and then using that information to create vast advertising revenue. However, Google says these practices ended back in July 2017. The company also claims it’s never mined data from the Google G Suite Business tier of products, which is probably true as Google is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and will sign a BSA to that effect if required. In addition, Google’s data center for Google G Suite is compliant with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001, SOC 2, and SOC 3 Type 2.
On the plus side, Google boasts a large number of third-party integrations. However, when compared to its privacy promises, that obviously means that some data sharing will take place. How much, however, is largely under your control, though that control really amounts to deciding whether or not you want to integrate with a particular app. It then becomes a “buyer beware” scenario in which it’s just a best practice to stay fully informed about how information will flow and how it will be shared in a particular integration scenario, and then weigh that reality against the benefits gained.
To help, Google has a rich developer application programming interface (API) available and many organizations have taken advantage of this. The G Suite Marketplace has a wealth of integration options available, including DocuSign, Freshdesk, Salesforce, among many others. If you hunt long and hard enough, you can typically find your favorite app in the list.
Overall, Google G Suite Business is everything you have come to expect from Google. It’s sleek, easy to use, secure, and robust. It’s also very difficult to beat their anti-spam and anti-phishing capabilities, and they have had an excellent track record in making good on their 99.978 percent uptime. While I can’t classify Google G Suite Business as the best in all categories, it’s certainly an excellent candidate in both productivity apps and email hosting. It’s worth a hard look when choosing a path for your organization.