For the better part of a decade, there was simply no alternative to the Microsoft Office suite of applications. If you wanted a document typed up and edited, there was Microsoft Word. If you wanted to tabulate your accounts, you have Microsoft Excel. Make a presentation to clients, use Microsoft PowerPoint. But then came a challenger: Google threw its hat into the ring with Google Docs, promising multi-user collaboration, e-mail integration and cloud access. Which works better for a business: Microsoft Word or Google Docs?

The Case for Office

Microsoft Office is the mainstay of any productivity software set. While not immediately intuitive to a beginner user, the programs allow for a wide range of functions and tasks. Microsoft Office, for example, lets a business churn out anything from simple documents to mass mailers, print booklets, and even integrates objects from Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint.

Perhaps a key advantage of Microsoft Office is that, unlike its cloud-based competitors, the applications function just fine with a lack of Internet access. In the event of a connectivity problem, no one can say they can’t work because the WiFi is down. No business will lose valuable data because there was a server error before changes could be saved. No company need fear unauthorized access to their cloud servers. Data is kept local and centralized, assuaging many concerns about security and fidelity.

The Case for Google

But what does Google Docs offer? Cloud access, for one thing, meaning an employee can edit his or her documents from anywhere – work, home, a hotel, or an Internet cafe, without having to haul a company laptop from location to location. Collaborative editing enables a number of people to simultaneously work on a document (and communicate with others in real-time) without multiple versions being e-mailed back and forth across the office.

Maybe one of the biggest scores in favor of Google Docs is that it costs $0 to download, install, implement and repair. Microsoft Office 2013 Professional Plus, on the other hand, is almost $500. Microsoft programs have been notoriously difficult to upgrade, the process often taking time and demanding interactions from users who may not be computer-savvy. Since Google Docs is entirely online, updates are much more seamless, and often happen without a user’s immediate knowledge.

Google Drive or Microsoft Office?

However, when it comes down to it, which is better for business? The pendulum swings slightly in favor of Google Docs on this one. While Microsoft’s Office suite may be the industry standard for many organizations, Google is moving much faster than the industry. Google Docs (now a part of Google Drive) is a lot more simple and basic than the all-encompassing range of functions that Microsoft offers in its Office programs, but this may help more than it hinders: too many employees have become lost in Office’s myriad options, features and less-than-straightforward Help sections. Google Docs, on the other hand, is much more intuitive and user-friendly, and the simplicity it offers may be the way forward for businesses.