Cloud-hosted services square up

Running your business requires choosing the right tools for you and your employees. In order to streamline work-related productivity, many organizations are migrating to cloud-based office suites—specifically, Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google’s G Suite (formally known as Google Apps).

Both products boast a variety of helpful productivity tools and the latest remote collaboration technologies. While it’s impossible to say which one is “better,” this head-to-head comparison can help you decide which office suite is a better fit for your business.

What are G Suite & Office 365?

Office 365 and G Suite are suites, or packages, of powerful business tools that facilitate you and your employees day-to-day tasks using the cloud. They even provide business email addresses (i.e. name@yourbusiness.com), along with apps for creating documents, spreadsheets, presentations, video conference calls, shared calendars and notes.  

In addition, storing information on Google or Microsoft servers, rather than your own via these suites, can also save your business a lot of money when it comes to IT costs and maintenance.  

Plans and Pricing

First, let’s look at plans and prices. It’s important to note that Microsoft requires an annual commitment, while Google offers you the option to make monthly payments if you prefer.

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Cloud packages head-to-head

Email

While both Office 365 and G Suite offer web and mobile apps (Outlook and Gmail, respectively) for email, there are some subtle differences.

One plus-side to Office 365 is the desktop version of Outlook, which is incredibly feature-rich and lets you sort and group emails with ease. Gmail, on the other hand, is widely used throughout the world. For this reason, a variety of third-party app options (like WordPress) can be linked to it to enhance its capabilities.

Cloud Data Storage

For the entry level plans, Office 365 Business Essentials wins out with 1 TB (terabyte) of storage per user, while the G Suite Basic plan only offers 30 GB. To make matters worse, G Suite includes emails in this storage limit, whereas Office 365 provides extra storage for email files and has an added archiving feature.

However, G Suite’s upgraded plans beat out most of Microsoft’s storage offerings. So long as your business has more than five employees, G Suite Business and Enterprise provides unlimited cloud storage (although, businesses with less than 5 employees on the “Business” plan are capped at 1 TB). Only Microsoft E3 plans and higher offer the same unlimited cloud storage.

Applications

Applications are the cornerstones of a suite’s functionality. G Suite and Office 365 offer you a variety of comparable apps for word processing, creating spreadsheets and presentations, all on the cloud!

While both services offer mobile and online apps, one major benefit of Office 365 is its desktop applications.

This means every user gets a free desktop version of the Office suite (i.e. Microsoft Word, Excel) to download.

These feature-rich apps expand far beyond the capabilities of the mobile and online versions, and are available on every plan except the ‘Business Essentials’.

Collaboration

These online applications make both suites ideal for remote collaboration. Microsoft Teams lets facilitates this with tools like real-time co-authoring, mentioning users by name and chat capabilities while working on OneDrive. Microsoft now lets you collaborate using its desktop apps, too, although the updates to shared files are a bit sluggish compared to its online apps.

Similarly, G Suite offers Hangouts for chats, and Google Drive for real-time collaboration. Google’s online and mobile apps were created with cloud collaboration in mind, so some might find them a bit more user-friendly.

For remote meetings, G Suite and Office 365 both offer group video conference calls. If you plan on large-scale video conferences, then Office 365 offers far more for your money: most plans have a 250-participant limit, while the E3 plan increases to an astounding 10,000-person limit.

Meanwhile, G Suite’s Google Meet allows up to 25 participants on the “Basic” plan, 50 on the “Business” plan and 100 on the “Enterprise” plan.  

Security

Cloud services are running into a variety of security issues, and these suites are no exception.

A 2019 Barracuda Networks’ report found that a large percent of ATO (account takeover) attacks were targeted at Microsoft Office 365 accounts after businesses migrated emails to the service. These attacks prompted the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to issue a set of best practices to help organizations migrate their email services while avoiding risks and vulnerabilities.

Meanwhile, Google recently announced that a cloud storage feature for encrypted passwords on its “Enterprise” plans was faulty. As a result, some user passwords were stored in plaintext on Google’s servers!

While cloud computing has its risks, the two suites do have impressive security features. G Suite is comparable to Google’s own level of security, and offers AI detection of suspicious activity, Two-Factor authentication and data leak protection—in which admins can block outgoing communication determined by set keywords.

On the other hand, Office 365 has the option of Multiple Factor Authentication, along with detection of malware, viruses and suspicious activities. Microsoft also provides data loss protection, and admins can restrict access to company-issued devices only.

Ease of Use

So, which is easier to use? Well, it depends on who you are, and your ability to grasp software quickly.

If you’re accustomed to working with MS Word or Excel documents, and edit them for work on a regular basis, then Office 365 and its desktop-to-online formatting compatibility will probably be your best bet. This is especially true if your company solely computes with Windows PCs.

However, new users might find G Suite apps easier to learn, as the tools are a bit simpler and straightforward.

Which is best for you? A Summary:

Some key benefits of each suite: Firstly, Office 365 offers feature-rich apps, and most of its plans come with desktop version of MS Office applications—a definite advantage over its competitors.

Its entry level plan is far more generous in terms of data storage than G Suite’s “Basic” plan. In addition, businesses that already exclusively use Windows technology are likely to find Office 365 better-suited for their needs.

With that said, G Suite was originally designed as a cloud collaborative productivity tool. Therefore, its features might be easier for collaboration and can be used among a wider variety of Windows and Mac devices. In addition, G Suite “Business” plans and above outdoes Microsofts’ when it comes to unlimited cloud file storage.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which of the two is “best.” But, with this knowledge in mind, you can make an informed decision to choose the best cloud suite for you.

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Get a vault for your data!

It’s not often that we readily endorse a product or company. However, when the nature of work they engage in is considered ground-breaking and has a positive impact on our lives – it most certainly warrants a mention.

The rationale for considering such tech-driven projects as highly significant is neither due to ‘gut feeling’. Nor that it is simply fascinating and therefore must be an excellent product. This project actually has a value proposition for you!

We are indeed well into the information age and while we have written extensively about data, its importance to marketers and its fragility when used and abused by unscrupulous third-parties for their financial gain.

The issue of data security is however, quite a serious issue. You just need to pay attention to the news to become even more aware.

 

Data breach incidents

In Europe, the where security is supposedly more advanced, we have seen the likes of renowned airline British Airways, being hacked. Several hundreds of thousands of customers’ personal data compromised.

These were followed by hacks on other major airlines such as Cathay Pacific.  Aside from airlines, other business outfits have suffered a similar fate.

The perpetrators are getting a lot more brazen and very recently, a cable car, used as public transport in Moscow was hacked, leaving vulnerable passengers terrified and stuck high up in the air. And this probably to the amusement of the pranksters (hackers).  

Can you imagine the chaos and commotion that would be caused if their control systems of driverless cars were to be hacked? 

The digital intrusions get even more sophisticated.

This time, affecting the very wealthy:  private yachts are now being hacked and taken into the pirate waters, all via uniquely coded signals, reading data from their antennas!

 

Data security 

On the issue of data security, you often hear about extra protection but not just anti-virus and anti-phishing software. The more secure and heavily encrypted Blockchain technology is, however, making waves in the digital sphere.

It is mainly for the escalation of its once shining star by-product designed for discreet transacting – the Bitcoin.

Blockchain technology has also triggered several other technologies based on its digital cryptology technology to ensure that your information is kept safe from prying eyes while stored, used or transferred online.

Blockchain products such as cryptocurrencies, however, are not completely safe from hackers!

 

A solution

Zortrex400x400The company we chose to highlight uses a unique vault system and is called Zortrex. It has adopted one of such Blockchain technologies dubbed tokenization. It will be using it to ensure that highly sensitive data online is kept safe.

“Our tokenised solution would have protected their customers’ personal identification information (PII) details. Instead the hackers ran off with the date of birth; passport numbers; financial data etc,” says Susan Brown, Chairperson of Zortrex – relating to the British Airways incident.

 

Tokenization is the process of converting rights to real-world assets into a digital token on a blockchain.

Brown’s background in data privacy systems as well as her devoted passion for the protection of PII, financial and healthcare data led her to start up and chair Zortrex. 

 

The law

“Companies have disrespected your data for over 25 years, and if left unattended, there will be nothing left to protect,” Browns says.

Thanks to new laws like the European GDPR law which is now imposing the data protection, data breaches and abuse of customer data is now met with hefty financial penalties.

Companies now think twice about consent and how to use and share your data digitally. But is it enough? The simple answer is no.  

The authorities just do not have the resources to investigate every complaint nor to actively enforce all data breaches – yet.

We have ingeniously invented systems that automatically align with financial messaging, payments and securing information. All of which require data. 

“However, we should and need to go a step further to secure all the PII details with tokenisation so that in the event of a hack, the cookies and trackers will only be following a ‘useless’ token as there is no real identification on it,” Brown explains.

Zortrex would naturally like to tokenise all healthcare data so that vulnerable people living outside of major cities can also feel assured that their privacy is protected.

In a previous blog, we wrote about the new Internet of things (IoT). All those devices being built for it. They would all need  their IP addresses and the serial numbers tokenised for instance.

 

Using Blockchain

The application of the all-powerful blockchain is not limited to use in the financial sector and will be applied via the supply chain to all industries that deal with data – especially the most sensitive ones.

An angel investor or any investor for that matter looking to get onto the next best thing since Amazon would therefore be unwise to pass up the opportunity to back the Zortrex venture given its scope.

Furthermore, regulations are currently being implemented primarily in the pharmaceutical sector.

A tokenised supply chain such as what Zortrex offers would be ideal for this new law which is planned to be implemented by 2023.  A judiciary blockchain, for instance, would enable the police to “talk” to the prison service,  who in turn, will communicate with the legal sector or public health institutions (NHS).

Forensic evidence would in such instances be tokenised and kept secure (away from tampering) during legal hearings.  In another practical scenario, Smart Contracts (which are touted to replace lawyers) can spark off legal aid assistance.

You court cases will be heard quicker and be more efficient.  Protection registers can also be protected with tokenisation rendering it more secure.

Blockchain technology offers quality assurance making sure that no shortcuts are taken. The smart contracts specifically, trigger any possible malfeasance.

This will enable the monitoring and tracking of any data sharing to third parties once it is tokenised. The third party apps would only gain access to the data once the trigger has been activated.

Like other pioneers and visionaries, Brown’s futuristic hope that every child being born will have their name, date of birth, blood type data being tokenised, might seem farfetched. However, given the nature and rise of data breaches it is evidently necessary.

Zortrex wants to use their technology to put the hackers out of business! 

Tokenisation cannot be mathematically reversed and thus it will least it will stop the hackers for a while.

Scalability

For such high ambitions, the creators of Zortrex’s software have adequately ensured that the technology used is fully scalable. One stumbling block many Blockchain projects now face is what is referred to as scalability – which in tech terms, is the ability of a network or software to grow and manage increased demand.

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Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum specifically – which is used to build a lot of Distributed Applications, however, have massive scalability issues.

The growth in demand for DApps is crippling those systems. They need to investigate the incorporation of alternative technologies, upgrade or split their platforms to cope with such high demand.

Someone must take the first step in securing this data forever. You should be able to purchase what you want without being harassed by trackers and cookies.

The need for tokenisation is endless and further, down the line, celebrities and government official’s PII can be secured by it to protect them from damaging schemes, ‘bad press’ and scandals.

In a previous blog, we “prophesized” that data is the new commodity – like gold or oil. However, the actual value with that data will lie in its privacy, the ability to store it securely and unlock it only with legal permission by its rightful owner.

3D Copy and Print

The bizarre-sounding digital copying phenomena called 3D-printing has been mulling around from the past.  Recently, it has been in the limelight; specifically in the press for the wrong reasons.

In 2013, a University of Texas law student, Cody Wilson created a blueprint for a single-shot 3D-printed handgun, named “The Liberator”.

Of recent, guns have posed a serious threat to peaceful living when in the wrong hands. But what if anyone could hastily manufacture them unsupervised,  from the comfort of your home?

Defense Distributed, Wilson’s company had been distributing downloadable weapons plans for free. This would be great if it was planned for building something more useful to society.

Point is, with this new device, you can literally make a 3D copy of any imaginable object – even food!

3D printing builds parts (mostly out of plastic or other synthetics) based on the central concept: a digital model like a CAD drawing (Computer Assisted Drawing).

This is turned into a physical three-dimensional object by adding material a layer at a time. This is where the formal name for 3D printing, Additive Manufacturing arises.

The actual device is no bigger than a normal Deskjet or heavy duty paper printer and is quite a marvel to watch in action.

3D printing is a fundamentally different way of producing parts compared to traditional subtractive (CNC machining) or formative (Injection moulding) manufacturing technologies.

The brands

Some of the top 3D printing brands include MakerBot, XYZprinting, Formlabs and LulzBot and you can pick them up from as little as $200 to $4000.

The price naturally depends on the product size, material, complexity and level of detail you need.

The most expensive if you are into heavy-duty manufacturing would, therefore, set you back a cool $2,500,000  for the Imprimere’s Model 2156.

Application in the world

Since its uptake in as far back as 2010, a lot of the products already in use are manufactured using 3D printing.  You will find its application mostly in the medical and dental industry and used for custom prosthetics, implants, and dental aids.

They are used to manufacture of high-level sporting gear – tailored to fit athletes perfectly. There is then, of course, the ability for you to ‘print’ fashion accessories.

This would give you more flexibility when it comes to your specific style, colour and fabric/material.

Some of the advantages of using these machines include:
  • Speed: You can upload complex designs from a CAD model and print in a matter of hours.
  • You have more design freedom. It gives you complete customization of designs.
  • It is more eco-friendly: Additive manufacturing methods use only the material needed to build a part. The raw materials can be recycled and re-used.
  • Costs: compared to traditional manufacturing, the labour costs for a 3D printer are almost zero.

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Image source: 3DHubs

For a more comprehensive comparison of 3D Printers available to you (hopefully not to build weapons), look at the 3D Printing index on the resources page.

Here is a list of cool things to create with a 3D printer if you are looking for great ideas for Xmas or birthdays – this might just be it!

Digital Fundraising

The latest abbreviation in finance and crypto-world is ‘ICO’. A word that gives both local and global financial authorities like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nightmares for several reasons.

Not to be confused with Initial Public Offering (IPO) which is used by firms to raise cash through the issuing of shares to the public. An ICO (Initial Coin Offering) serves the same function and works like crowdfunding , but for digital currency and tokens only.

We recently covered a feature on raising funds and capital for a business but missed out on one relatively new method. More and more companies are using ICOs to raise capital for their businesses.250x250

The concept of an ICO works similarly to how a company raises capital through shares in that it is all based on contrived value.

Funding raising in effect boils down to sales! If your actual product or service has nothing substantial or intrinsic to offer a client base, then it is nothing more than a scam.

Launching an ICO is quite easy, and to an extent, many tech companies are now catching onto it.

An ICO is the cryptocurrency space’s rough equivalent to an IPO in the investment world. ICOs act as fundraisers of sorts; a company looking to create a new coin, app, or service launches an ICO — Investopedia.

If you still do not believe it is possible, just listen to this testament from someone who did it after unsuccessfully knocking on doors of conventional funders – the angel investors, venture capitalists and banks.

The alarming spurt rate of ICOs often brings with it a scourge of potential scammers. The SEC and other institutions have to step in to monitor and regulate them.

Social media Platforms like Facebook and Google – which house a bounty of users (potential investors) have banned ICOs ads due to possible prey on unsuspecting investors; exposing them to con artists.

Basically, the scammers use fancy websites, laden with impressive figures and terminology to con users into buying into their coins or tokens.

Though the tokens barely even cost a cent, it adds up if they have millions of people buying in.  Once they have reached a certain amount in funding – they close shop and disappear!

Hypothetically speaking if one wanted to create a new coin called ‘DebunqedCoin’, these are the steps:
  • Create a product concept or Business Plan for the coin or what is called a Whitepaper. This describes in great detail what the coin or token aims to do; the core technologies behind it; the team and their qualifications; the product’s lifecycle/growth path etc.

  • Once completed and water-tight, the whitepaper would be submitted along with an application to one of the best Cryptocurrency Exchanges for review.
  • Naturally, the business would need some initial working capital for liquidity. Some of this is raised by the owners and other institutions (through loans) etc. These will serve as collateral/insurance that there is indeed genuineness in the venture for all stakeholders.
  • You must then assure your investors of a solid return on investment (ROI) and deliver – which goes back to sales and growth. Unless your offering is a scam you actually need to do some work! This comes with regular updates (marketing campaigns can have a tremendous or adverse impact on the uptake and price) on milestones reached.
  • The above is necessary to keep the investors abreast with progress and in the process, getting them to possibly increase funding. Growing interest and addition of more funds creates demand for the coin/ token which, in turn, drives up the price and market capitalization.
  • Voila! you would then be in business!

Here are some of the most successful ICOs of all time

NEO:

Known as “China’s Ethereum”, and backed by Microsoft, Alibaba and the Chinese government, NEO uses smart contract applications. It does so, however, with the addition of decentralized commerce, digitized assets and identification.

It enjoyed a considerable hike in token value from $0.03 to $88.20, NEO has big things coming with a 294,000% ROI.

Ethereum:

Unlike Bitcoin, the second-most valuable cryptocurrency in the world has more functionality than just being a coin. Its ledger technology is used to build and deploy decentralized applications a.k.a. “smart contract” technology.

Ethereum’s ROI has been nothing short of jaw-dropping at 230,000%. Having sold its tokens at $0.31, an Ether token now sits at a whopping $713, second in value only to Bitcoin.

Spectrecoin:

The “premier privacy-focused cryptocurrency” enables users to send and receive currency worldwide with total anonymity. It is currencies like SpectreCoin that have most government tax offices quaking in their boots.

If you had repurchased a token in November 2016, that puny $0.001 would be worth $0.64 today, or an ROI of 64,000%.

Stratis:

This UK-based start-up has craftily created a platform that is compatible with .NET and C#. As a result, the product appeals to veteran users of Microsoft products.

Raising 915 BTC in 5 weeks, those who cashed in on the low investment of $0.01 per token have seen a titanic ROI of 56,000%.

Ark:

With Ark, collaboration is the name of the game. The platform’s SmartBridge is a lightning-fast ecosystem designed to integrate other cryptocurrencies into its blockchain.

Investors were eager as any to buy in, and they have made a 35,400% gain given today’s token price of $3.54.

DigixDAO:

DGD, which stands for Digix Decentralized Autonomous Organization, is a self-governing community. It gives out grants to different projects which will promote the growth of the DGX network.

At a current value of $346.88 per token, this gives them a return of 10,722%.

Quantum (QTUM):

QTUM is an open-source value transfer platform which focuses on mobile decentralized apps or Dapps. QTUM is the world’s first proof-of-stake smart contracts platform.

They hosted a highly successful ICO in March 2017, and since that time has seen an ROI of 6,400%.

Source: investinblockchain.com

The prospect can be daunting for a cryptocurrency investor looking to make money off new investment opportunities, while remaining cushioned from fraudulent ICOs and dodgy coins and tokens.

As there is no guarantee that any cryptocurrency or blockchain-related start-up will be genuine or successful. One simply needs to be vigilant and take steps such as getting to know the core team, poring over the whitepaper with a big magnifying glass. Naturally you should be monitoring progress of the token sales.

Most importantly, one must  just using common sense to gauge just how feasible the project is to ensure that you’re not falling for a scam.

Remember, if it’s too good to be true, then it isn’t true!