Google Sheets vs. Microsoft Excel: Which is right for your business?

Ever since Microsoft Office’s 1990 launch revolutionized the way we work, Excel has been the go-to spreadsheet software for businesses. However, Excel has recently gained a worthy adversary in Google Sheets, which is being increasingly used as more businesses switch from Microsoft Office to Google’s G Suite.

Google’s spreadsheet software was initially launched in 2006, and has developed rapidly over the last few years, winning plaudits for features like version control, ease of use, and accessibility. Sheets has come on so much that it is now considered a viable alternative to Excel. So should your business go for the classic Microsoft software, or opt for its younger counterpart instead?

Saving and syncing

Google Sheets automatically saves your work onto your team’s Google Drive, so it’s safe even if you close the window by accident. It also instantly syncs your documents, making them accessible to your other devices. For example, you could be using Sheets at your desktop in the office until the end of the working day, but still be able to work on the same spreadsheet from your phone on the way home.

With Microsoft Excel, it’s not so clear cut. While your work is immediately saved to your Microsoft OneDrive—if you own Office 365 or Excel Online—this isn’t the case if you’re using Office 2019 or any earlier versions which rely on local storage. You’ll be warned if you attempt to shut down the program without pressing save, but it’s easy to do this by mistake, and there’s no guarantee that its built-in recovery tool will work. That said, you don’t need to depend on local storage if you use a software platform like EASA for converting Excel spreadsheets to web apps. Any changes are automatically saved in an online database which is linked to the app, and webifying your spreadsheets can actually keep your data more secure, and eliminate any confusion over which is the definitive version of your work.

Offline access

Google Sheets does offer offline access, but you might still struggle to access files you created online. You’ll need to download a Google Docs Offline extension, which has drawn criticism for poor functionality, and in some cases, not working at all. There are several techniques you can use to try and fix Google Docs Offline when it’s not working, but nevertheless, Excel is currently streets ahead. As a program you download and install, the Microsoft Office suite has worked offline since the start as, unlike Google Sheets, it doesn’t rely on the cloud to function. As such, Excel will always on your device and ready to use, no matter what.

Cost

A major benefit of Google Sheets is that it’s free for personal use as a standard part of Google Drive—although your business might want to purchase a G Suite plan for more features and storage space. By comparison, Excel costs $139.99 as a standalone app, $249.00 for a one-time Home & Business Office 2019 purchase—which also includes Word and Powerpoint, amongst others—or an annual or monthly subscription fee as part of a Microsoft Office 365. That said, Excel has launched a free cloud-based program in a bid to compete with Google Sheets, though it doesn’t come with anywhere near as many features as its desktop counterpart.

Functionality

Google Sheets has come a long way since its earliest days as little more than a glorified calculator. It now boasts a similarly simple interface to Excel, with comprehensive knowledge bases and regularly updated functions, such as macros to automate tasks. However, it’s still got a lot to do before it catches up with its rival.

Microsoft’s spreadsheet software is significantly more functional than Google Sheets, with many useful features and formulas for almost any data-driven assignment—perfect for the most complex tasks. Microsoft is constantly updating Excel’s features too, such as data import tool improvements and the ability to create automated workflows and custom visuals. Google Sheets is no competition, as it can slow down and become unresponsive when handling large amounts of data.

Collaboration

When it comes to collaboration, Google Sheets is the clear winner—at least for now. Simply sending a link to the document can grant the recipient the ability to make suggestions and changes in real-time, all of which are visible to everybody using the spreadsheet. These amendments can be monitored via the ‘last edit….’ option at the top of the toolbar, and you can also see who else is manipulating the document and what cells they’re altering.

With Excel, however, you’re limited to sharing files via email, and will have to send out the latest version every time you make a change, preventing collaboration in real-time. That said, Microsoft Excel Online does offer similar—though not quite as comprehensive—collaboration functionality to Google Sheets, as does the form of the program you get with an Office 365 Business subscription, and web-enabled Excel spreadsheets. Though of course, unlike Google Sheets, you’ll have to stump up for the latter two options.
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