Most companies and institutions decline to say exactly why they chose one vendor's solution over that of a rival, so it can be refreshing when an organization bucks the trend.
The University of California at Berkeley eschewed that timeless practice last month when it took the unusual step of explaining why it selected Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Apps over Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Office 365 as a replacement for its own proprietary email and calendar applications.
Google Apps and Office 365 are competing cloud-collaboration software suites aimed at provisioning collaboration applications to individuals and companies through a Web browser. Google and Microsoft host the solutions on their own servers, which is appealing to companies, schools and organizations that don't have the time, expertise, financial wherewithal or inclination to maintain software on their own servers.
UC Berkeley Dec. 21 said it selected Google Apps for Education as its new calendar and email platform and plans to move its students, faculty and staff to Gmail and Google Calendar in 2012. The school will remain on its own CalMail and CalAgenda pending that migration.
"This decision has been reached after an extensive analysis over the past few months that compared Google Apps for Education and Microsoft's Office 365 offerings," the school explained in a note on its Website. "While both products are feature-rich and offer advantages over our current environment, the analysis concluded that the Google offering was the better overall fit for the campus at this time."
The deal is nonexclusive. The school said the choice of Google will not impact the campus's recent announcement to use Microsoft Office Professional Plus, Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Projects and Microsoft Visio software, and called the use of both Google's cloud applications and Microsoft's on-premise software "complementary in many areas."
In UC Berkeley's evaluation, Google won on the speed of, and the support of migration and deployment of Google Apps. UC Berkeley likes the six- to 10-week migration plan Google Apps offers, as well as the "relatively low-cost" for migration support, compared with Office 365.
The school also approves of Google's ability to integrate Gmail and Calendar with other applications, such as Google Docs, Groups and Sites. Office 365 also offers great integration with Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. However, the fact that UC Berkeley partners UC Santa Cruz and Lawrence Berkeley Lab already use Google Apps helped cement the school's decision to go with Google here.
As for developer tools, UC Berkeley praised the Google Apps API as being better aligned with "the current skill sets on the UC Berkeley campus and what our central IT group currently supports," and said current students already have a familiarity with Gmail and Google Calendar, giving Google Apps two more edges over Office 365.
Surely, Google Apps didn't beat Office 365 on all fronts, or it wouldn't be much of an evaluation. The school appreciates the security, including encrypted email at rest, and authentication afforded by Office 365, adding: "Microsoft offers a better AUP policy, better e-discovery options, and slightly better terms on the location of data. On the whole, Microsoft comes out better than Google but only by a small margin on all categories."
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