G Suite, the cloud-based productivity suite consisting of apps like Google Docs and Google Slides, was renamed Google Workspace (opens in new tab) as of October 2020. The platform has now been amended to include features like chat and video conferencing (opens in new tab) in view of the increasingly popular work-from-home culture of 2020. It is also a promise of more changes to be rolled out over the next few months.
To those not familiar with G Suite, it’s a set of cloud-based tools, notably including a word processor and spreadsheet manager, all designed for the singular purpose of helping employers (and their employees) increase productivity in the workplace.
- Want to try Google Workspace? Check out the website here (opens in new tab)
Aside from the usual bells and whistles that have become a hallmark of the best office software (opens in new tab) suites like this one, it also comes with an extensive support system and a cloud-based working environment. While the tools that come with G Suite can be used offline if necessary, their primary purpose is to assist online workflows.
So, how is Google Workspace different from G Suite? For now, it is being used as an umbrella term to refer to the erstwhile G Suite as well as the newly-integrated Google Meet. It features a new pricing structure and promises further changes to come down the road.
Google Workspace is an all-in-one productivity platform that’s home to several applications. Here, we take a look at them one by one and discuss their various features.
A feature-rich email service wrapped in a sleek outfit, Gmail (opens in new tab) is a must-have communication tool for consumer and business users alike. Did you know that it’s used by 1.8 billion people worldwide as of 2020?
More than just an email service provider, Gmail makes clever use of algorithms and artificial intelligence on its platform. For example, the smart compose feature makes suggestions based on your writing style as you type, predicting what you’re about to write next and making the process of composing emails quicker.
Gmail also features advanced spam filters that keep junk mails away from your inbox and issues regular reminders called “nudges” to keep you in the loop about your conversations. It uses an algorithm to automatically sort emails into different categories based on their nature.
Moreover, users can take advantage of the offline access feature to get to their emails even without an internet connection. Gmail is available on a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and computers.
Google Docs (opens in new tab) is a cloud-based word processing application for work. It features a standard rich-text editor built across an online environment, and a minimalistic design focused on usability and ease-of-access. While not as feature rich as Microsoft Word, it still manages to carve out a huge niche for itself thanks to its cloud synchronization and sharing capabilities.
Google Docs is accessible both as a web-based application on computers and a downloadable app for smartphones and tablets. While its word processing capabilities are mostly run-of-the-mill, with options to do things like add images, change font size, and insert tables in your document, the place where it truly shines is the ability to seamlessly share your documents with other members of your team and collaborate with them in real time.
A single document created using Google Docs can be shared and accessed by up to 100 users at a time. Every time one user makes any change to the document, it is visible by the rest. Among other notable features is a built-in translation tool that can automatically convert your text into a different language.
Google Sheets (opens in new tab) is a spreadsheet management tool, much like Microsoft Office Excel. While the latter is definitely more powerful when it comes to sheer scale, with the ability to contain more cells per spreadsheet and a very useful quick access feature, Google Sheets still takes the cake on collaboration.
Aside from the standard features offered by any other spreadsheet application, Google Sheets comes with excellent shareability. Just like Google Docs, it can be shared with multiple users across the cloud using a common link. The users who access the document by visiting that link will then be able to collaborate and make changes to the document in real time.
Compared to Docs, Sheets takes a bit of getting used to, but so do all spreadsheet management applications. It still features a simple interface and a minimalistic design, however, and is clearly easier to navigate than Excel.
Google Slides (opens in new tab) is an online presentation maker used by businesses and educational institutions. It uses moving slideshows containing animations and multimedia content to tell stories and convey information. While not as popular or feature rich as Microsoft Powerpoint, Slides too manages to ace the competition wherever collaboration is involved.
Google Slides features a UI that’s easy enough to get used to. At the center of your screen is your current slide, indicated by a big blank space that you can make changes and add elements to. Towards the left side of the screen is the rest of the slides shown in thumbnail format in chronological order. Above these, the toolbar hangs with ample tools and options to help you design your presentation.
Just like any other presentation software, Google Slides uses a combination of pictures, videos, animations, text, and vector graphics to tell a story or convey factual information. It features a wide variety of pre-designed templates to choose from. You can also add tables and charts to further customize your presentation.
A cloud-based note-taking app like Evernote and OneNote, Google Keep (opens in new tab) can be used in lieu of a physical notebook to quickly jot down important information both at home and at work. It is free to use, much like the rest of Google Workspace, but there are paid plans available for those looking for more storage and premium support.
Google Keep, unlike other applications like Docs and Slides, doesn’t allow link-sharing. However, you can still share notes over email and let others make changes to them whenever they want. Notes can be used to remind you of specific tasks and even set on repeat. You can also use color-coding and custom labels to sort your notes into categories.
Simply click on the option that says Take a Note to start taking notes with Google Keep. The interface is very easy to use and you can set reminders, add checkboxes, and insert images in just a few clicks. If you have used a note-taking application like Evernote, you shouldn’t have any trouble figuring out how to use Google Keep.
Google Drive (opens in new tab) is central to the online workflow of Google Workspace. A cloud-based file storage and backup solution, it is the ultimate destination where all your documents, files, and folders with Google, including those created using apps like Docs, Sheets, and Slides, are stored.
Drive utilizes a web-based interface that you can use to upload files and folders directly onto the cloud. It comes with 15GB of free storage for all users, with additional storage for those who have purchased a subscription to Workspace. It is built for efficiency, and what it lacks in bells and whistles, it more than makes up for in speed and ease-of-use.
Apart from the web-based version, Drive comes with downloadable apps for Android and iOS users. It also offers official clients for Windows and macOS desktops, which can be used to constantly back up data straight from a folder in your computer’s local storage. As for additional features, Google Drive also supports file versioning, advanced search, offline access, and more.
Google Meet (opens in new tab) is a video conferencing tool for modern businesses. It can be utilized by employees in a remote-based work environment to hold face-to-face conversations over any distance, and to that end, it’s almost flawless. It utilizes a sleek and modern interface and is extremely easy to use, even for those new to video conferencing.
Google Meet supports video conferences with up to 250 people simultaneously. It also comes with file, image, and real-time screen-sharing capabilities. There’s also a live polling feature and a text-messaging system to keep conversations engaging.
Starting a video conference with Google Meet is as easy as firing up the application and sharing an access link. Participants can then use the access link or dial-in number to join the conference. As the host, you can selectively admit participants into your meeting, rejecting requests from unauthorized users. The process is extremely straightforward.
Google Chat (opens in new tab), previously known as Google Hangouts Chat, is not a regular chatting application. Rather, it’s a team-based messaging service designed for workplaces to keep employees connected with each other. The branding was admittedly confusing before due to the co-existence of the company’s regular chat app, Google Hangouts.
Google Chat is not meant for end consumers. Rather, it’s a business application in the vein of Slack, Skype for Business, and Microsoft Teams. It is essentially built for 1:1 messaging but also has group conversation features available for workplaces.
Google Chat works just like any other chat service. On the left is a sidebar with a list of channels that you are currently a part of and direct conversations you have had. In the center of the screen is the channel or conversation that’s currently in focus. The standout feature here is the way Google Chat integrates with the rest of Google Workspace, allowing you to share documents and have ongoing conversations while accessing those documents.
Back when Google+ was still around and served as a social network for end consumers, Google Currents (opens in new tab) was a walled off version of Google+ that businesses could use to stay connected internally. Think of it as a set of tools designed to promote interaction and engagement in the workplace, kind of like an internal social media network.
Google Currents is designed like a digital bulletin board. On this board are messages shared across your entire workplace community, functioning as a hub for important messages, shared files, and community discussions. There are streams that categorize the various posts into different topics, and communities that act like subgroups within the workplace. It also consists of tags and user profiles.
Currents is included as a part of your subscription and can be accessed by visiting the website. It features an intuitive minimalistic design and a simple interface that’s easy to get started with. Whereas Google Chat is primarily for 1:1 messaging, Google Currents works as a general discussion and community management hub.
Google Forms (opens in new tab) is a free form builder and survey tool available for individuals and businesses. It imposes no limits on the maximum number of questions, surveys, or participants, even on a free account. However, it does suffer from the problem of low customizability as there are only a handful of question types to choose from and no way to access payments via the forms.
Google Forms allows three types of questions to be added to your survey: multiple choice, drop-down, and short answer. You can also allow users to upload files while participating in a survey. However, there are no options to accept payments or ask image or video-based questions.
On the plus side, you can choose what kind of answers are acceptable and even score answers automatically using the built-in functionalities. This works really well if you are trying to administer an online quiz.
Conditional logic and seamless collaboration are two more standout features of Google Forms. Logic allows you to change and adapt parts of your survey based on a participant's answers. Collaboration allows you to have multiple team members working together to design a single form. Forms also enables you to visualize your survey results in the form of a pie chart for easier data collection.
Google Sites (opens in new tab) is a free website builder (opens in new tab) with barebones features. It’s a good enough tool for building websites quickly and easily but lacks advanced features and customizability. You cannot, for example, create a blog or online store. There is a very basic set of free templates available, although they are responsive. You can also embed videos, forms, buttons, and sliders to further customize your website.
Google Calendar (opens in new tab) is a free online calendar that you can use to keep track of events and manage itineraries in your place of work. Your team can use it collaboratively to manage events related to work, such as meetings and conferences. It is also designed to work in tandem with the rest of Google Workspace and can be used to assign tasks and schedules to employees.
Google Jamboard (opens in new tab), on the other hand, is a free online whiteboard for individuals and businesses. It is represented by a shared white screen upon which you can draw, insert images, and add text. It can be used to quickly convey ideas and information during online conferences and board meetings.
Google Vault (opens in new tab) helps you collect, organize, view, and export data related to your organization’s workflow on Google Workspace. It can be used to track conversations, document events, and oversee your organization’s entire work process. However, it does not serve as an alternative backup tool for your data on Workspace.
Google Cloud Search (opens in new tab) is an artificial intelligence technology that helps you track down data across all your apps on Workspace. It is available in the form of a digital assistant and search engine that can quickly pinpoint the location of your searched data. Whereas Vault is used by company administrators for eDiscovery, Google Cloud Search is used by employees to quickly find and access information pertaining to the organization across all of Google Workspace.
Plans and pricing
For a very long time, G Suite for Business offered a single subscription plan for $12 per month that gave users access to all of Google’s productivity suite. However, with the rebranding of G Suite to Google Workspace, several changes have been announced, along with new monthly subscription plans (opens in new tab) for business users.
Google Workspace offers three business-level subscription plans and two enterprise-level plans.
Business Starter (opens in new tab), which costs $6 per user per month, gives you access to 30GB of cloud storage per user and allows video calls with up to 100 participants. It also comes with security controls, standard support, and a custom business email. This price includes all of Google’s productivity-related applications
Following this is Business Standard (opens in new tab), which costs $12 per user per month and offers 2TB cloud storage per user and 150 participant video conferencing with recording features. The rest of the features are pretty much the same.
Next up, we have Business Plus (opens in new tab) which comes at $18 per user per month. This plan allows 250 participants per video call and 5TB of storage per user. This plan comes with all of the features included in the Starter and Standard plans, along with access to Google Vault for eDiscovery, which is not included in those plans.
Enterprise plans offer even more with unlimited users per account and unlimited storage per user, but they require you to contact the company’s sales department for custom pricing. However, it is expected to cost around $20 per user per month and $30 per user per month for Enterprise Standard (opens in new tab) and Enterprise Plus (opens in new tab) respectively.
Google Workspace comes pre-packed with a free support plan which can be upgraded for even more features. The free plan offers standard case and phone support with an average response time of up to 24 hours.
Premium Support is available for Business and Enterprise customers and comes with 24/7 critical support and a response time as low as 15 minutes. This plan also offers tailored, context-aware support and a technical account manager. You are required to contact Google Sales for custom pricing.
Google Support can be contacted via phone, chat, or email. Phone support is available in 14 different languages. There is also a community forum accessible to all paid users.
Google has announced an entire slew of security updates to protect organizations from data theft and workplace abuse. In fact, Google Workspace is now the first major data processor to receive an ISO/IEC 27701 certification. Notably, updates have been made to Gmail, Chat, Meet, and Vault to enhance security and organizational privacy.
Audit logs and data protection insights have been a major part of the update received by Gmail. Administrators can see reports and logs that help minimize insider threats and policy violations. For example, Workspace admins have access to detailed logs that point out whenever a user sets up email auto-forwarding on their workplace account. Gmail also comes with advanced spam filtering, malware detection, and anti-phishing features.
Google Meet is also receiving updates related to audit logging and abuse detection to help reduce incidents of workplace harassment during online meetings. Examples include a new feature that classifies repeat offenders and automatically prevents them from joining meetings.
Google Chat is receiving updates that give administrators access to audit logs that detect phishing, data infiltration, and abuse. Google is in the process of classifying certain chat rooms as abusive based on prior reports to automatically prevent employees from joining them.
Users and administrators looking for additional security during the login process can also enable two-factor authentication on their accounts. This prevents them from logging into Google Workspace until they have verified their access request via a one-time password sent to their phone.
The primary competitor to Google Workspace is the productivity suite called Microsoft 365 (opens in new tab), previously known as Office 365 or Microsoft Office. Microsoft 365 offers a set of productivity tools that, while not as varied as Google Workspace, still manages to shine with the sheer number of features included per product.
Microsoft Word, for example, is a more powerful word processor than Google Docs, although most people seem to prefer the latter for online collaboration. Similarly, tools like Excel and Powerpoint are more feature-rich offerings than Sheets and Slides. While it’s not the first choice for companies with remote workplaces, Microsoft has recently launched online and free-to-use versions of its office productivity tools and even enabled real-time collaboration features for businesses.
A few other examples of decent office productivity suites include Zoho Workplace (opens in new tab) and WPS Office (opens in new tab), both of which offer ad-enabled free versions of their software. While not necessarily as powerful as Google Workspace, they both offer decent cost-friendly alternatives for those short on a budget.
Google Workspace is a powerful online productivity suite that prioritizes sharing and collaboration above all else. While not as robust or as capable as Microsoft 365, it still manages to excel its feature-packed competitor whenever there is a call for different employees at an organization to work together remotely. All in all, it’s a solid offering with a transparent pricing structure and design that focuses on simplicity and functionality over fancy gimmicks.
Gmail is the single most popular email provider in the globe, with almost two billion users worldwide as of 2020. It is also the primary selling point for Google Workspace. Combined with its extensive real-time collaboration capabilities, Workspace makes for a pretty strong offering for a powerful productivity suite.
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