An honest review of Google Workspace

See if Google Workspace is right for your organization with this free review of a leading document management system.

June 4, 2021

Article highlights:

Our heads are in the clouds these days. Well, the cloud. As in cloud computing. Our information is in the cloud. Our proprietary documents are up there. Even our apps and entertainment are cloud-based.

Think of all the things you read, watch, and listen to on your phone, tablet, or laptop. There's a very good chance all of that content is in the cloud, especially the things on your phone. Even the TV streaming services we watch at night are in the cloud.

So it makes sense that our necessary work productivity software – word processor, spreadsheet, email, and presentation decks – are in the cloud as well.

Years ago – or right now, for some entrepreneurs – our productivity software lived on our laptops. Companies bought individual copies for everyone who needed them and installed them one at a time on everyone's computer. Each person had access to the applications anywhere and everywhere they took our computers.

Of course, the moment we were away from our computers, we were stuck. We couldn't access old documents, create new ones, or retrieve our information.

And if we wanted to collaborate, we had to share a document via email. Everyone would make their comments and changes, and we would end up with six or seven slightly different versions of the same document.

Enter Google Workspace

Google Workspace – formerly known as G Suite, formerly known as Google Apps – is the cloud-based office productivity suite that lets users have all the office productivity software they need, but in the cloud.

Google Workspace is the professional version of Google Drive, the free office apps from Google. If you've ever used Google Drive – which contains Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms, just to name a few – you're already familiar with the products and interface. Workspace is a bigger, more professional, more business-y version of Drive. 

In this free document management software review, we'll compare Drive to Workspace, look at a few of Workspace's pros and cons, and even how it can work with PowerDMS' policy and training management software.

Review of Google Drive vs. Google Workspace

As we already discussed, Google Drive is the free version of Workspace. If you only have a Gmail address or a YouTube username, you actually have access to Google Drive. That's because Gmail, Drive, and YouTube are all owned by Google.

In other words, your YouTube login is actually your Gmail address.

So if you have the YouTube login name, JeremiahQuincyAbernathy, your Gmail address is JeremiahQuincyAbernathy@gmail.com. And with that, you already have access to so many different Google-owned properties, including:

  • YouTube
  • Google Drive – Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Voice
  • Google Analytics
  • Blogger
  • Google Chat
  • Google Meet (formerly Hangouts)
  • MindMeister mind mapping
  • Google Jamboard
  • Google Play Store on Android
  • Google Maps
  • Google Sites website builder

And several dozen more.

Google Workspace gives you access to all of that, plus a few more business apps, but it has several more features that you just don't get on Google Drive.

For one thing, you get a business email with your own domain. For small business owners and entrepreneurs, this is a great reason to upgrade. It's hard to take a business seriously when their email address is Attorney.Jeremiah.Quincy.Abernathy@gmail.com.

For another, you get increased storage space. For the Business Standard plan ($12/month/user), each user gets 2 TB of space. That's a lot better than the 19 GB of free space on Google Drive you get. (For $6/month/user, you get 30 GB.)

The collaboration is a lot better. With Google Drive or Workspace, you can have several users all collaborating simultaneously on the same document, creating, making changes, and editing all at the same time. But more importantly, you can create shared drives for specific members of your team, not just copies of documents.

You also get access to Google Currents (the reincarnated business version of Google+) and Keep (a place to store notes, lists, and photos). This is on top of the other apps you get in Google Drive.

Finally, Google Workspace allows for better centralized management for its users. An organization that tries to use Google Drive as its productivity tools will only ever be a collection of individual users. But a team using Google Workspace will be able to work together, be branded under the same email address, and even have a shared drive they can all add documents to. And you can specify an admin who can control all of this, granting access to those who need it, and managing the overall space.

At PowerDMS, we're able to work with organizations that use Google Workspace as their productivity suite. You can create documents, such as your policies with Sheets or training materials with Slides, and then upload them to your PowerDMS cloud storage to use with PowerDMS' policy management and training management platform.

Google Workspace pros

If you read other document management system reviews, you'll see people raving about Google Workspace and its many benefits.

For many of them, the biggest benefit you can get from Google Workspace is Drive. It's all the office productivity software that competes with Microsoft. You can run comparable products without using any Microsoft products – even Gmail and Google Calendar is a more-than-suitable replacement for Microsoft Outlook.

In fact, if you work with people who use Microsoft products, you can upload those documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) to your Google Workspace drive and then open them with Google's applications. You can't do that with Apple's suite of products (Pages, Numbers, Keynote).

Collaboration tools let you have multiple users on a document or drive. You can create a shared drive where multiple people can upload and create documents. There's no need to share copies across drives or emails. These are single centralized copies, and they can be password-protected, deletion-protected, and you have access to the original document's full history, so you don't lose the original if someone makes changes you don't like.

Another pro is that everything is smoothly interconnected. For example, you could do any of the following: 

  • Create a Sheets document and email (Gmail) it to another user;
  • Schedule a video conference call on Google Meet and click the link right from Google Calendar to enter the call;
  • Create a slide deck in Google Slides and share it with a coworker without them downloading another app because they can see it in their browser.

And if you're an Android user (which is powered by Google), Workspace and your phone's Workspace app can sync wonderfully. Even iPhone users can enjoy that synchronization, but it's just better for Android users because of the Google interconnectedness.

Many of Google's applications connect with third-party apps very well because Google has APIs to connect with most apps in every industry. We're even able to connect PowerDMS to Google Drive because of their APIs and connectivity.

Google Workspace cons

Of course, not everything is perfect with any software, no matter who you are. Google Workspace is no different.

For one thing, there can be a bit of a learning curve for anyone learning to use Google Workspace for the first time. There are so many things that it can do, so many places it can go, that it can be a bit confusing and require some hand-holding. Google is so large, they don't have any onboarding or coaching to help people get over that curve. The hand holding needs to happen within the office, or the new users need to be given a lot of grace as they try to figure out this new tech.

It also doesn't help that they keep changing their names, or use fairly generic terms that could be confused with something else. For example, Google Workspace changed its name from G Suite in October 2020. It became G Suite in April 2011. And for five years before that, it was called Google Apps.

There are also programs like Google Hangouts, Chat, Talk, Meet, Voice. It's hard to keep up and know which of these are renamed or being replaced. (Google Chat and Google Meet are replacing Hangouts with separate chat and video conference services.) So the confusion is understandable. (At least Microsoft Word has been Word forever.)

Some admins also say that Google Workspace doesn't scale well with larger organizations. Steve Huang, IT Operations Director with Forum One, told us he's not a fan of the admin panel for this reason. For example, it doesn't allow for mass changes behind the scenes. Everything has to be done individually or in small batches. So Steve uses third-party tools to get the full functionality out of the panel.

Google's technical support can also be lacking. Another user said they can always get someone from tech support to respond, but it will often take a while and may even require a second call.

How does PowerDMS compare to Google Workspace?

But when it comes to advanced document management features, you want to go beyond what Google Workspace can do and look at how PowerDMS has taken document management much further.

Since PowerDMS works a lot with the public service sector, we can manage a variety of content like subpoenas, BOLOs, maps, memos, policies, and directives. Our platform can also manage new policies and procedures for health care, municipalities, fire/EMS, and businesses.

Like Workspace, our software has centralized storage that can be accessed through mobile devices and computers. Unlike Workspace, we offer automated workflows including real-time notifications, signature tracking, automatic distribution, version control, and side-by-side comparisons. Plus you can integrate PowerDMS with Google Drive, Microsoft Office, and Adobe products like PDFs.

Bottom line

The use of cloud-based productivity is on the rise, and we're seeing a serious reduction in the use of laptop-based productivity suites. Gone are the days of buying and installing single licenses of Microsoft Office products. Now, as long as you have a web browser and a wifi-enabled laptop, you can access the full benefits of Google Workspace. You can do a lot of work with a mobile phone and a cellular connection too. And if you lose your wifi connection, Workspace has offline capabilities too, so you can stay productive until you have wifi connectivity again (not everything, but you can read and review documents, make edits, and even broadcast slide decks to a smart TV).

If you would like to learn more about using Google Drive with your PowerDMS platform, or read some of our other free document management system reviews, stop by our website. We can give you a free demo of our software and show you how it supports Google Workspace, and let you perform your regular workday functions while still integrating with PowerDMS.

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