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Microsoft holds lead on Google in cloud productivity race

Office 365 — Microsoft’s package of cloud-based email, word processing, scheduling and other productivity applications — is used in more than a third of organizations worldwide that use cloud applications, forging ahead over rival Google’s G Suite.

A new report by cloud security software vendor Bitglass, which analyzed the email domains of 120,000 organizations worldwide, found that 59% of organizations using cloud apps have deployed Office 365 or G Suite: Thirty-five percent use Microsoft’s cloud productivity apps, an increase of 10 percentage points over last year’s share. G Suite was favored by 25%. The remaining 41% are primarily using traditional software, which lives on physical servers.

G Suite is a recent retooling of Google Apps for Work. It comes with machine-learning capabilities, signaling a deeper push into the corporate market.

Cloud productivity app gap

Public companies go the Office 365 route over G Suite nearly 2:1. That’s because Microsoft makes it easy for organizations that have traditional software to move to Office 365, said Salim Hafid, product manager at Bitglass. And at a majority of organizations, that software is Microsoft’s.

“[There’s] near feature parity between the premises-based applications and Office 365 now,” Hafid said. “Organizations don’t have to worry about, ‘OK, is this core feature that we use actively within the organization still going to be there?'”

The Microsoft-Google split was more equitable among private companies, with 29% on Office 365 and 25% on G Suite. Private companies are often smaller and more willing to switch from, say, an on-premises Microsoft productivity package to G Suite, Hafid said.

“They don’t have to deal with many of the compliance requirements or concerns or challenges that larger companies have to deal with, so it’s much easier to make a very quick change to something entirely new that maybe isn’t proven out.”

Not a slacker

The Bitglass analysis also looked at usage of the popular messaging app Slack. The portion of organizations that have tried the app is 33%, sizeable for a tool that launched just three years ago, Hafid said.

Organizations’ first taste of Slack often starts with employees, who download the free version of the app without IT’s blessing, and, indeed, the 33% includes sanctioned and unsanctioned use. Bitglass didn’t break that down in the report, Hafid said, because it’s difficult to tell what’s sanctioned and what’s not.

The most recent competition to Slack is Microsoft Teams, launched earlier this month. It could be an attractive option for organizations running Office 365, since it meets a lot of the same security and compliance requirements they already have in place, Hafid said.

But Slack will continue to gain users, he said, as organizations cotton onto under-the-radar use and start paying for and managing it.

“The telltale sign of how a cloud app is doing in an organization is more on the side of, Is the organization paying to use the application, being widely used internally and supported internally by IT?”

Single sign-on status

Cloud security was another area of the analysis. Single sign-on, which lets users log in to several applications with one set of credentials, was in use at 32% of organizations. That’s on the low side, Hafid said.

Single sign-on is a critical security component, he said, because it gives organizations visibility into what’s happening with their data, letting them see “what users are logging in from, what devices they’re logging in from, where they’re logging in from.”

Single sign-on was more in use among Office 365 subscribers, at 26%, versus just 6% of G Suite users.

Right now, Hafid said, organizations in regulated industries like healthcare and financial services are using single sign-on. “But over time these other industries will no doubt start to see the value in this.”