Key Takeaways: Google Workspace Review
- Google Workspace is a great option for individual professionals and businesses looking for a cloud-based productivity suite.
- Google Workspace offers a free trial for most of its affordable plans.
- Every Google Workspace account includes full access to Google’s suite of productivity apps.
- Using Google means becoming part of its data collection machine, something the privacy-minded should be aware of.
Google Workspace, formerly G-Suite, is Google’s answer to Microsoft 365. It comes with a host of apps, cloud storage and web hosting with a domain. Though it offers many advantages, it may not be the best answer for every business. To help you decide, we go in depth in our Google Workspace review.
For many, Google Workspace is the right solution, as it has numerous apps that support productivity and collaboration — especially in remote environments — and it is affordable. It includes Google Drive, which is one of the best cloud storage providers. However, for the privacy-minded, Google is a risky option, as it collects and uses data on you and how you use its services.
What Is Google Workspace & Who Is It For?
Google Workspace was rebranded from G-Suite, which started out in 2006 as Google Apps for Your Domain. It is designed to support businesses and professionals with cloud-based products. Google Workspace is an excellent option for a variety of users:
- Individuals and solo freelancers, since all Google Workspace plans let you select only one user.
- Small and medium-sized businesses will find an affordable solution to share and collaborate on files internally or externally.
- Schools and academic institutions can gain access to Google Workspace’s free option for educational institutions.
- Individuals, businesses or teams that prefer a cloud-based productivity solution.
The Cloudwards Expert Opinion
Google Workspace is a solid solution for most professional users. It is easy to use, has plenty of administrator and management tools and offers affordable plans. Google Workspace is a top option for fully remote teams or those who prefer a productivity suite that works best in the cloud. However, if you have sensitive or confidential data, Google Workspace is not the solution for you.
Google Workspace Pros & Cons
- Great for productivity
- Affordable plans
- Strong security protocols
- Admin console
- Easy file sharing
- Poor privacy
- Not great for offline work
Google Workspace Alternatives
Google Workspace Apps and Features
Google Workspace comes packed with a wide range of features, so much so that most users will never need to make use of most of them.
Gmail and Domains
Gmail is Google’s email client and comes with many standard features that people use to customize their inboxes. On its own, Gmail is an excellent tool for managing personal or professional email accounts, and in this article, we show you how to make Gmail your default client. With Google Workspace, Gmail ties into your domain, letting you create company email addresses.
To sign up for Google Workspace, you’ll need a domain name. If you already have one, you can include it during the initial setup. Google can help you find one when you establish your account. If you sign up with an email account linked to a domain you do not own, you can’t activate Gmail and will be unable to add or invite new users.
One of the main draws to creating a Google account is that it includes popular productivity and collaboration tools. A Google Workspace account is no different, with access to many apps, such as:
- Google Docs — a web-based word processor
- Google Slides — used to create virtual presentations
- Google Sheets — Google’s answer to Excel
- Google Meet — launches secure video conferences
- Google Chat — internal communications with your team, similar to Slack
- Google Forms — creates forms for items like surveys, feedback or requests
- Google Sites — creates websites that you can publish with your Workspace account
Among the three most popular apps, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are used for creating documents, presentations and spreadsheet files, respectively. For most users, these will be the three go-to apps for projects.
Google Meet is an in-house app that’s similar to Zoom. You can quickly create a link to a secure video conference. You can create a meeting for a future date or jump into a meeting instantly. Within a meeting, you can share screens, create polls, set up breakout rooms and record the meeting.
Google Chat is a place for organizational communications, similar to Slack (check out our Slack review for more information). Anyone in the organization can use the Chat app. Administrators can form teams for focused communications. Additional features include sharing files and assigning tasks.
Google Forms is exactly what it appears to be: It’s an app to create forms. Any created forms can be used internally or externally. You can create forms from scratch or use pre existing templates. Examples include feedback forms, applications, orders and requests.
Google Sites is a website creation tool similar to Wix or Squarespace. It comes with a few templates, like creating an event or a team page. You can build a site from scratch and add the content you want. When ready, you can publish it to your registered domain.
Google Drive and Workspaces
Users and teams will spend plenty of time in Google Drive, which we cover in more detail in our Google Drive review. It is the central hub for file creation, editing, collaboration and sharing. The “my drive” tab contains your files. Separate tabs called “shared drives” and “shared with me” hold drives, folders and files that anyone has shared with you.
For most files, you can download, make a copy, share — which is covered more in the “sharing” section below — or view more information. A sidebar opens on the right to show you details and activity on your account. When you select a file, you’ll see specific information and an additional option for approvals.
Workspaces are a tool within Google Drive that is designed to help you stay productive and on task. When you create a workspace, you can add files from your drive or shared files or upload them from your device. If you want to hide or remove a workspace, you can do so from the three-dot menu next to your workspace title.
Google Workspace Marketplace
When you click on the “new” button from your Google Drive account, aside from creating or uploading a folder, you’ll see all the apps you can access, including those covered above and external apps. You can connect an app from the app store if you need additional apps or more niche apps like Jamboard, Apps Script, Drawings or Maps.
The Google Workspace Marketplace has dozens of external apps to choose from. These include, but are not limited to:
- Zoom — allows you to schedule or join meetings using Gmail and Google Calendar
- Polly — creates polls in Google Chat with real-time results
- ClickUp — populates notifications from updates to “hangouts” in Google Chat
- Salesforce Connector — imports data queries or reports into Google Sheets
- Dropbox for Gmail — saves and shares files from Gmail to your Dropbox account
- GitHub for Google Chat — allows you to push commits, make pull requests or review code within Google Chat
Administrators or team managers can access the admin console to manage teams, check security settings, run reports or manage accounts. The admin console has the following tabs:
- Home — The home page is a snapshot of your account, with snippets of information and quick links to the respective tabs.
- Directory — The directory has sub-tabs for users, organizational units and directory settings. Use this tab to manage or invite users, create and manage an organizational unit or adjust settings.
- Devices — The “devices” tab shows you every device connected to your account. You can manage browsers, mobile devices or computer access endpoints. Chrome is a significant part of this tab, with several sub-tabs that help you customize your experience.
- Apps — The “apps” tab shows the service status for Google’s core apps. Clicking on one of the apps from the sub-tab pulls up a list of options and settings for each app.
- Security — The “security” tab has an alert center for potential security issues and lets you set up single sign-on or manage rules. It has a “data classification” sub-tab to apply labels that work with groups or organizational units.
- Reporting — The “reporting” tab shows user activity within apps and any files shared externally. Other reports include apps, cost, devices and audits and investigations.
- Billing — The “billing” tab shows you your current subscription and payments and provides the option to change your plan or purchase add-ons.
- Account — The “account” tab lets you alter general settings and preferences. This is also where you manage your domains.
- Storage — The “storage” tab shows you your storage allotment and how much you’ve used and lets you adjust the storage settings.
Google Workspace Features Overview
|30GB – 8TB$6 / month(All Plans)
|Sync Any Folder
|File Link Sharing
|Link Expiry Dates
|Link Download Limits
|Deleted File Retention
|Live Chat Support
User-Friendliness & Hands-on Testing
Google Workspace is easy to use, as most of the file management happens in Google Drive. The three most popular productivity apps — Google Docs, Sheets and Slides — have a familiar functionality to anyone who’s created and edited documents, presentations or spreadsheets.
Graphically, Google Workspace is straightforward, and the web user interface simplifies the user experience. The left sidebar on Google Drive is logically arranged, letting you easily move between your files and shared items.
When you first start with Google Workspace, you’ll see a dedicated page that walks you through some common uses, which helps you familiarize yourself with the service.
You can download the accompanying Google Drive desktop app for Windows or Mac and apps for iOS and Android on your mobile device. Each gives you flexibility in how you access and engage with your account.
How to Set Up & Use Google Workspace
To create a Google Workspace account, you’ll first need to go to google.workspace.com. Once there, choose your plan.
- Choose Your Team Size
The first step is to determine how big your team is. There is also an option to indicate whether it is just you. Then, select your region and enter your business name.
- Enter Contact Info
Fill out the form to enter your basic contact information.
- Choose a Domain
If you have a domain, click “Yes, I have one I can use.” If not, choose “No, I need one.” Google will take you through the process if you need to create a domain.
- Explore Your New Account
After creating your account, you’ll land on the “discover” page, which acts like a guided tour of the most common uses for Google Workspace.
Google Workspace Pricing: How Much Does Google Workspace Cost?
Google Workspace is an affordable option for most businesses. Each plan has shared storage, which could be a deal breaker for users who need a ton of storage. In addition, every plan comes with the same number of Google apps. Higher-priced plans come with more shared storage and additional security features.
Pricing Plan Breakdown
- When paid annually, Google Workspace Business Starter costs $6 per user per month. It comes with all the core Google apps, 30GB of shared storage and a maximum of 100 video participants.
- Google Workspace Business Standard costs $12 per user per month on an annual subscription. It has 2TB of shared storage and allows up to 150 video participants.
- Google Workspace Business Plus costs $18 per user per month, annually. Teams share 5TB of storage space and can have up to 500 video participants.
- You’ll have to contact the sales team for Google Workspace Enterprise pricing. It has 5TB of shared storage with the possibility of more, allows up to 1,000 video participants and offers enhanced support.
File Sharing & Syncing
Google Workspace makes it easy to share files internally or externally. Additionally, with Google Workspace, you can share drives. File syncing happens seamlessly, and the sync features keep your files updated across your devices.
Google Drive is one of the best cloud storage providers for sharing. To share a folder or a file from your account, hover over an item in your Google Drive and select the icon that looks like a person with a plus sign. Alternatively, you can click the three-dot menu and choose the “share” option. You can create a link or invite others to share a folder or file directly.
When sharing a folder or a file, you’ll have several accessibility options. “Restricted” means that only those to whom you send a link can open it. You can restrict the link to within your organization or make it so that anyone can gain access. When adding email addresses, you can choose how each person can access the item — as an editor, a commenter or a viewer.
Google Drive does not give you any additional security features when sharing a folder or a file. You can’t add a password for extra protection or limit the number of times a link is accessed. However, you can revoke access by removing the necessary email addresses if you share a file or a folder with individuals.
File Syncing Options
Google Workspace, through Google Drive, automatically keeps your folders and files updated as you work on and edit them on your device and in the cloud. There isn’t much in the way of options or customization for users. Google Drive does not support selective sync.
To make changes to how Google Drive syncs your data, you’ll need to download the desktop app and access “preferences.” You’ll see the device that’s being synced with your Google Workspace account. From here, you can add a specific folder to sync with your account.
To manage how Google Drive syncs your data, you can choose to stream or mirror your files. Streaming files is the default setting. With this setting, Google Drive keeps all your files only in the cloud. You can access the files from the sync folder on your device. The other option is to mirror files. This setting keeps a copy in the cloud and on your device. Files in mirror mode are automatically available offline.
Security: Is Google Workspace Safe?
Though there are some concerning privacy issues, which we will discuss in the next section, Google Workspace keeps your account and data secure. However, despite the strong security measures, Google is not immune to data breaches. In 2018, data privacy issues with Google + API led to the exposure of more than 500,000 people’s data.
Google Workspace Security Features
Administrators and managers can access the “security” tab in the admin console to enable additional security features. The alert center notifies you of potential security issues depending on how you set the parameters. The “rules” option lets you create alerts and actions when certain conditions are met. For example, you can create a filter to see which users are inactive.
If your company uses single sign-on through third-party providers, you can manage the profile assignments for groups or for the entire organization. Individual accounts can enable two-factor authentication and add a recovery phone or email address.
Detailed Security Analysis: Encryption & Cloud Security
Google uses AES 256-bit encryption to protect your data at rest. Data at rest is data that is stored on Google’s servers. To protect your data transfers, Google uses TLS/SSL encryption protocols. These protocols protect the data as it moves from your device to the cloud or between two points.
|At Rest Encryption
|In Transit Encryption
Privacy: Is Google Workspace Private?
Privacy is one area where Google could improve, as it knowingly and admittedly collects data on how you use its service. In 2019, an employee leaked 1,000 private conversations to the public. Using Google means that you become part of its data collection efforts, with most accepting this as part of having a Google account.
Google does not use zero-knowledge encryption, which indicates that it has access to the private encryption keys used to decrypt an account. Without zero knowledge, it is possible for certain Google employees to access your account without your knowledge or consent. If you need private cloud storage, check out our list of the 5 most secure cloud storage services.
The type of information that Google collects depends on how you use the service. For example, if you sign up for an account, it collects your personal information. Items you upload to or create on Google Drive are another example, which Google says is to help improve its services. Your location is also collected when using certain services or apps.
Google claims that it does not sell your personal data. However, it does share information about you to third-party entities and advertisers, which is how it can make money without violating privacy laws.
Google Workspace Customer Support
Google has several ways for you to engage with customer support to get help with your account. It has a chatbot to answer simple questions or offer links to help with specific items. There is a support page for Google Workspace and a separate one for Google Drive.
Google supports a community forum for questions and answers with other users and Google moderators. The support hub has sections for billing, service disruptions, documentation and community support, among others.
Live support is an option that is locked behind the paywall of the higher-priced Google Workspace plans.
Live Chat and Email Support Speed & Quality
Unless you pay for a subscription that includes live support or sign up for this service, you won’t be able to engage with Google’s customer care team other than via basic support. Cloud customer care comes in four tiers:
- Basic Support — included with all Google Cloud accounts that provide access to documentation and community support. It also includes billing support.
- Standard Support — offers unlimited 1:1 technical support for outages, cloud support API and “active assist” recommendations. Response times average four hours.
- Enhanced Support — includes everything in standard support with faster response times.
- Premium Support — includes everything in enhanced support with a dedicated technical account manager.
Google Workspace vs Other Cloud Storage Services
Microsoft 365 is the closest and most direct comparison to Google Workspace. It has the same core apps that create documents, presentations and spreadsheets. Overall, Word, Excel and PowerPoint have more features than Google’s comparable apps, and they are better for using offline than Google Docs, Sheets and Slides. In terms of storage, OneDrive is the equivalent of Google Drive.
Zoho is an affordable alternative to the big two, as it has an ecosystem of apps designed for businesses of all sizes. It has a mail client, cloud storage and apps for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations. We cover these apps and more in our Zoho WorkDrive review.
Community Feedback: Google Workspace Reviews on Reddit & Social Media
Most Google Workspace users have positive views of the service. The most common complaint is the recent price hike on its plans. Another common theme is that Google Workspace is better for start-ups or small businesses, whereas Microsoft 365 offers better features. Additionally, there are some definitive stances preferences. Some swear by Google Workspace while other users will only use Microsoft 365.
The Verdict: Is Google Workspace Worth It?
For most professional individuals and businesses, Google Workspace is a great option as a cloud-based productivity suite. With affordable plans and a free trial, setting up and getting started is easy. However, it is not a perfect solution, as anyone with privacy concerns would do well to steer clear of Google’s products, including Workspace.
Are you a Google Workspace user? Do you prefer Microsoft 365? How concerned are you with Google’s privacy? Let us know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading.
FAQ: Google Workspace Review
For most users, yes, Google Workspace is worth it. It has affordable plans, offers a free trial and is easy to use.
Privacy is the main disadvantage of using Google Workspace. There are better options for sensitive or confidential data. In addition, though its productivity apps work offline, Google Workspace is best when used in the cloud.
Google Workspace is an excellent option for those on a budget, fully remote teams or individuals who need to share and collaborate with others.