The home of Sweaty Spice, the 'other' Spice Girl

Today whilst on a call with an external stakeholder, before the real meeting got started, I mentioned that I had had an earlier call arranged by an external person. It was using Microsoft Teams meetings. I was embarrassed to admit that it didn't suck.

Of course I was looking for a thunderbolt from God over this heresy (I work for Cisco, and we own WebEx. Please forgive my apostasy) but the controls were simple, the performance was fine, and except for it taking about 20 seconds to connect (I do not have a Teams account to log into, so I would bet that was the culprit.

But during this idle banter, I mentioned that I have a small-ish Google G-Suite subscription to handle my personal email, and how I would like to move that sub to something else, and I mentioned Microsoft's O365. The discussion veered into the trustworthiness of the two services. It was this discussion that is prompting this post.

Aren't Google and Microsoft two sides of the same coin?

On paper, the services they offer are comparable. Office productivity software, email, and calendar/scheduling with some conferencing and meeting software.

Many people swear by the Google Docs suite, for distributed collaborative document creation. And I have used it some in the past, but truth be told, I have used Office for a lot longer, and a couple years ago, with the rollout of Office365 at work, we got access to their personal sharepoint, and web based versions of the ubiquitous office apps, and with it came real time, collaborative editing of documents.

Suddenly, it was just as useful and usable as Google Docs. Better, in that it didn't just emulate the capabilities of the gold standard of office productivity software, it was the same interface/feature set/capabilities.

Many of the Google-stans overlook how feature poor the original version of their word processor, presentation software and spreadsheet were. But I don't, it was mediocre then, and while the gap has significantly narrowed, if you need to interchange documents with outside teams using Office, well you're gonna have a bad time.

Still, for a home, there is less differentiation, and to be bluntly honest, we never have used the Google Docs or other parts of what is now G-Suite. The vast bulk of value we extract from that subscription is the rock solid email.

But there are other options out there. Amazon has an API level clone of Exchange that is probably the cheapest alternative, especially if we had a large family to share with. There is my other paid personal provider, ProtonMail (which is biased towards webmail, and a kludge-y connector for imap like access,) Fastmail which seems to do mail very well, and for about 1/2 the price of G-Suite consumer grade services.

But comparing the two leaders, Google and Microsoft, they are comparable to each other with one massive distinction. Google currently generates about 60% of their massive revenues from selling advertisements. They are so successful because they collect, collate, and map your personal data in interactions across the web. From the Android OS on phones with the google built in apps, to google search, to gmail, to their massive analytics gathering and processing, they are constantly building a snapshot of you, to help their advertisers to target you.

Sure, they claim that they don't mine the inboxes of paid G-Suite customers. You might believe that. But even without purposeful mining of your activity, just by processing your inbound email looking for junk, spam, and malware, they can infer a lot about you.

Microsoft, on the other hand, makes the Lion's share of their revenue by selling products and services, not ads. They have far less temptations to bend the rules, and more incentive to remain outside. Sure, they will have access to all the same data, but for some reason, I have a lot more faith in trusting them to not cheat.

The Migration

When I last looked at the migration, it was a lot more daunting. The process required a lot of tricky steps, and really was tailored more for a professional IT person to do a mass migration of a sizable organization from Google to Microsoft.

This, rather than the cost has been my biggest deterrent in making the jump.

But now, Microsoft has built tools into their back end to trivialize the migration, specifically for my use case, a small, consumer sized account.

While I want a little bit of time to work through it, that means that for this years' holiday shutdown, I will be making the transition and migration.

Most importantly, it will not require my wife to reduce the size of her inbox. And, even better, she can still use her beloved Apple Mail app (not sure why she clings to that clinker).

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