Office 365 vs. Shadow IT

Jun 19, 2018 | Blog | 0 comments

The market for enterprise productivity tools has been dramatically shaken up in recent years by the emergence of Software as a Service (SaaS) models. Many of the traditional major players in the technology world – from SAP to Microsoft to IBM – who built their empires with on-premises technology, are now having to reinvent themselves in the cloud if they are to stay competitive.

Many new enterprise productivity companies have been able to build up huge user-bases in just a couple of years – where the established firms only reached this level of presence after decades. Offering ever more niche services for specific industries, no productivity solution (or industry-leading company, for that matter) is totally safe from being replaced.

One of the most important decisions your organisation faces when moving to the cloud is going to be which productivity tools and apps you decide to use. Do you opt for the tried and tested tools from firms like Microsoft, or do you choose the dynamic ‘start-up’ feel of disruptors?

To answer these questions, let’s look at the most popular enterprise productivity apps and see how Office 365 (the biggest cloud productivity service out there) compares. This post will compare Office 365 with five other cloud-based apps which are popular for performing specific tasks.

Microsoft Office 365 and the competition

Microsoft has a long-standing reputation for providing businesses with powerful, if not especially sexy business productivity solutions. However, there are various newcomers breaking into the enterprise productivity app scene, like Box, Slack and Workplace by Facebook among countless others.

While these new products may be less well-known in the enterprise sphere, they are productivity apps ‘born in the cloud’ and this may give them an advantage over elements of Office 365, such as SharePoint Online, which are, on the surface, just upgrades of long-standing on-premises tools.

The answer to the choice of apps your organisation should invest in will ultimately depend on the specific fit for your employees, your business and your industry.

Today, we’ll pitch the Microsoft product suite head-to-head against its most similar competition so you can get a fair idea of what you get with both, helping you make your own decision.

We’ve put together a short scenario that explains the Office 365 vs. Shadow IT debate

Head to head: Microsoft vs. the Alternatives

 We have chosen five Office 365 apps to compare with five third-party apps. Our choices are based on the likelihood of everyday use of such products in organisations regardless of size. We have chosen this list based on the popularity of business apps across industries. The comparison line-up is as follows:

  • Box vs. OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online
  • Slack vs. Teams
  • Workplace by Facebook vs. Yammer
  • Outlook vs. Gmail
  • GoToMeeting vs. Skype for Business

N.B. prices and content quoted here were true at the time of publishing, but exact figures regularly change

Box vs. OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online

Cloud storage is a big selling point for decreasing company costs and raising efficiency, offering a central repository for all your documents and files and allowing your employees better access to their content. Both platforms offer customers differing levels of storage:


With robust security provisions and business-oriented features, it is one of the top choices among organisations to store and share files and folders.

  • 100GB of free space with a 2GB file upload size (or Box for business is £11 per user per month with unlimited storage and a file upload size increase to 5GB)
  • 256-bit AES encryption
  • Store data offline
  • Simple interface

OneDrive for Business/SharePoint Online

  • 1TB per person as part of SharePoint Online (£3.80-£7.50 per user per month) or Office 365 ProPlus (£11.50 per user per month) with a 10GB file size limit
  • Data is SSL encrypted
  • Simple interface
  • Ability to host Online, On-Premises or Hybrid with a seamless user experience
  • Online readers for rendering many types of files in your browser
  • Full-text search of your content with refinements
  • Online editors for Office documents
  • Full integration with Office and Windows

Slack vs. Microsoft Teams

Both Microsoft Teams and Slack were designed to make it easier for small groups to work together by reducing the need for long email threads or sharing files across multiple different channels.

Get the definitive guide to Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams

  • Chat and instant messaging as its primary method of communication
  • Mobile and desktop compatible
  • Upload and share files with all your contacts in each group or individually
  • Easily switch between voice, video (via Skype for Business) and text connections across Office 365
  • Share files, calendars and edit content collaboratively
  • Comes standard with Office 365 subscription
  • The price per head for Microsoft Teams is £3.80 per month


  • Instant messaging as primary communication
  • Can be used across multiple devices and platforms
  • Share files with all your contacts in each group or individually
  • Integrates with third party apps
  • Free ‘starter’ version
  • The price per head for Slack (standard version) is £6.30 per month.

Facebook’s ‘Workplace’ vs. Yammer

Yammer, Microsoft’s enterprise social network, is somewhat inspired by the commercial success of Facebook. Now, the latter is competing in the same enterprise collaboration space. Workplace by Facebook resembles the well-known commercial app and allows users to post about their work, follow a feed of updates from colleagues, discuss group projects and more – just as they might interact on Facebook in their personal lives. In the interest of transparency, we undertook a full internal comparison of both Yammer and Workplace.

Workplace and Yammer are aimed at similar customers:

  • Small business
  • Medium sized organisations
  • Enterprise organisations


  • Yammer is included in Office 365 Business Essentials for £3.80 per user per month, while Workplace starts from under £2.50 per user month as a standalone product.

When it comes to features and integrations Yammer is quite a bit ahead. Yammer’s features that are NOT included in Facebook’s Workplace:

  • API
  • Automatic notifications
  • Data import/export
  • Email notifications
  • Search functionality
  • Tagging
  • Third party integration
  • To-do list

Features included on BOTH applications:

  • Collaborative workplace
  • Instant messaging
  • Mobile integration
  • Secure data storage

Workplace features NOT included in Yammer:

  • Document storage

Yammer integrates with more third-party apps including:

  • Bitium
  • GitHub
  • VisitorTrack
  • Workato
  • Zapier
  • Zendesk

As well as the native Microsoft solutions:

  • Office 365
  • OneDrive
  • SharePoint

Workplace integrations include:

  • Workato

Outlook vs. Gmail

A 2016 Gartner study found that 13% of publicly listed companies are using either Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google’s G Suite as their cloud email provider. 8.5% use Office 365 while 4.7% use Gmail. The remaining 87% of companies surveyed have on-premises, hybrid, hosted or private cloud email managed by smaller vendors.

Gmail may be an email giant in the consumer world but in the enterprise Outlook has long had the better reputation. Microsoft’s email client may be more familiar for corporate workers, but the difference between the two also comes down to business functionality.


  • Capable offline & desktop tool
  • Storage capacity 1TB + 50GB
  • Superior enterprise management (sort or group email in Outlook – not available in Gmail)
  • Highly functioning search (search any combination of elements, including all folders, inbox, drafts, From, etc.)
  • Calendar integration


  • Storage capacity 30GB
  • Ability to search (but not as powerful as Outlook)
  • Instant messaging via G-Chat
  • Import contacts from Yahoo,, AOL
  • Calendar integration

GoToMeeting vs. Skype for Business

Microsoft’s Skype for Business has seen rapid growth since it evolved from Microsoft Lync. According to Unify Square, Skype for Business is poised to exceed 100 million enterprise seats by 2018. GoToMeeting is also a very popular video conferencing solution that has a high rating when it comes to customer satisfaction. So how do they compare?

Skype for Business features:

  • A widely-recognized UI that people are very comfortable with
  • A fully functional enterprise-grade telephony replacement solution
  • PSTN Conferencing
  • PSTN Calling
  • Skype Meeting Broadcast
  • Cloud PBX
  • Free for 10 participants for video calls; 25 for audio calls
  • Host 250 participants on a conference call for £3.80 per user per month as part of Office 365 Business Essentials


  • Pricing is £12/£19/£34 per organiser, per month, depending on the number of participants (10/50/100)
  • Simple to get started and use
  • 9% uptime
  • 24/7 customer support

Weighing up Office 365 and the competition

The choices you make when it comes to IT infrastructure will be very much based on your organisation – its size, the industry you are in, your goals. In some cases, smaller companies may benefit from the multiple app approach as it allows them to only purchase the specific solutions they need at a certain point in time. For start-ups, this may give them the best hope of keeping their overheads as low as possible without compromising on productivity.

In the long run, or for larger organisations, there are obvious benefits to a unified platform like Office 365 over the competitors reviewed here. It can make more sense to use one environment, than having to deploy many different apps and platforms to form a cohesive IT business toolset.

The argument for Office 365

Again, self-examination is key. If you are a large or well-established business and have legacy systems and on-premises servers containing large amounts of data, it can be difficult and time-consuming to migrate or to move to a host of new and separate solutions.

Also, you should understand the position of your employees and how comfortable they are with various tools. They may be unfamiliar with anything other than Outlook, SharePoint on-premises and the desktop version of the Office suite and therefore adoption or change management may not be as smooth when moving to multiple and distinct apps in the cloud.

Migration to Office 365 is easier and likely to be the safer choice when it comes to adoption, change management and ultimately the ROI your organisation can hope to achieve too. There’s also the cost, which for the tools you get access to make more financial sense, certainly in the long run. And let’s not forget the ever-green nature of the service and unlimited OneDrive storage.

Guide: What tool to use and when in Office 365

If you are just starting to explore this toolkit and figure out which tool is suitable for which job, it can be quite confusing when you pick up three tools that seemingly can be used for the same job – Office 365 Groups, Microsoft Teams and Yammer.

Download your complementary guide



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