A couple of years ago I started working with an extremely helpful and reasonable IT guy called Pawel.

I had the idea to upgrade us from desktop Microsoft Office suite to Microsoft 365 and get a couple of laptops set up and I started to talk to him about what computers we should buy and how Microsoft 365 works. At some point I asked him what system he would set up if he were in my position.  His answer surprised me.  He said something along the lines of:

“I would avoid Microsoft.  Unless they sort themselves out, I think they will go out of business soon.  It’s like they are arrogant and ignore the customer.  They make everything complicated and nothing quite works the way it is supposed to.”

I took his comments seriously and considered the alternatives but in the end I stuck with Microsoft.  For one thing I didn’t feel I could justify spending twice or even three times the amount on hardware to switch to Apple.  Plus I liked Outlook.

I already had a Chromebook which for those who have not come across one, is a laptop with no local storage that is set up to access apps and websites over the internet.  It was a beautiful looking HP version which I liked.  It was cheap, cheaper than the PC laptops I was looking at.  But I couldn’t quite get away from liking Outlook.  In addition I worried about having no way to put software direct onto the machine.  There were a few programs I used, not many, but enough that I had to have on a hard drive.

So I went with Microsoft.  A good half of the saving of not investing in Apple disappeared immediately because it took Pawel a good day or more to deal with everything that was needed to get it all installed.

Then I started to find that I couldn’t get Microsoft 365 to work in quite the way I needed.  It became clear I needed a Microsoft 365 expert.  I spent more money on the expert, but still I had problems.  And every time I tried to sort something out it seemed to involve removing caches, re-installing drivers, re-syncing files and eat up huge amounts of time.

I started a list of IT problems to try and iron out.  And some problems, I resigned myself to.  The laptops were an embarrassment.  I would go to visit a client and the first thing that happened was that it would decide to update itself for half an hour because it had not been used for a while.  Then the files that in theory were synced in the cloud were not there.  I learned ways around these problems but they persisted.

All this time I was enjoying using the Chromebook.  You opened it and it was ready to go.  It never wanted to update itself.  It never had even the slightest need to be repaired or re-synced or have any kind of attention.  The day it does, I will simply bin it and buy a new one for £150 and all my documents and emails will be sitting there waiting for me.

Then I learned that Xero was partnering with Google and it got me thinking about where our IT needs were going.  All the important applications we used at work were in the cloud already and when I looked at the ones that I had thought I needed on a hard drive, I discovered that there was either a cloud alternative or they were in the process of developing a cloud version.  The functionality of the cloud is also the synergy between applications and while programmers are developing for Google/Android and Apple, it is clear Microsoft is getting left behind.

I also got fed up with coughing up for IT support.  So when we came to taking on Sami our apprentice, we made the leap.  I bought him a Chromebox to work on.  This is the desktop equivalent of the Chromebook.  When it arrives, you laugh because it is no larger than a few slices of bread.  True to form though, you plug it in and hey presto, you are ready to start work.

Finally I got serious about ditching Microsoft 365 and moving our archive over to Google for business.  I found a supported migration package and went to a marketing event they organised at which point it became abundantly clear that the decision was the right one.

Apart from, being cheaper and faster.  It transpired that Google is also building in important functionality ahead of its rivals.  With its Authenticator app and USB keys to unlock your laptop, I would argue that it is in fact more secure than the alternatives.  We learned the UK government has switched to Google and it turns out that a lot of my grumbles about Gmail vs Outlook are not in fact real issues once you learn the different ways to set up Gmail.

When I tell people what we are doing I typically get the same objection: “But what if you don’t have an internet connection?”.  Sadly I am not the kind of person who spends many hours on international flights or working under a palm tree on a deserted beach, so to my mind it is not really an issue.

However I do recognize there are a few mental leaps to make in order to get to grips with working in the Google environment.   We are so used to saving documents that it takes a while to understand that in Google, that is a redundant concept.  We are still getting to grips with the dynamics of sharing documents rather than sending a copy.

To me it looks like the future.