calendar on a desk

Time is precious.

Every minute of every day can be valuable, especially if your business is built on booking appointments and meeting with clients. You simply can’t afford to waste time or miss a scheduled time with a client.

While choosing a calendar system for your business may seem trivial to some, it’s actually a vital piece of infrastructure that you’ll rely on day in and day out.

It’s important to choose the right solution that meets the needs of your business.

Some of the most popular solutions are Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Office 365, Google for Work (G Suite), and Salesforce.

In this article, we’ll break down each of these four options and explain the strengths and weaknesses of each, giving you a clear picture of which solution will best meet your needs.

Microsoft Outlook

Many businesses rely on Microsoft Outlook for managing their calendar. And that’s most likely because it’s simply what they know — and it works.

The obvious pitfall for Microsoft Outlook is that it’s restricted to the device where it’s installed. It’s not cloud-based, so you can’t sync appointments to your phone or across multiple computers without installing separate software or integrations.

In some cases, this is totally acceptable. Your business may only need to see and manage appointments from one central device (like the office computer). And Outlook is still a gold standard. It’s what many people know and have used — it’s comfortable.

Outlook is a simple solution. There aren’t a lot of frills, and a few limitations. But it can generally get the job done for just about any business. A one-computer license for Outlook costs $109, but you can use it indefinitely after that and won’t have to make monthly payments.

Microsoft Office 365

Office 365 is, essentially, a cloud-based version of Microsoft Office with some added functionality and improvements over previous versions of the suite.

Strictly from a calendar perspective, it is ostensibly the same thing as Microsoft Outlook. The big advantage of Office 365 is that, being cloud-based, it’s accessible from anywhere and from any device.

So if your business operates from various locations or you sometimes need to view and manage your calendar from home or somewhere other than the office, this is a pretty easy upgrade. In addition to that, the Office 365 suite wins big points over Google in that all the programs have offline operability and desktop versions of the apps.

In the minuses column, Microsoft Office is built primarily as an enterprise solution first and foremost. And it shows. It’s a bit bigger and more bloated than other options and can be a bit technical and confusing for basic users to set up and configure. With flexibility comes complications, and that’s apparent here.

Another big drawback is that Microsoft’s pricing tiers are set up in such a way that you’re forced to pay extra for some nice-to-have options that are free with Google. For instance, using the mobile or tablet apps requires you pay for a plan that’s a step up from the basic — it’s $3.25 per month. That’s not a huge deal, but it’s a minor annoyance that can be off-putting.

Office 365 offers pretty much any of the functionality your business would need to run effectively. Depending on your specific needs, it costs as little as $8.25/mo/user.

Google Calendar (Google for Work, now G Suite)

Google has a solution to everything. Or at least it seems that way.

In this case, they offer a nice, robust office package akin to Microsoft Office but a bit more limited and lightweight.

The clear advantage is that Gmail, Google Calendar, and all the other apps you may already be using are bundled together and work seamlessly. The entire system was built cloud first, and it has an advantage in being nimbler and just a bit easier to use than Microsoft’s offerings.

While this cloud-based approach has its clear advantages, in this case, it’s also one of the places where Google falls down compared to other options. They offer no desktop applications to install and limited offline operability. While you may still be able to use tools like Google Docs or Google Sheets offline in some capacity, your calendar will be completely inaccessible without an internet connection unless you’ve synced it to a separate device.

This can obviously create problems if your business has an internet outage or if you ever need to access your calendar somewhere where you don’t have a connection.

There’s another issue that many people have with Google, which is that Google accounts — while simple in theory — can be incredibly confusing and convoluted. Having both a personal and business account with Google often results in extra hassle and hoops when you least expect it.

But all told, Google is still a great and powerful solution. It becomes increasingly valuable with more users and if you need additional collaborative working tools. Plus, it also starts at just $6/mo/user.

Salesforce

Salesforce is really a different beast entirely when compared to the other options for a calendar solution. Although it has some basic calendar, scheduling, and appointment functionality, that’s really just a feature and barely scratches the surface on the functionality and purpose of Salesforce.

This tool is, first and foremost, a CRM. It’s meant to manage relationships with customers, manage sales opportunities, and coordinate communications. So to use it for simply setting up and managing a calendar may be overkill.

But if your business has a sales or support staff communicating regularly with your customers, or if you need a way to manage a pipeline of new business coming through the door, then Salesforce may be a smart investment.

The smallest package for Salesforce starts at $25/mo/user, so it’s considerably more expensive than the other options. You should really only consider Salesforce as a calendar management option if you’re planning to take advantage of the other robust features for sales and marketing.

Outlook vs. Office 365 vs. Google vs. Salesforce

Now that we’ve looked at each individual solution, let’s compare them side by side and see the strengths and weaknesses of each:

Solution Pros Cons
Outlook
  • Simple, intuitive, well known, and well liked
  • Fixed price
  • Not accessible from multiple devices
  • No additional features or services
  • License only valid for one computer ($109)
Office 365
  • Cloud-based, can be accessed from any device
  • 1TB storage per user for the base package
  • Costs as little as $8.25/mo/user
  • Desktop applications included
  • Subscription model pricing
  • Mobile and tablet app access costs extra
Google
  • Cloud-based, can be accessed from any device
  • Costs as little as $6/mo/user
  • Cloud-first technology and design
  • No offline operability or desktop app
  • 30 GB stage per user for the base package
  • Subscription model pricing
Salesforce
  • Cloud-based, can be accessed from any device
  • Huge feature set for sales and marketing staff
  • Robust relationship management capabilities
  • Overkill for simple calendar and appointment management
  • Costs much more than the other options (starts at $25/mo/user)
  • Subscription model pricing

As you can see, no one solution is a clear winner in all cases. There are trade-offs with each solution, and it will ultimately come down to the needs of your business to determine which option is the best.

In most cases, the Office 365 or Google for Work (G Suite) will check off most of the boxes they need. But other businesses may be better off with classic Outlook. And the huge feature set of Salesforce is enticing if your business could use more than just a simple calendar.

Apptoto integrates with all of these solutions (and more) to provide seamless appointment reminders and alerts to your customers. So we’ve got your back no matter which option you choose.