A teacher in a school was asking me whether she should consider moving from Microsoft Office to G Suite for Education in order to save money. The purpose of this article is not to judge the merits of either suite of applications, as this is very much subjective. However, it interested me because, at first, it felt like a no-brainer – Microsoft Office (the software as opposed to Office 365) is reasonably expensive and G Suite for Education is free. All things being equal in terms of services, it would seem an easy call.
However, is anything actually free? Let’s explore.
In order to have a G Suite for Education account, one must have a domain name to attach it to. While you may have a school web site, it may not be attached to a domain that you own. For example, your school web site may be a Scoilnet blog or you may have a service like Weebly or Wix. Your web site is likely to be something like http://YOUR_SCHOOL_NAME.scoilnet.ie. You will need to get your own domain so it will be something like YOUR_SCHOOL_NAME.ie or .com, etc. This has a cost of anything between €10 to €60 per annum.
Once you have a domain, everyone in the school can have an account with an email address and access to all of G Suite’s apps. This means that, like for like, you are spending very little, in reality for your G Suite for Education account.
Let’s say you decide after a while to go down the route of using Chromebooks instead of regular laptops or tablets, etc. It makes sense to do so if you are 100% using G Suite. After all, one only needs to log in to one’s account to access all one’s documents, etc. Chromebooks are great devices in terms of speed and robustness. Again, while using Chromebooks doesn’t necessarily add to the cost of G Suite, it is an advantage to set the Chromebooks to only allow students and staff in the school to use them. They can be set up to demand a username within your school’s domain in order to be able to use them. This will enhance security and data protection as every user’s data and interaction is logged.
In order to do this, each Chromebook must get a licence, which currently cost €25 per machine. If one has enough Chromebooks, this can very quickly add up. For example, 40 Chromebooks can cost €1,000 per annum. Comparing that to Microsoft’s VOS service, pricing can quickly become comparable and after a short time more expensive.
While it’s entirely possible to run G Suite for Education extremely cheaply (next to free), it is worth considering the above before you make the leap.