In years gone by, the Microsoft Office Suite would come pre-loaded on your PC or laptop. However, due to a host of market influences including increasing demand for cheaper hardware, many products were boxed and customers were invited to pay only for the applications they needed.
In June 2011, Microsoft launched Office 365, a subscription based service set to benefit everyone. With packages available for personal and business use, you can ensure that you’re not paying for any additional programmes that you won’t use. In return, Microsoft receives regular income each month.
First we’ll have a look at the pricing structure then we’ll discuss exactly what you get in a little more detail and whether you should upgrade your Office suite.
Whether you’re a small, medium or large sized company, there’s a package to suit your needs. Starting from as little as £39.60 per year / user and peaking at little over £100 per year / user, the tech savvy small business could save some serious money on the subscription model.
Advantages of Office 365
It’ll Save You Money!
If you use the complete Office suite, then upgrading to Office 365 could save you a whole load of cash. Out of the box, you could expect to pay close to £400 for everything, when you could be paying as little as £100 per year / user through Office 365. Plus, there are a few bonus features you’ll receive for adopting the subscription model.
Enjoy Anywhere, Anytime Access
For anyone that hadn’t already guessed by the name, Office 365 is available on any computer, all year round. You’re able to download the suite on up to 5 devices, which is great for the modern professional. Integration with SkyDrive allows you to store data on the cloud and use web based applications of your Office from any computer with internet access.
Work Together Simultaneously
The combination of SharePoint technology and Office 2013 allows you to work more efficiently with collaborative work sheets and more in Office 365. Pick up where you left off elsewhere thanks to intuitive syncing and view the latest revisions made by colleagues with a host of new tools and tips. Web apps are almost a mirror image of the desktop versions, with just a few features trimmed (but little you’ll need to worry about).
Enough Storage For An Epic Hoarder
In addition to the 7GB SkyDrive storage that Microsoft is offering everyone. Premium packages come complete with an additional 20GB (27GB in all). That’s a pretty big thank you.
Enjoy the Latest Technology at Reduced Costs
Rather than wait years for all of the updates to come in one package and knock you for six, Office 365 will update periodically, making the transition between newer versions of Office much easier to digest. Not to mention, you’ll be first in line for great new features that others will need to wait for.
IT Departments Love Office 365
Office 365 is managed much the same way as you’d manage an on premises Exchange environment. Active directory allows IT departments to group people and give them a specific set of permissions (access to email / SharePoint etc). We’ll discuss drawbacks to security later, but a massive lure for IT departments is that Microsoft take care of security giving you one less thing to worry about.
It’s Good To (Video) Talk
Enjoy a whole hour of calls to your business contacts across the globe every month with free Skype minutes. Available on Home Office Premium and most Premium Business services, this is a great incentive for signing up to the subscription model.
How Does The Boxed Alternative Stack Up?
Microsoft typically updates their boxed software every three years. Think Office 2013, 2010, 2007, 2003 & 2000.
For £220, you can grab Office 2013 Home & Business Edition. That’ll give you most of the applications that you love, available on one device, including: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote & Outlook. For an additional £170 (£390), you can include Publisher and Access to those already listed (Office Professional)
So, to do the math, for the comparable package to Office Professional on Office 365 (Small Business Premium), you’d be forking out £302.40 over the 3 years as opposed to £390. Plus, if you were happy to settle for web based applications as opposed to desktop versions, you could get the same service for under £120 (Office 365 – Small Business).
You can argue that nobody updates immediately, meaning you’ll get a little extra bang for your buck, but probably not enough to justify the box price. The only time we’d recommend buying out of the box was if you only use a couple of Office applications. In that case the kitchen sink that comes with Office 365 may not be the best option for you.
100% Owned By You
The same as buying a car outright means that there are no direct debits coming out each month, the boxed versions simply incur a one off payment. All you need to worry about is the insurance, tax and price of petrol (or staff costs, electricity and training).
Sure, it can actually work out more beneficial to get one on finance. Continued support and warranty, plus the guarantee of an upgrade after the lease period expires. Ok, you’ll be paying £200 per month for the foreseeable future, but you’ll have a shiny new car and all the support you could wish for.
If It Ain’t Broken…
With your office ticking over just perfectly should you really go changing your software? Although subscription models seem to be the way of the future, surely we can all savour the moment for a little longer?
Is It Easy To Switch?
Yes. Making the change to Office 365 is no different to upgrading your existing package from say 2010 to 2013.
There are of course, more noticeable changes than in regular updates, including the ability to work via web apps and collaborate with colleagues via the cloud. It’s recommended that you offer Microsoft accredited training to your employees to ensure that everyone is up to speed with new features and able to get the most from the package.
What About Security Concerns?
Well, you probably shouldn’t worry too much. The Microsoft has a huge team dedicated to the security of your data. But, vulnerable to attacks or not, they are happening:
Eran Feigenbaum, director of security for Google Apps states that “Any online presence that’s saying they’re not seeing targeted attacks is not being forthright or doesn’t have the insight into what’s going on.” Even Google themselves have seen breaches in Gmail security and to believe that Microsoft is immune would simply be naïve.
Stuart McClure, former McAfee Chief Technology Officer makes a bold statement – choosing a safe (cloud based) service can be like “picking a dog with the least fleas”. Sure it’s a tad sensationalist, but his message is clear, “If you’ve got sensitive data that you don’t want compromised, then don’t put it on the cloud” It sort of makes sense, after all, once on the cloud, it’s no longer being hosted in house – who really owns (or worse still has access to) your data?
In my opinion, I’d say that it pays to be mindful of security concerns but not to let this cloud your decision (excuse the pun).
Office 365 is a robust package that really does offer something for everyone. In terms of pricing, the upgrade is a no brainer. Most subscriptions offer desktop versions of Office, available on 5 devices (that alone blows the boxed model out of the water), plus it also boasts additional SkyDrive storage and Office web apps anywhere, anytime.
Security will always be an issue when talking about cloud storage, however, unless you’re dealing with particularly sensitive data, you’re probably in safe hands with Microsoft’s dedicated security team.