Office 365 Re-visited

Why would you upgrade to Office 365?

A while ago, I blogged about Office 365, pointing out that in this version you no longer purchase the software outright, but license the use of it via a monthly or annual subscription.

Office 365I have no doubt that this change is intended to increase Microsoft’s sales. Let’s face it, Microsoft Office probably does pretty well everything that you want it to do by now. My experience with my own computer support clients suggests strongly that individual users (as opposed to medium-sized or large corporations) probably don’t use more than a small fraction of the functionality already built into Office. Why buy the product again with even more bells and whistles that you don’t care about? By persuading users to take out a subscription instead of buying the software outright, Microsoft don’t need to make another sale to get more money out of you. They know that once you’ve set up a direct debit or agreed to let them charge your credit/debit card when the time comes, then you will keep paying them money. It’s much, much easier to get money out of you this way as they don’t have to sell you anything again or persuade you to take any action at all. As Del Boy used to say, “lovely jubbly”.

And, since the version of Office that you currently receive when you opt for Office 365 is, in fact, Office 2013, then why would you make the switch?

Well, I’ve looked into it again and I have now signed up for Office 365. It may or may not be a good decision for you, but here are the advantages that make it worthwhile for me – an IT Support Consultant – to make the change:

  • It’s the only way to install the latest Office on several machines with one licence. Up to, and including, Office 2010 you could buy a three-user licence of Office Home and Student for only about £10 more than a single-user version. Microsoft have removed this option from Office 2013. With Office 365 Home you can install on five different machines and can even split that between Mac and PC machines. Previously, you had to buy separate versions to install on different operating systems. There is also a version that is less expensive that includes a licence for just one computer and one tablet.
  • There are now tablet versions (iPad, Android, Windows) of Office and you can install on up to five devices as part of the same licence if you opt for the Office 365 Home version of the product. Only Word, Excel and PowerPoint are available for tablets, but this is still a very welcome enhancement.
  • There is now no distinction between “Home and Student”, “Small Business” and “Professional” versions. With Office 365 you get all the modules (including Outlook, Access, and Publisher) automatically. Lots of users might never want these modules but for those who do (including me), then the monthly (or annual) subscription suddenly becomes a much more appealing deal than if we were just talking about the “Home and Student” version.
  • Updates to the software are automatic. This is a bit of a two-edged sword. It’s nice to know you won’t have to fork out anything extra for newer versions, but it can be very disconcerting for software to suddenly change without either asking for it or wanting it.
  • CashCowThe prices are quite good. Office Professional 2013 currently costs £389.99 for a single user. A subscription to Office 365 Personal (one user plus one tablet) costs £5.99 per month (about £72 per annum) or £59.99 for a single annual subscription. So, it would actually take 6.5 years of use for an outright purchase of 2013 to be a better bet than Office 365 Personal. And, if you really want to be pedantic, there are cashflow benefits to paying for it by an ongoing subscription and you are even reducing the risk of making the purchase as you could always choose not to renew an annual subscription. The best value is probably to be found in the Office 365 Home version. This includes a licence to install on five Macs and/or PCs and five tablets.It costs £7.99 per month or £79.99 for an annual subscription.
  • Depending on which version you choose, you can also receive up to 1tb (one terabyte – ie 1000 gigabytes) of Cloud storage with an Office 365 subscription. My computer support clients currently seem to be split about 50:50 on whether they think cloud storage is a good idea. The two main benefits it holds are that you have a remote backup of your data (so if your entire house and belongings suffered devastation by fire, theft, or flood, you would still have a copy of your data) and data created on one computer or device is immediately available to your other computers or devices (iPads etc).

Filing cabinet in the clouds
I seem to be gradually migrating all of my data to the Cloud
I only installed 365 this week, but so far I’ve not found any reason to regret the decision. The installation even seamlessly transferred my Outlook to the 365 version – including email accounts, contacts, calendar, email messages, email signatures, email rules, and add-ins.

If you only use Word, Excel and PowerPoint (of the available modules in Microsoft Office) and only use a single computer, then my previous advice still stands – you are probably better off with Office 2013. If your needs are greater than that then it may pay to investigate Office 365 the next time you want or need to change the software.

By the way, in my earlier blog entitled Buying Office 2013 I originally said that you use the software online rather than installing it on your own computer. That was wrong and I apologise. In fact, the software installs in the normal way onto your own computer.