Even as rapidly as technology changes, only every once in a while will we come across a showstopper, a real game changer. In cloud services, that game changer is Microsoft Office 365. Most individuals and companies are used to working with Microsoft Office 2007, 2010, or maybe even 2013 at this point. These versions of Office are a boxed product where you purchase a disk and install it on one PC only for a set, onetime cost. Depending on the version, you can get Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access all in one place on one computer. Microsoft Office 365 offers all of these applications plus more – in the cloud.
What does this mean? Being in the cloud with Office 365 means that you have access to all applications, settings, documents, and emails when you need them, and being that you can install it on up to 5 PCs or Macs plus certain mobile devices, you can access your information from multiple locations and devices. If your laptop gets stolen or your PC goes down, you can still check your email or retrieve important documents and information. In addition, for some companies, this means no longer having to house and maintain servers. It means access to upgrades, updates, and support. This in itself is a cost savings.
All in all, Office 365 looks and functions pretty much the same as Office 2013. However, one difference that should be discussed is the pricing structure. As mentioned, Office 2013 is a boxed product; therefore, you pay a onetime fee for one license to be installed on one computer. If you need to install it on more than one computer, the costs could get hefty. Office 365 is a subscription product, meaning you pay a fixed fee per year and you can install it on multiple computers and transfer it to other devices whenever you want, and your subscription automatically renews each year. This subscription pricing also makes upgrades and updates available to you at no additional cost. With the box version, you must purchase the latest and greatest version when it is released.
If you aren’t already sold on Office 365, let’s talk about a few other perks that come with the cloud-based program.
1. The new Office works on touch screen devices, like tablets and touch screen laptops running Windows 8, and can be installed on some mobile devices.
2. Users can get up to 25 GB free space on SkyDrive – Microsoft’s cloud storage program.
3. Depending on the version, subscribers can get 60 free Skype minutes per month to call landlines in supported countries. This perk is often overlooked but can be beneficial for those users that make international calls.
One thing I must point out is that Microsoft Office 365 must be installed on machines running on either Windows 7 or 8. You can no longer run them on Vista or XP as these versions are now be phased out and soon, no longer supported by Microsoft. If you currently operate Vista or XP, it’s time to upgrade. You can find out more information on the why, what, and how here.
Understandably, the decision to move to the cloud over physical servers is a big decision for companies, and while some companies strongly prefer to have everything in house, moving to the cloud is something that should certainly be considered. Overall, Microsoft Office 365 is a solid cloud-based solution that could benefit every type of user and should be taken very seriously in this market.