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Should You Be Using Office 365?

As of April 21, 2020, the official branding of Microsoft’s productivity suite has changed from Office 365 to just Microsoft 365. The new naming convention reflects Microsoft’s strategy of providing a single complete productivity platform for its customers.

Fortunately the change from Office 365 to Microsoft 365 is not going to have much of an immediate practical impact. In general, the subscription you had on April 20 is the same as the subscription you had on April 21, only with a different name.

Office software is the cornerstone of IT in most businesses, and Microsoft Office has long led the way.

In days gone by Office was bought on a CD-Rom for a one-off price and you installed it on your PC or laptop. Each machine needed another copy of Office and, apart from security patches, what you bought was what you got. When a new version was available you bought the new version and replaced the old.

Nowadays Office is available as a download which you can either buy outright or as a monthly subscription. The subscriptions options come under the ‘365’ umbrella and are increasingly the ‘go to’ office product.

But should you be using Office 365 for your business?

What’s available

We are going to look at the Business options, there are home and student options available for both subscription and outright purchase, but these should not be used for business. There are also enterprise versions but, again we’ll concentrate on the business options as that will be the most relevant for most readers.

Subscription V Purchase

As you start to compare the offerings one thing becomes clear – Microsoft wants you to subscribe. For a start try and find a price and buying option for Office 2019 on the Microsoft website!

Office 2019

The latest standalone version of Office is Office 2019. Microsoft call this the ‘perpetual’ version, a more familiar term might be ‘on premise’. Office 2019 is basically a scaled back version of Office 365. In Microsofts own words “Office 2019 includes a meaningful subset of features found in Office 365.”

As well as a reduced feature set, Office 2019 purchasers will get no updates, other than ‘quality and security patch updates’ which basically means only bug fixes. It’s also worth noting that support has been reduced. Microsoft own ‘fixed’ support policy gives customers five years of ‘mainstream’ support with patches for security and bugs then another five years of ‘extended’ support.

Office 2019 doesn’t include OneNote, nor does it give you 60 free minutes on Skype each month. Your One Drive allowance also drops from 1TB to 15GB.

The ‘extended’ support has been shortened to two years instead of five. After 14 October 2025 (not 2028) there’ll be no security patches for Office 2019.

Finally, Office 2019 will only work with Windows 10 and you only get to use it on a single PC or laptop, so you cannot use Office on your phone or tablet.

Office 365

Microsoft throw a lot in to the Office 365 package to try and persuade you to go down that route. But what are the real advantages and should you be using Office 365 for your business?

One of the main advantages is the ability to access Office 365 from anywhere. If you’ve got a internet connection and a device then you can access Office 365. A business subscription gives you Office 365 on 5 devices meaning you can install on your work PC, laptop, tablet, phone and home PC for on subscription. The gives complete flexibility for businesses with remote employees, multiple locations or companies with employees that travel a lot.

Another huge advantage of Office 365 is always having access to the latest version of programs at no additional charge. Microsoft are consistently adding to and upgrading the Microsoft Office suite. With a subscription the whole business will always be on the latest, best version. The updates install automatically with no need to role them out; so no uninstalls and re-installs to do. In addition to the basics such as Word and Excel you also get several other useful apps such as Visio, Bookings, Forms, Yammer, Teams and many more. Used correctly Office 365 can save you a fortune on additional software.

Enhanced Security

A massive advantage of Office 365 is the security features it includes. One of the biggest misconceptions about the cloud is that it isn’t secure. In reality it isn’t any more or less secure safe than an on-premises solution. Office 365 includes a number of built in features that help this particular cloud solution is extremely secure.

365 includes encrypted email, data loss prevention, mobile device management, Advanced Threat Analytics, Multi-Factor Authentication, Role-Based Access Control and much more.

Security features do depend on the plan you’re on. However, this offers another advantage: flexibility. You can mix and match subscriptions to meet your users needs and remove accounts if staff leave the business. Adding new staff is easy. If you’re working with an MSP they’ll be able to setup a new account in no time.

Collaboration is at the heart of Office 365

Collaboration in Office 365. Should you be using office 365?

Helping teams work better together, wherever they may be, is a huge element of Office 365.

Everyone who needs to contribute to or edit a document (or spreadsheet, or presentation, etc), can work on the same version, and get real-time changes. Much better than having multiple version floating around that have to be combined.

You can also share direct access to files instead of sending them as attachments. This means colleagues can make changes to one file rather than having multiple copies. Versioning is included in case you need to go to back to an older version.

Who’s buying Office 2019?

So, with all the advantages of Office 365 who’s going to buy Office 2019? There could be any number of reasons why you might still want to go for the no subscription-based option. Some industries insist on no cloud use, customers and regulatory bodies requiring a ‘on premises’ solution. Other businesses may just be more comfortable with an outright purchase model, happy to sacrifice functionality for knowing exactly what they are spending.

Microsoft have indicated that Office 2019 will not be the last perpetual version of the Office Suite so there is obviously a market for this.

However, for the vast majority of businesses the small upfront cost, along with the greater functionality and flexibility, make Office 365 the obvious choice.

So Office 365 is the perfect choice?

No, there is no such thing as perfect! Office 365 has some drawbacks. The open-ended nature of subscription-based payments and the lack of ownership are things that some will be uncomfortable with.

Whilst the constant improvements are welcome they can mean you feel like you are always learning the software. Though many of the improvements are actually quite subtle and you’ll often not really notice.

Being cloud based might mean you can work from anywhere with an internet connection but what if the internet is unavailable in your location, or you are having connectivity problems. It’s nice to imagine we are in an always on, always connected world but sometimes that just isn’t true.

Finally, Office 365 comes with some fabulous additional tools but most users only use about 20% of it’s capabilities. Check you’re not paying for a load of tools and apps that you don’t need. Or worse paying for a different tool when there is something within Office 365 which will do the job.

Should you be using Office 365?

Despite the few drawbacks we believe that Office 365 is the best solution for the majority of small businesses. However, when we are called into a business whether that be a new or existing business we always consider exactly what they need their office suite to do before making any recommendations.

We’d advise doing your homework, speaking to prospective providers and taking your time over the decision to move to Office 365. It’s also key that you plan the migration properly and prepare for any downtime – something we’ll cover in more detail in a future blog.

How we can help

We’ve migrated numerous companies, large and small, to the Office 365 platform. These include AM Norris, one the leading suppliers of heating and plumbing service. You can read about that migration here. If you’d like a free consultation to discuss how Office 365 might benefit your business (or not!) then please call us on 0115 8220200 or fill in the contact us form.

IT Support and Services Nottingham, Derby, Leicester.