The Office software suite is changing! If you haven’t heard, Microsoft is really pushing the new Office 365, which is all of our old standbys from the Office Suite now delivered on a subscription basis, rather than purchasing that familiar box with the software on CD in it. Along with the standard programs, Word, Excel, Outlook, etc., is cloud integration, meaning you can access the software as well as your documents created and edited in them from any computer or connected device.
When navigating to the official Microsoft Office website the landing page is all about Office 365, in fact, it takes a bit of digging to find the link to the traditional software. This tells me that Microsoft is getting us ready. Ready for what? The next incarnation of office software.
Software as a Service, or SAAS.
It’s not exactly new, those of us with ‘geek genes’ have known about and even utilized SAAS for years. But this is perhaps the first software that can be found in even the most tech resistant office environments, that is making its evolution to a cloud based service. And whether they like it or not, eventually it’s going to bring even the most die-hard technophobes with it, even if they are kicking and screaming.
Office Professional Plus is the SAAS version of what used to be installed from those CD’s housed in the familiar yellow boxes. It’s a pay as you go option at a cost of $12 per month, per user . Each user is allowed to install the software on up to 5 devices. For start-up, micro and small businesses on a budget this allows them to pay a small monthly payment rather than shelling out $400 dollars for the box of CD’s. This option doesn’t allow for upgrades to the latest and greatest versions of the Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access, InfoPath, SharePoint Workspace and Lync ).
To get the nifty option that will always guarantee that you’re using the latest and greatest version of the Office suite you will need to combine it with a subscription to Office 365 (or choose an Office 365 version that includes that feature). Office 365 is available in levels, much the way the traditional Office Suite was. The Home & Office, Small Business and Pro Versions of the software gave you different combinations of products in the Suite and Office 365 does the same with its plans.
What does that additional cost get you besides software updates? Cloud storage and accessibility. And that’s huge. While we self-proclaimed geeks have been using Google docs, Google Drive, Dropbox and others, Office 365 provides those with a fear of the cloud a reason to finally get their cloud on. And it lets them do so without leaving the familiarity of their beloved Office suite.
Why would you need cloud access if you can install Office Professional Plus on 5 devices you ask? Simple. If for some reason you left home without any of your devices, you can still not only access your documents by logging in online, you can edit and view them in the web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. See the beauty? Yeah, I thought you would.
The plans are reasonably priced, only $6 a month for the Small Business plan, even if you add in Office Professional Plus ($12) it’s still only $18. Considering that I subscribe to a service to help me create SEO friendlier posts * on my posts and pages for more than that, I’d say an entire Office suite with both device and web accessible applications and storage. And even if the cloud-based features aren’t for you; say for example you’re happy with Dropbox and Google Docs for web-only storage and editing; the $12 a month for just the Office Professional Plus software is a pretty good deal ($144 a year as compared to shelling out $399 for the box).
The really big news here however , is the whole SAAS vs. traditional software thing. Because whether you like it or not, this is the future of software. I see this as a very good thing for business offices. I’ve worked in offices that were running software that was so outdated that you couldn’t even get support for it anymore. I always found it ironic that most people had more up to date software and computers at home than they did in their businesses. You know, the place where they made their money?? How many of you are reading this from an office computer still running Microsoft XP? Or Office 2003 or older? So perhaps the evolution of popular office software to a software as a service format will help businesses stay more up to date. After all, saying good-bye to document incompatibility issues has to be a good thing right?
Personally, I’m looking forward to some of the pricier business software to adopt this strategy. An affordable monthly price for Photoshop and Camtasia? Hello? I’m ready!
Tina Marie Hilton is the owner and virtual online technology assistant at Clerical Advantage and it’s Girly Girl Geek services.