The primary software package in the Office 365 package is Microsoft Office 2016. The software ranges from tools you're very familiar with such as Microsoft Office, which includes Word, Outlook and OneNote, to things you may not be as familiar with like Microsoft Visio.
The software is typically installed as a "Click-to-Run" installation which means that rather than installing from a DVD or even a traditional download in most cases the software is installed by streaming it from the Internet.
One common misunderstanding about this is that people think that means the software is web-based (like Google Docs) or that you have to be always connected to the Internet in order to use it. Office 2016 via Office 365 (yes, I know it gets confusing) is installed on your local hard drive just like your current version of Microsoft Office probably is. The differences are that Office software installed through Office 365 will periodically check in with Microsoft to make sure your subscription is still active and Microsoft will frequently push updates and even new features to you. This also means that you don't have to worry about keeping track of installation DVDs in case you ever need to reinstall the software. As long as the Internet is available, your installation files are available.
A Subscription Model?
There is a lot of push-back from folks on the subscription model for software. Most of us are used to paying $399, one time, and just using that software forever. Sometimes we didn't even realize we were paying the $399 because we bought our software bundled with our computer and the cost of the software was just quietly rolled in. I'll admit that at first I wasn't too keep on the subscription idea either. But Microsoft has done a couple of things to sweeten the deal.
First of all they've kept the pricing relatively low. For most of the plans it'll be three years or more on the subscription plan before you'll have spent as much as you would have spent for that box of software before. At $8.25 a month it will take you almost 4 years to spend $399.
Secondly many of the plans bundle in some valuable services such as Exchange Server or OneDrive for Business cloud storage. When you consider what those services are worth the package becomes considerably better.
And finally they've been quite liberal with the licensing. You may be paying $8.25 a month for Microsoft Office, but that $8.25 a month lets you install Office not just on the PC on your desk, but also on the laptop in your bag and the Mac at your house and the iPad you're carrying around and"¦pretty soon you're effectively paying just $2.75 or $4 per month per device. At that price it could be 10 YEARS or more before you'll have spent as much money in the subscription plan as you would have with the boxed software.
One thing that's important to know is that with the Office 365 plans you can generally add, or remove, users one at a time and whenever you need to. That means that you don't have to buy "a 10 pack" of licenses if you only need 8 today. Buy 8. When you hire an additional staffer you can add one more. If somebody leaves your firm and you're not immediately replacing them you can perhaps reduce your license count, and reduce your monthly expenses.
Do I Really Need To Upgrade?
Well, "need" is a strong word. When it comes to Office 2016 I answer that question this way:
- If you have Office 2010 or 2013 you probably don't need to upgrade to 2016 right away, though you might want to.
- If you have Office 2007 you probably should upgrade to 2016 right away.
- If you have Office 2003 (or an older version) you should definitely upgrade to 2016.
As for the services, Microsoft Exchange server is the jewel in the Office 365 crown and if you're currently using a POP3 or IMAP-based email system (especially if you're using an @yahoo.com or @gmail.com address for your firm) then you should definitely step up to a professional email system with hosted Exchange.
Whether you're going to use SharePoint or Lync is a question you'll need to think hard about. There are firms who use those things very successfully, but they might not fit into your workflow. I will talk more specifically about those in the session and hopefully you'll have a good feel for whether SharePoint and/or Lync will work for your firm.
What You Need To Know
With Microsoft Office 365 you select a set of software products and services and you pay a monthly subscription fee that ranges from $4 to $24 or so per mailbox. The services are delivered to you via "The Cloud" and the software is locally installed just as your software traditionally has been. This is the direction that Microsoft is heading towards for all of its software distribution.
There is one other thing you really need to know about this article and the accompanying session is that this is a very dynamic software product. By the time I've finished typing this sentence it's possible that Microsoft will have changed something about the product. So you may want to hear "as of this writing" in your head before most of what I say.
If you want to try Office 365 out for free for a month or so here are a couple of free trial offers that you can use - no obligation.
- Office 365 Business - It's Microsoft Office 2016 with Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, OneNote, Excel...all your favorites. You can install it on up to 5 devices per user - this trial includes 25 users.
- Office 365 E3 - This is Office 365 that includes Office 2016, plus Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business. It's $20/mailbox/month if you buy it but with this link you can try it out for free first. This trial includes 25 mailboxes.
- OfficeForLawyers.com- A site with information about legal technology, especially Microsoft Office and Office 365.
- Microsoft's official Office 365 site
If you have any Office 365 questions please feel free to ask in the comments below, reach out on Twitter at BSchorr or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.