Choosing the right Office version for your customers

We've been getting a few scenario variations around this topic recently, so I thought it was worth sharing a few of the different resources that will help you to make the right decision. There are two different parts to this conversation, the first is selling a perpetual licence (e.g. Office 2016) versus a subscription (e.g. Office 365 Business). The second one that gets raised when dealing with price sensitive customers is why sell the commercial versions (e.g. Office 365 Business) versus the cheaper consumer options (e.g. Office 365 Home).

Let's start with the elephant in the room. If you are selling to a commercial entity, you shouldn't be selling them consumer versions of Office - subscription or perpetual licenses. Most have us have seen the "Non-commercial" message in the Office apps at some point, and if you need to point this out to someone, point them to the Requirements section where it explicitly lists Non-commercial use for the following versions of Office

Office 365 Personal Office 365 Home Office Home & Student 2016 for PC Office Home & Student 2016 for Mac

One of the things that we often raised is that the once off acquisition of the perpetual version of Office can be a simpler purchase and appear cheaper in the long term, but there are a few things you need to be aware of that the perpetual license doesn't provide, let's go through some of these now.

First up, you get the version of Office you purchase, with the feature set it was released with. Meanwhile, those with a subscription are provided with new functionality in an ongoing manner. This means that several years in to the purchase the disparity gets larger and larger. Initially this is just a feature difference, but it becomes more critical over time.

What do I mean by that? It has already been announced that on October 13, 2020 that Office 365 services will require the latest version of Office perpetual or a currently support Office 365 subscription release. From the blog post Office 365 ProPlus updates...

  • Office 365 ProPlus or Office perpetual in mainstream support required to connect to Office 365 services. Starting October 13, 2020, Office 365 ProPlus or Office perpetual in mainstream support will be required to connect to Office 365 services. Office 365 ProPlus will deliver the best experience, but for customers who aren’t ready to move to the cloud by 2020, we will also support connections from Office perpetual in mainstream support.
  • Applies to Office 365 commercial services only. This update does not change our system requirements or support policies for the Office perpetual clients, Office perpetual clients connecting to on-premises servers, or any consumer services.
  • More than three years’ notice. We’re providing more than three years’ notice to give IT time to plan and budget for this change. Until this new requirement goes into effect in 2020, Office 2010, Office 2013 and Office 2016 perpetual clients will still be able to connect to Office 365 services.

This is a conversation I normally need to have with partners and customers who are trying to do a mix and match of perpetual software installs on the client with online subscriptions. My view is that it's easier to go down the path of incremental updates that a subscription would provide, rather than having to do a major upgrade and introduce all of the new functionality to users in one go, while trying to make sure the timing doesn't cause disconnection from online services.

The other benefit this ties in to is that when you get an Office 365 commercial subscription that includes the online services and the desktop application installs, the functionality is matched between them to give the best result, eg. Office 365 ProPlus, included with an Office 365 E3 Plan, includes a version of Outlook that supports online archive access. Trying to mix an Office 365 Business subscription, or one of the consumer Office editions, with the appropriate Exchange Online plan won't give you this functionality.

What else do you get with the subscription versions that makes them worthwhile? Let's start with the consumer versions. You can see the full details here, but the highlights with the Office 365 Home subscription is 5 users can install Office, which include Publisher and Access as a minimum advantage over the perpetual versions. You also get 1TB of OneDrive storage per user (so 5 x 1TB in total),  as well as some Skype credit. You also get the full functionality of the Office mobile apps on iOS and Android as well for those users. The Office 365 Personal cuts the price a bit, but only 1 install for one user, and one phone and one tablet mobile app install is covered.

If you are selling to price sensitive business customers, ways you can position the Office 365 Business and Office 365 Business plans to them is with some of the following information. The difference between these two plans is mostly focused on the inclusion of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Skype for Business Online, Microsoft Teams and Yammer with the Premium offering, making it a great start for those looking for an all in one cloud based productivity and collaboration solution. Additional functionality is being rolled in to this offering at the moment, including Microsoft Planner and Microsoft StaffHub, with more apps in the pipeline.

This post is already a bit longer than expected, so I'll cut it off here, and more than likely do a part 2 where I cover some of the questions/concerns this post raises.

Note that if any of the above information conflicts with licensing agreements, which can and do change over time, that the licensing agreement overrides anything in this post.