The cloud and the constant buzz that surrounds it has many organizations thinking twice about how they run their business applications. Some are even taking to the sky with familiar applications traditionally hosted in the desktop environment. Microsoft Office is a classic example of a popular software product that has been reborn, so to speak, in the cloud.
Microsoft launched Office 365 in the summer of 2011 as a beefed up, web-centric version of its core desktop suite. The online suite quickly became a hit with companies seeking a cloud-based solution, but the January 2013 launch of Office 2013 reminded the world what a handy tool the offline version really is in the enterprise setting. Here’s a closer look at how these two powerful business suites match up for SMBs.
Office 365 is an SaaS cloud platform available on a subscription basis. What you actually end up paying will depend on your usage needs. You can either pay per user every month or pay a flat annual fee per user, which of course, knocks off a few bucks. Plans come suited with different pricing structures to accommodate the different budgets of the Small Business, the Midsize Business and the Enterprise.
Office 2013 is available in 12 different flavors, including retail editions, special volume licensing editions and subscription-based editions that are actually available through the 365 program. While the pricing scheme is a bit more complex, it is also offers more flexibility than ever. The additional options increase the possibilities of finding a solution that accommodates both your needs and the budget.
The flexibility of Office 2013 carries over to the deployment department. There are several ways to deploy the software, including on the local desktop, on a network point or even on a remote server using virtualization technology. The right deployment method will depend on company-specific factors such as number of users, user roles and system specifications.
One advantage common of the SaaS model is a quick, easy deployment. This is exactly what Microsoft aims for with its cloud-based office suite. With no physical software in the equation, you don’t have any installation process to worry about. And while some would argue that getting set up is less than an intuitive experience, Microsoft has conveniently accessible resources and documentation designed to simplify Office 365 deployment.
Connecting to the Office
Being a product of the cloud and all, it’s no shocker that supreme accessibility happens to be one of Office 365’s strong points. Whether it’s Word, Outlook, Excel or another application, all your vital business tools can be accessed from your laptop, desktop, mobile device, or wherever you have a capable internet connection. Such extensive connectivity options make the cloud solution an ideal choice for the mobilized workforce that needs to access essential apps on the go.
While still an attractive perk, the cloud accessibility aspect of 365 doesn’t carry the exclusivity it once did and the connectivity enhancements in the desktop version are to blame. Office 2013 is packed with core functionality that lets you save files to SharePoint or SkyDrive. In fact, you can sign into your business apps right from your Microsoft account, which kind of gives Office a feel similar to that of the rival web-based Google Docs. So on the accessibility front, the two platforms are nearly neck and neck, all thanks to the cloud.
Office Integrity and Reliability
A combination of cyber attacks and unforeseen disasters poses a major threat to productivity applications. Office 2013 addresses this with built-in features that protect against unauthorized access, Active X threats and a wide variety of web-based exploits. Office 365 is also equipped with controls that enable businesses to enjoy a safe and secure experience when running their productivity apps online. When making proper use of the available settings and controls, both options can be highly effective in ensuring security, privacy and compliance.
For many businesses, the battle between the online and offline versions of Office will come down to this: do you want to buy or lease? Go the way of the former, and you own your software suite outright, but also have to deal with the hassles of maintaining it in-house and upgrading a few years later. Go the way of the former, and you can keep your productivity tools up, running and fresh with the latest functionality in hassle-free fashion — as long as you’re paying that subscription. It can be a tough decision, but also a case where there really is no right or wrong.