A Vast New World of Office Options

Technology is constantly evolving, making it ever easier to remain connected to other people. We can carry on the phones in our pockets advanced communication programs that send information in milliseconds. We have tablets that can stream videos that were uploaded on the other side of the world just as fast.

So, if that’s the case, why are we still locked into using one device to create our documents and save our files? Why are we still going around with USB drives full of documents, so we can find another device with the same programs, just to get a little work done? Why haven’t our Office programs evolved with the rest of our technology?

The answer is: they have. With Microsoft Office 365, users are now able to enjoy all the advantages of the cloud, with greater access to their programs and their files, plus ever more incredible ways to communicate and collaborate.

With Microsoft Office 365, users can suddenly upgrade their individual or business abilities to work on far more advanced levels. Basically, Microsoft Office 365 takes the standard Office model and brings it well and truly into the 21st century.

What Is the Cloud?

Before getting into what Microsoft Office 365 does exactly, we should first describe what the cloud is and why it’s important. The term “the cloud” is used all the time these days, but many can make the mistake of assuming everyone knows exactly what that term means.

The cloud refers to different sets of vast numbers of servers that are kept off-site from the devices we use. With these servers, we are able to store our data safely so that it can be retrieved through the internet from anywhere. The combination of these off-site servers and our ever-connected devices means that we can seemingly grasp our data and programs out of the air, as if they are hovering above us in a cloud, hence the name. The cloud is used for many purposes, from holding documents to providing access to our emails in our inboxes and other old communication.

Microsoft Office 365: Office Built for the Cloud

Microsoft’s task with Office 365 was to find a way to make the cloud work for Office programs to make them more dynamic than ever before. Microsoft accomplished this by harnessing the cloud to make many important aspects of the cloud useful to the Office programs themselves. For instance, it’s easier to save files automatically to the cloud from Word, Excel, and other programs. It’s also easier to create and edit documents with other users in real time so that incredible device-to-device collaboration is possible, including communicating within the programs to discuss edits and changes. This is only a taste of what the cloud means to the modern Office suite of programs.

What Microsoft Office 365 Offers Users

But what, specifically, is Microsoft doing to make the cloud work for its Office users? Consider these incredible upgrades, available only to 365 users:

  • 1 TB of cloud space in OneDrive: This provides every user with vast amounts of space to accommodate their needs. Essentially, for all but the most advanced users, it means every single document a user ever creates can be stored safely on the cloud and be accessed from anywhere, all coming complimentary as part of Office 365.
  • Multiple device installation: Most Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions include the ability to install all programs on up to 5 devices. These devices can be phones, tablets, laptops, or computers. One subscription, then, can either provide access to all programs and files for a whole family, or complete access for one user through every one of their devices.
  • No Mac/Windows difference: Before Office 365, users had to make a choice: pick one device for their Office and decide between Mac and PC. For those who had different devices they used, and who switched between PCs and Apple products, this was a very tough decision. Office 365 removed all that difficulty. It provides almost all subscriptions with multiple installations, as mentioned above, and those installations can be made on any device. This, combined with Microsoft’s focus on improving the coordination between Mac and PC versions of Office, means that users can switch between devices, no matter their operating system, and get the same experience.
  • Office Online: Combined with the above abilities, users can access Office programs online through the browser, meaning they aren’t even limited to five devices. They can work from any device, and with the OneDrive cloud holding all their files, they can start a sentence on their phone and finish it on a friend’s computer, even if it’s a thousand miles away.
  • Download your software: You no longer need to worry about discs and DVD-ROM drives when you’re dealing with Office. Now, everything is run through the internet and the cloud. When you make a purchase, you get a product key code. With that, you get access to your installation files. Need to reinstall after resetting a computer? No problem, go back to the Microsoft webpage, log in, and get the files all over again.
  • More programs: Earlier Office suites all came with extremely limited program options. Some came with as few as three or four programs (usually, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). Office 365 simply gives the entire suite away. That means almost every subscription comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. Some subscriptions come with far more.
  • Free and automatic upgrades: Ever purchase a version of Office just for Microsoft to release a new version a short while later, leaving you out of date? With Office 365, that never happens. You get the latest version of Office for free as soon as it gets released. If there’s a new version of Word, it’s yours overnight, automatically. No payments, no worries.
  • Subscriptions over one-time purchases: All of this comes with a novel new way to experience Microsoft Office. Instead of making customers pay a large amount of money upfront for an Office program that can be installed once and that can only be accessed from one device. These limits have been exploded, as we’ve already seen. Now, Office 365 users can also get the programs for cheap. The Office 365 suites are set up on subscriptions, where small payments are made every month or year. These payments are designed to be more economical, making it possible for more users than ever to afford all the benefits of Office.

Microsoft Office 365 Options

So, are you sold yet? Even if you are, you are probably still wondering about some specifics. For instance, what are the Microsoft Office 365 suites on offer, and what do they come with? Below, we’ve highlighted most of what makes each Office 365 subscription option stand out. We’ve divided the subscription options into those that are best for home and personal usage, those that work best for small businesses, and those that require a larger number of users to be effective (so, for big businesses).

The Home Options:

Home options from Microsoft are for those who essentially don’t have business needs. They are flexible enough to accommodate every other potential need, from just basic everyday use to studying in high school or college. The Home options include:

Microsoft Office 365 Personal: This is the subscription most like the traditional options available in disc form. Personal comes with only one installation (hence, “personal”). However, unlike those traditional suites, it comes with far more programs. As mentioned above, you get Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. You also get the OneDrive 1 TB space to optimize your cloud usage, the free upgrades, and every other complimentary Office 365 service.

Microsoft Office 365 Home: For those who want what Personal has to offer but have more devices that need Office, there is Microsoft Office 365 Home. This comes with all the same programs and features, but it’s now available for 5 different devices.

The Small Business Options:

These options are idea for individual professionals and small businesses who expect to connect between two and 300 devices and users. They are designed to provide the tools necessary for business at this level, with affordable prices but limited advanced features. The small business options include:

Microsoft Office 365 Business Essentials: This is for those with radically different needs than the traditional Office options. While the normal Office suite of programs (Word, Excel, etc.) is included, it is only in the Office Online form. There are no desktop apps for these programs. Instead, this suite focuses on communication programs. With Essentials, users get programs like SharePoint for collaboration and file sharing, Skype for Business for audio and video calls and conferencing, Lync for instant messaging, and Exchange for email, calendars, and other important communication tools. That’s just the beginning of what Essentials can provide an individual or small business. It’s a perfect suite for those who have constant access to the internet and who need much more advanced communication.

Microsoft Office 365 Business: If you aren’t looking for communication tools and just want the Office suite of programs that provides the traditional abilities plus the advanced 365 cloud access, then Business is the right choice. It is in most aspects the exact same as Microsoft Office 365 Home, only with a smaller business focus.

Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium: Some businesses can get by with just communication programs or just Office apps like Word and Excel, however, most want both sets of programs combined. That’s precisely what Premium offers. It’s everything in Essentials combined with everything in Business. It is, as the name suggests, the premium option for small businesses.

The Enterprise Options:

Enterprise for Microsoft means 300 or more users. These suites are for fairly large companies with fairly sizable needs in communication, security, and collaboration. They therefore make significant advances in all these areas. The Enterprise suites include:

Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise E1: Think of this as Essentials for an Enterprise business. It also only has the Office Online browser version of the traditional programs and focuses instead on communication programs. However, there are minor differences. For instance, Enterprise E1 includes Yammer social networking as another communication tool. Beyond this, much of the difference is simply how much more powerful the communication tools are when scaled to larger companies.

Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise ProPlus: Just as Enterprise E1 is essentially Business Essentials for the Enterprise business, so too ProPlus is Microsoft Office 365 Business scaled up to 300 or more users. Basically, it provides all the Office programs in desktop form plus all the benefits of cloud connection and accessibility.

Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise E3: As the pattern might suggest at this point, Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise E3 combines everything in E1 with everything in ProPlus. So, all the communication and collaboration programs also come with all the ProPlus Office programs in desktop form. E3 also adds a number of higher end features, such as more advanced encryption for data and the ability to broadcast Skype for Business meetings to up to 10,000 viewers.

Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise E5: While the previous business options for Office 365 all followed a pattern (communications programs, Office app programs, or both), E5 somewhat stands above this. It includes everything in E3, then it adds a bunch of high end features that can’t be accessed otherwise. These high-end features include advanced security protection for your data and devices (including Advanced Threat Protection and Customer Lockbox), advanced business intelligence capabilities with Power BI Pro and MyAnalytics, the ability to create an entire phone system with Skype for Business, advanced eDiscovery, and much more. These tools are necessary for top-level businesses that intend to stay where they are. They come at a higher price, but they are Microsoft’s most effective tools available.

How to Choose the Right Microsoft Office 365 Edition

Microsoft has in some ways made it easy to choose your Office 365 edition. While there are a lot of options, you should be able to clearly see which category your needs fit into. Start with the category and then choose based off of the types of your programs you need. So, if you have a small business, decide whether you need communication tools, Office apps, or both. Then pick the edition that provides for those needs.