I do not have to convince you that Microsoft Office is one of the most widely-used software suites in the business world. Regardless of their size or their industry, a vast majority of businesses rely on Office applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint daily.
Since 2011, Office users have had to choose between two different versions of the software package: the standard “one-time” Office suite (currently called Office 2019) and Office 365. While these two versions have a similar set of tools and features, and both work on major computer operating systems, there are some critical differences.
First of all, I can tell you that the similarities between Office 2019 and 365 are far more numerous than the differences. However, the differences are significant enough that buyers need to put some thought into which version best meets their specific business needs.
What are Office 2019 and Office 365?
Microsoft Office 2019 is a stand-alone software suite, while Office 365 is a subscription service. Both have apps like PowerPoint, Word, and Excel, but the versions differ when it comes to purchasing and payment, updates, support, and access to the cloud. Furthermore, Microsoft’s future Office plans involve one version of Office, but not the other.
Which version is better? It depends on how you plan to use it.
What do I get with Office 2019?
Office 2019 gives users Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote. Windows owners get the latest versions of Project, Access, Publisher, and Visio. The suite works on Windows 10 or the latest version of Mac OS. Microsoft has promised five years of support for Office 2019 including security updates and bug fixes. However, it will phase out support by 2025.
What do I get with Office 365?
Office 365 has the same desktop apps as Office 2019, and it has cloud-based email service, one terabyte of online storage space, and productivity features for businesses. You can get a 30-day free trial to the service, and it will work on older versions of Windows, including Windows 8. Microsoft has guaranteed support of Office 365 on Windows 8 through 2023.
Depending on the plan, you can also get to use the application on multiple devices, such as your laptop, phone, and desktop PC with one subscription.
Business users will also get the benefit of online only productivity tools like Teams, and hosted Exchange, again depending on the applicable plan.
How do I buy Office 365 and Office 2019?
As it has been since the 1990s, the 2019 version of Office is a one-time purchase. While Microsoft will offer upgrades for security and bug fixes, it will not provide new features and improvements to Office 2019 owners. If you want new features or functions, you will have to purchase the next version of Office. (Microsoft has hinted at one final version before it fully adopts the subscription model).
Office 365 requires a monthly subscription, but it does not make users wait to get improved functionality and new features. These upgrades are part of the subscription. You can choose to pay for 365 monthly or get a slight discount with an annual payment. Subscriptions are available for home and personal use, and Microsoft also has Business, Educational, Enterprise, and Nonprofit subscription options.
Should I choose based on price or value?
When I make purchases, I always look at the price tag. However, in my opinion, a simple price comparison might not be the best way to choose your version of Office. Instead, I would compare the value that each product provides.
If a business uses cloud storage and benefits from frequent upgrades and enhancements, then Office 365 may be a better investment. However, if your business primarily uses classic applications such as Word, Outlook, and PowerPoint, Office 2019 may be sufficient.
One significant drawback to Office 365 is that if you let the subscription lapse, you will not be able to access your files and data. Microsoft will not delete your files or data, but you will need to pay for your subscription before you can log back in and access everything.
Microsoft 365 offers cloud-based storage to subscribers. Furthermore, as a business user, you can collaborate on documents, presentations, and files in real time even if you are not in the same location as the other members of your team. You can also link to files stored in the cloud instead of attaching them to an email, therefore significantly lowering the size of the email. Microsoft plans to continue developing these features for 365 in the future.
The current and future cloud features are an advantage for Office 365. You should ask yourself: can my business increase productivity if employees work collaboratively on projects at the same time? Will we use the cloud-based storage to share files with co-workers, clients, or third-party contractors? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” an Office 365 subscription could be a good investment. If you plan to use Office for yourself or to create files independently, the Office 2019 may still be the better value.
The future of Office is in the cloud
Microsoft’s long term plans involve switching to a subscription-based business model for Office and phasing out “one-time” versions of the software suite. These plans mean that your business will eventually have to access Office via a subscription (unless you want to use an older, unsupported version). By switching now, you can integrate Office 365 into your business processes.
Office 365 updates frequently, and these updates may affect the way your business handles projects or tasks. The new features can aid productivity, but it may also be confusing if you merely want to use basic apps or if everyone in your business is not on the same page as far as online collaboration.
If you do prefer simple, you are not alone. Microsoft may still release another version of “one-time” Office (Office 2021 or Office 2022) before it turns into a full subscription service.
One more thing to consider is that Office 365 will provide lifetime cloud storage (provided you continue to pay for your subscription). Cloud support for Office 2019 will end in five years, at which time you will have to switch. Again, the sooner-rather-than-later switch might make Office 365 a better option. Each option of Office has its list of advantages and disadvantages. If you want the classic Office experience without any extras, Office 2019 might be your best option. If you have an eye on the future and think your business will benefit from the extra productivity features in Office 365, then that will be the better option.