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Hal Licino

The Cloud-y Pros & Cons of Office 365

Feb 07 2013, 06:00 AM by

If there is anything that is truly universal in business computing it has to be Microsoft Office. Even the competing suites such as Apache Open Office base their entire software on compatibility with the standard file formats established by Microsoft, such as the perennial word document .doc, the spreadsheet .xls and the presentation .ppt. There has been rumbling of late in the Redmond Force, as the premiere of Office 365 brings the pros and cons of the cloud into the steadfast Office universe and the change might be too much for some of the more conventional businesses to absorb.
Office 365 Is $99.99… a Year
Microsoft hasn’t completely gone off its rocker as it is still offering Office 2013 in the same old “load it up on your PC from an optical drive” format it’s had for two decades. However, the introduction of the cloud based version of Office is a game changer and a massive corporate risk equivalent to the company’s Windows 8 operating system, which in its short polarizing life has managed to enthrall and disgust an equal number of computer users. Unlike Office 2013 whose different versions range from a retail price of $139 to $399 in a traditional “you buy it, you own it” structure, Office 365’s Home Premium version (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote & Outlook) costs $99.99! Not bad when you consider that the similar Office 2013 Home & Business version retails for $219, but the negatives start to crop up when you consider that your $99.99 buys you one year of cloud-based Office-ing. Once the year is up, you’ll be asked to cough up another hundred bucks and so on ad infinitum.
$20/PC Is a Bargoooooon
One of the sweeteners Microsoft has thrown into its cloud offering is that the yearly subscription allows you to set up Office 365 access in up to five separate devices. This strategy makes the cloud-Office particularly attractive to families as now just one Microsoft ID can take care of everyone’s computing needs, and has equivalent advantages for small business. With five computers all using Office 365, the cost of $20 a year per PC is an undeniable bargoooooon! What companies will find in Office 365 is a similar interface and utilization functions to their current Office suite with seamless integration of the cloud into every aspect of the software. That’s where the story of Office 365 turns bittersweet. You’re going to store all of your company’s critical data including your customers’ credit card details in the cloud? Really?
Your PC Returns to Being a Thin Client
The cloud is safe, secure, efficient and the wave of the future, or at least that’s what the marketing pitch tells you. The reality is that the cloud is really nothing more than the return of the mainframe from 70s computing and your PC returns to being an old-fashioned thin client. In that paradigm the local terminal acts only as a data read-write device and all the storage is conducted in some faraway location. Sounds great except that clouds can go down, can get hacked and can’t be reached when your internet is off. Since data is the heartbeat of most companies in this decade, the prospect of cloud storage without consistent, local, physical data backup should be welcomed by most business owners with the enthusiasm of the next depression.

You’re a very careful business owner therefore you have implemented an iron-clad strategy of offsite backup, so you are far better equipped than most who never give a second thought about backing up anything but trucks to their docking bays. It’s that majority of businesses who will reflexively opt for Office 365 for the cheap per-computer price and coolness factor which are at the greatest risk. A blip in the cloud and the data that they’ve based their business on is history. Can’t happen? That’s what T-Mobile Sidekick owners said until Microsoft managed to lose their data (although they managed to mostly restore it a week later). There are countless factors involved in embracing the cloud for your business needs, so make sure that Office 365 makes sense for you!

Posted in Tech Editorial

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