What is Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 is a subscription-based suite of cloud services. It used to be called Office 365but now includes so much more than just core Office functionality that a rebrand seems in order.

The entire computing world is rapidly moving towards software as a service (SaaS) and software subscription models rather than directly selling licenses. Microsoft 365 is a mix of both developments. If you haven’t come across it before, it can be quite the computer culture shock. So let’s put all those doubts to rest and explain what exactly Microsoft 365 is.

A cloud What now?

The “cloud” refers to the computers that run in data centers around the world. If you use a service such as gmail or Motive, then you use the cloud. We access cloud-based services over the internet. For example, if you copy a file to your DropBox folder, that information is sent to a computer in a data center, which then stores it for you.

With cloud-based software, you don’t need a monster computer at all. Most of the heavy lifting is done by the remote computer. All you need is a working internet connection. That doesn’t mean your local computer isn’t doing anything!

Some aspects of the service run locally and others on the remote computer. Cloud applications like Google Docs allow you to continue working even when the internet is down, syncing everything when the connection is restored.

How does Microsoft 365 It work?

To use Microsoft 365, all you need to do is sign up for a Microsoft account, if you don’t have one, then pay the monthly fee. There are several plans available, which we’ll look at in more detail below.

After you sign up, you can access the cloud services from any browser that is connected to the Internet. Microsoft 365 also includes software that you can download to your computer and use it offline. Let’s take a closer look at the offer.

Microsoft 365: what do you get?

Microsoft offers different packages of 365 that are intended for different target groups. These are the three levels:

  • Home users
  • Business users
  • business customers

We’re only going to focus on the first two types of plans, because if you’re a large company executive reading this, you’d better call Microsoft yourself for a quote.

The cheapest option is Microsoft 365 Personal. This is a single user subscription that includes all the apps and services that the home tier offers.

So you get WordExcelPower Point, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher. The last two on the list are only available on PC. Speaking of which, you can also unlock the full versions of the Office mobile apps at android and iOS† Usually, those apps only allow you to open and view documents if you’re not a paying subscriber.

What does Microsoft 365 cost?

There are several pricing options when it comes to Microsoft 365. We’re only going to look at the public pricing for home and small business users. Education and enterprise pricing is something you should negotiate directly with Microsoft.

Before we talk about specific pricing, you should also check if you already have free access to Microsoft 365. Many companies have a site license that grants Microsoft 365 to their employees. Which also means you can use it on your personal machine. If you recently bought or are planning to buy a new computer, you may also get access to Microsoft 365 for a few months to a year.

For those who have to pay in the usual way, there are two main options. You can pay monthly for a relatively higher fee or buy annually. Annual plans basically give you two months free for every year you subscribe. So it’s not a big difference.

Home users have the following options:

  • Microsoft 365 Personal – single user subscription for $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year
  • Microsoft 365 Family – 6 User License Subscription for $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year

As you can see, even if you’re only in a 2-person household, the family plan offers the best value. Microsoft has done a good job separating user subaccounts. As long as the main account is in good standing, everyone will have the same experience as the primary user.

Business plans are a bit more diverse:

  • Business Basic includes cloud services and only web and mobile versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for $5.00 per user, per month. Paid annually.
  • Business Standard adds the desktop versions of Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Access for $12.50 per user, per month. Paid annually.
  • Business Premium included everything basic, plus advanced security features for $20.00 per user, per month. Paid annually.
  • Microsoft 365 Apps only has OneDrive along with the premium desktop apps for $8.25 per user, per month. Paid annually.

Aside from the apps-only business plan, the main value here is the Teams, Exchange, and Sharepoint services. With these apps you can easily collaborate with your colleagues. Although the home version of Microsoft 365 includes Skype with 60 minutes of free landline calls.

Can I still buy Microsoft Office?

Yes! Microsoft still offers a one-time purchase of Office. This does not include any cloud service. You also only get three applications: Word, Excel and Powerpoint. These are also the classic versions of the apps without the 365 cloud features that you get with the subscription model.

Also, these apps can only be used on one computer, so you will have to pay the one-time price for multiple computers repeatedly. We don’t recommend most people to go this route, not even students. Especially since certain student-oriented laptops may come with a free year or two of Microsoft 365.

What are the key benefits of Microsoft 365?

So why buy Microsoft 365 instead of making a one-time purchase of Microsoft Office? Here are the main benefits:

  • You always have the latest version of the included Microsoft Apps
  • You get a large amount of cloud storage
  • Unlock full versions of Office mobile apps
  • Collaborating and communicating with colleagues is much easier
  • You can log in to any computer and start working where you left off

Very few people work in a bubble these days, making this new cloud-based offering the most sensible choice for most users.

Who should get Microsoft 365?

If you’re okay with paying a monthly fee, we can safely say that almost anyone would be happy with a Microsoft 365 subscription. It’s especially good value when you consider the family plan, which allows five independent users each to load their computers with the entire Office suite and access their own terabyte of cloud storage.

The main caveat is that you will be in this relationship forever. You pay the fee for as long as you need the service. If you want productivity apps on a computer that doesn’t have internet access, then a one-time purchase option can be considered. However, for such users, we recommend that you save your money and opt for one of the many free Microsoft Office Alternatives

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