Mac Productivity Windows

An Introduction to Office 365: Should You Buy Into the New Office Business Model?

Tina Sieber 29-04-2015

Office 365 is a subscription based package that buys you time limited access to a number of Microsoft services and software packages, including the latest desktop Office suite, an online version of Office, cloud storage, and premium mobile apps.


Office 365 follows a business model known as Software as a Service (SaaS), which has commonly been used for deploying enterprise software. With subscription-based services like Spotify, Napster, or Amazon Prime, it has found its way into the consumer software market some time ago.

Does Office 365 provide enough value to be worth the money?

Can You Still Use It on Your Desktop?

Yes, absolutely!

Microsoft isn’t moving Office entirely into the cloud just yet. While you can access Word, Excel, and PowerPoint with Office Online Don't Pay for Microsoft Word! 4 Reasons to Use Office Online Instead Microsoft Office Online offers free web versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Here's why you should give it a try today. Read More via the browser and store your documents on OneDrive Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. OneDrive: Which Cloud Storage Is Best for You? Have you changed the way you think about cloud storage? The popular options of Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive have been joined by others. We help you answer which cloud storage service should you use. Read More , Office 365 offers many other ways to access and edit your documents. The current package of Office 365 includes the Office 2013 desktop suite (Office 2011 for Mac users). In the summer or fall of this year, you will be able to upgrade to Office 2016.

Microsoft Office


What Is Included & What Is the Price Tag?

The exact composition of the package depends on the Office flavor you choose. Office 365 Home, Office 365 Personal, and Office 365 University include the following software:

All Office 365 packages include 1TB of cloud storage, 60 Skype world minutes per month, and free chat or phone based tech support. With your Microsoft account, you also have access to Office Online, which can work with your files stored on OneDrive and Dropbox (see Office Online Dropbox integration).

Subscriptions for Office 365 Personal start at $7 per month or $70 per year. With $10 per month or $100 per year, Office 365 Home is slightly more expensive because you can use it on up to 5 PCs or Macs, 5 tablets, and 5 phones. You can share the subscription with members of your household, slashing the price to around 20 bucks per person a year. Even if you shared the cost with one person, you pay much less than with Office 365 Personal. Each user also gets 1TB OneDrive storage free. That’s a fair deal!

Office 365 Comparison


Office 365 University, which is available to students and other users in academia, is only available as a 4-year subscription and will cost you $80 per 4-year cycle. While you can run it on 2 PCs, Macs, or tablets, and 2 phones, you can not share this license, meaning the price is equal to a maximum shared version of Office 365 Home, minus the hassle. To me, this makes it a much better deal. Of course you’ll have to prove your eligibility, but an academic email address does the trick.

Students and teachers, could get an even better deal. If your school is enrolled in the Office in education program, you could get Office 365 Education for free Students Can Get Microsoft Office 365 for Free Starting on December 1st, Universities that license Office Education for their faculty and staff can offer students Office 365 ProPlus for free. Read More . The plan is similar to Office 365 Home, except that the license is free and cannot be shared. In addition, it comes with access to Yammer and SharePoint. Again, your email address will reveal whether or not you’re eligible.

Likewise, qualified nonprofits can also get Office 365 Nonprofit for free.

All versions of Office 365 are available on both Mac and Windows. In addition, a subscription unlocks premium features in the free mobile Office apps available for Android, iPad, and Windows Phone.


Disadvantages of Office 365 & Better Alternatives

On the downside, it’s a subscription model, meaning you have to pay a monthly or yearly fee. For someone who hardly ever uses Office and has no need for 1TB of OneDrive storage, this expense may not be worth it. If you don’t want to spend that kind of money, you can choose from several free alternatives to Microsoft Office The 7 Best Free Microsoft Office Alternatives Microsoft Office is the king of office suites, but that doesn't mean it's the right one for you. Here are some other office suites you might like better! Read More or you could use the free Office Online and mobile apps 6 Ways You Can Get a Microsoft Office License for Free Free Microsoft Office licenses are hard to get, but they do exist. This article covers six ways to get Word and Excel for free. Read More instead.

Office Online

Even with the free solutions, you’ll need a Microsoft account. While this is becoming a standard for logging into Windows, it can be annoying if you have to log into Microsoft Office on your desktop before you can save a file. If you use the same accounts for Windows and Office, however, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Office 2013 Login


If you don’t want to subscribe to Office 365 or deal with a Microsoft account, but need the full Office suite, you can still buy standalone Office applications or a standalone version of Office Home & Student 2013 Microsoft Office 2013: The Unofficial Guide If you're considering an upgrade to Office 2013, or you've just paid for the package and want to make the best of it, this Microsoft Office 2013 Guide is for you. Read More for Windows or Mac. Whether the standalone purchases will be available for Office 2016 isn’t clear, yet.

Advantages of Office 365

The key advantage of Office 365 is that it receives regular updates.

In 2015, Microsoft will release Office 2016, a new suite for both Windows and Mac users. Office 365 subscribers will be able to upgrade to Office 2016 at no additional cost. If you are a power Office user Upgrade Your Skills with the Best Microsoft Office Courses Online Microsoft Office is a required skill across offices worldwide. How adept are you? Massive Open Online Courses offer everyone the training to get better at it anytime, anywhere. Read More who wants to be ahead of the curve and always work with the latest features, an Office 365 subscription is a must-have.

But even casual users can benefit from the subscription. 1TB of online storage for as low as $20 per year by itself is amazing. And if you frequently call people abroad, for example while traveling, an hour of free worldwide Skype calls (to 60+ countries) can come in handy, too.

As mentioned above, Office 365 grants you access to the entire Office suite — online, on your desktop, and on your mobile devices. If you store your files in the cloud, you’ll always be able to access and work with your documents, regardless of location. And should you ever have an issue with the product, free Microsoft tech support is only a chat or a phone call away.

Most importantly, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars up front for a huge software package that you don’t use much in the end. Microsoft offers a free 1 month Office 365 trial, you can then pick a cheap monthly subscription plan, and cancel it anytime, in case you don’t like or use it after all.

Do You Subscribe to Office 365?

Microsoft is slowly changing its revenue model. Some products will become cheaper, such as free Windows 10, while others may appear to get more pricey. You can either take advantage of the added benefits and buy into the new business model, or stick with cheaper third-party alternatives. Any queries? Microsoft answers them in this FAQ page.

Your turn! What perks of Office 365 do you enjoy most or why would you still prefer to buy a standalone Office suite in the future? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Related topics: Microsoft Office 2013, Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Office Online, Microsoft OneDrive.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Christopher
    January 23, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Never going to subscribe to any productivity app. Ever. Netflix etc. are different because I can cancel them anytime without it affecting my professional life. However, I would be forced to subscribe to Office 365 from here to eternity, since I need it every day. There's a limit to how many seemingly small $10 invoices one can hoard per month. Without standalone purchases, you're eternally paying for a product that could and should be paid off once.

  2. Ben
    December 8, 2015 at 12:56 am

    Yeah, I'm not buying this bull. No price guarantees, "Always Online" requirements, and promises of updates and features we don't know about yet. If it was just that, I'd be out, but it's obvious the big software companies are pushing to get everything in the cloud so they can nickle and dime everyone to death monthly instead of yearly, and can gather more data to sell to the highest bidder. Or worse, shove ads in them.

    Yeah, it's cheaper. Now. Great, you have 200 Gigs of cloud storage. Now. Does anyone really buy that Microsoft won't pull the rug out after everyone has been herded into this? That they won't try to pull a price hike and hold your files hostage?

    All this is bad enough with Office, a program so ubiquitous that it's practically a necessity for operating a business or going to school. But Windows itself? Seriously?

    SaaS is a terrible, anti-consumer business model that strives to control the market by roping people in with shiny objects and then holding their data hostage perpetually.

    There's only ONE positive, and that's like unlike the fat, bloated carcass that is Adobe, Microsoft is still providing and supporting the majority of it's products as one-shot purchases. Which I would recommend people use unless they're only going to be using Office short term.

  3. Anonymous
    November 3, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    1T cloud storage. No matter where I am I can pull up a file, edit it on my iphone with all of microsofts free office products. Say my laptop breaks. No more freaking out about data loss. The online storage and cohesiveness of the product is a win for me.

  4. Anonymous
    August 11, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    I see where they are going with all of this. I don't like the idea of storing my personal files in the cloud. I also don't like the fact that we all all getting nickeled and dimed to death with fees for everything. Now they want a subscription for Office per month or year to use it. I refuse because I can't afford to add any more expenses. We have to pay for TV now. Cell phones are an extra payment we didn't have in the past. The list goes on and on. So you can take the subscription Office somewhere else. People it is time to take a stand on all this extortion.

  5. Michael
    May 16, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    I've got a PC, a laptop, an iPad, a phone and my wife has a laptop and a phone.
    Any licensed version would cost a fortune to install across all of those platforms, whereas a $100/year 365 subscription includes installations on 5 pc's (includes laptops), 5 phones and 5 tablets.

  6. Marshall
    April 30, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    No need for Word: LibreOffice is free, has sophisticated apps and and works well.It is available on PC's and macs.

    • MakeUseOf reader
      February 2, 2017 at 6:15 am

      Many home consumers still need Office; it's a full productivity suite that everyone uses on a daily basis. Usually I would be more inclined towards free and open source software, but not so with the most important programs I use, including Office.

      • Tina Sieber
        February 2, 2017 at 9:46 am

        I see how professionals might have to use MS Office, but home consumers? Why? Which critical tools are missing from the free suites that home users must have?

        Liking or trusting the brand and being familiar with the product is an entirely different argument of course.

  7. AriesWarlock
    April 29, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    I don't like this subscription model for this type of product. I think I would rather buy WPS OFFICE.

  8. Paul R
    April 29, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    I have owned a downloaded and installed copy of Office 2010 (Professional Plus version) since June of that year. I use Word, Excel, and OneNote almost every day. I paid only 80 bucks (got an educator discount), but even if I paid full price, it would still have been worth it for me. If I paid $10/mo for a license it would have cost me $580 and counting. Of course, I've had to live without updates (2013 and all that), but come on, the only new feature that I liked in 2010 was the search results bar that quickly lets you find terms you've searched for.
    If you are going to be using it for a few years, do the math and calculate your monthly cost over the period of time you want to use it. Then look at the standalone cost on amazon and see how they stack up. As far as the online storage, I use one laptop all the time, so I don't need to have the ability to access it on all my devices. Something tells me that if you really need Word and PowerPoint, you won't want to be using it on a smartphone--a laptop or desktop is going to be much more efficient. In fact, you could buy Office 2010 and a cheap laptop for the cost of Office 365 for four years.

    I'm sorry if this sounds too harsh. I absolutely see that some folks might benefit from this. Its just that a subscription would have made no sense to me. I'll keep this page bookmarked and see who this type of deal would benefit.

    • mind
      May 1, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      Totally agree. You don't really need update. Office 2007 can still be used today. There is not much difference between the 2007 and 2013 version. (at least for most users).

      The only reason to buy office 365 is if you cloud storage. This will be cheaper than the other alternatives like dropbox when you consider that you can consider that you are getting skype credits plus microsoft account. Office 365 personal is only $7 per month whereas dropbox is $10/ month and you only get cloud storage with some basic document view and editor.