No matter which holiday you celebrate, or even if you don't celebrate any of them, the holiday shopping season is a time for great deals on PCs and gadgets of all shapes and sizes. One of the primary things most people use a computer for — and increasingly mobile devices as well — is productivity, like writing documents, creating presentations, plus managing email, contacts, and calendars.
Microsoft Office is the de facto standard for productivity suites, but it's not cheap. In fact, depending on which version of the suite you choose, Microsoft Office will most likely wipe out your holiday discount savings and then some. You could just use the free Office Online apps, but they have limited functionality. Thankfully, if you want the full Microsoft Office experience, there is a different — and arguably better — way to acquire the productivity suite: Office 365.
Let's take a look at three reasons you should subscribe to Office 365.
The cost of buying the Microsoft Office suite varies, depending on the version you choose. There's Office Home & Student 2013 for $140 (USD), Office Home & Business 2013 for $220, and Office Professional 2013 for $400. Home & Student includes just the core four products — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Home & Business adds in Outlook, and Professional includes everything in Home & Business plus Publisher and Access.
Office 365 costs $70 per year (or $7 per month) for Office 365 Personal for a single individual, and $100 per year (or $10 per month) for Office 365 Home for up to five people — and no matter which subscription you choose, it includes the full Office Professional 2013 for each person. Even if all you really need is Office Home & Student 2013, if you're buying it for five people, it's the equivalent of seven years' worth of Office 365 Home subscription payments.
Students and teachers at qualifying educational institutions can get Office 365 for free.
2. Perks and benefits
If you buy the Microsoft Office suite, you get the Microsoft Office suite. If you subscribe to Office 365, on the other hand, you get the Microsoft Office suite plus an array of additional perks and benefits. For starters, you have perpetual access to the latest version, so you'll always have the most current features and capabilities instead of being stuck with an obsolete version.
Office 365 subscribers also get access to the complete features and functionality in the Office mobile apps for smartphones and tablets, plus 60 world minutes of calling time for Skype each month. The benefits are per user, so with an Office 365 Home subscription, each of the five individuals on the account are able to use Office on mobile devices and have access to his or her own pool of Skype minutes.
3. Unlimited OneDrive
One of the perks of Office 365 deserves to be singled out: unlimited OneDrive storage. Microsoft provides anyone with a Microsoft account 15 GB of cloud storage in OneDrive for free. However, it doesn't take much to fill that up.
Microsoft raised the capacity for OneDrive subscribers this year — first to 1 TB per user, and then simply to unlimited. If you consider the fact that Microsoft sells OneDrive storage as a standalone service for $7 per month for 1 TB, it's like you're getting the Microsoft Office suite for free. In fact, Microsoft's 1 TB OneDrive plan includes Office 365 by default, which basically means it's an unlimited OneDrive plan instead of just 1 TB.
There's a lot to like about Office 365. The simple fact, though, is that even if all you want or need is the Microsoft Office suite itself, and even if all you want or need is Office Home & Student for yourself, subscribing to Office 365 lets you spread that $140 over two years. Plus, you get the additional perks and benefits that come along with Office 365.
If you haven't subscribed to Office 365, what's stopping you? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including Unified Communications for Dummies, Essential Computer Security, and PCI Compliance.