Office 2021 vs Microsoft 365: how to choose

Microsoft Office is how billions of people around the world go to work and school, whether they do so from home, an office, a classroom, or a combination of these. This suite of productivity tools is used by people working in 106 languages in almost every country in the world, and it’s available in versions for personal use, for small businesses, businesses, and education.

But the is more than one way to buy Office — or, rather, to buy the Licence to use it. There’s the “perpetual” version of Office which is available as a one-time purchase; the most recent version is Office 2021. Then there’s the subscription version which lives in the cloud and for which you pay a monthly or annual fee. When this version was introduced in 2011, Microsoft called it Office 365renaming it later Microsoft 365 for personal and small business subscriptions. At the enterprise level, Office 365 and Microsoft 365 plans are available. In this story, we’ll use “Microsoft 365” as the shorthand for all “365” subscriptions, unless we’re referring to a specific plan.

Why choose to buy it one way and not the other? The answer can be confusing, especially since each tool suite includes most of the same applications, more or less.

Microsoft has made its preference clear: the company believes that “the cloud will power the work of the future” and I would love for everyone to buy Microsoft 365. There are many incentives to do so. But you have options.

Here’s help choosing the version that’s right for you or your business.

Microsoft Office: the possibilities

How you pay for Office

A big difference between the “2021” and “365” options is how you pay for them. If you purchase a “perpetual license” (as with Office Home and Business 2021 Where Office LTSC 2021), you pay more than with subscription plans under the Microsoft 365 or Office 365 brand, but you only do it once. When you subscribe to one of Microsoft 365 Where Office 365 plans, you pay annually or monthly.

Office 2021: a perpetual license

Whether you buy a single copy of Office 2021 at retail or download hundreds of seats through volume licensing, Microsoft calls it a “one-time purchase” because you only pay once, not every month. (Labels like “perpetual”, which have been widely used by computer worldtechnically note the type of license rather than the method of payment, but in this case the type of license is tied to whether it was purchased outright or simply “rented”.)

Microsoft defines the term as when “…you pay a one-time upfront cost to get Office apps for a computer.” In the front is the key adjective here. You must pay the full purchase price before obtaining the software.

This purchase of a license to legally run the software entitles you to use this version of Office 2021 in perpetuity. In other words, the license has no expiration date and users can run the suite for as long as they want. Pay for Office 2021 this year and use it for the next seven years? Good. Use it to operate your space portal in the year 2050? Nothing to stop you. (Except for hardware compatibility. Although you could probably find an old, refurbished computer and drag it into space.)

But if you want new features that will be released with the next update, you will have to pay full price again, anyway, when the next version is released – if a type. There are no upgrade options on perpetual license packages.

Microsoft 365: Office as a service

Microsoft 365, the purchase method Microsoft would prefer you choose, is a subscription service, where you pay the software giant monthly or annually. There is a discount, sometimes tempting, to opt for the annual payment plan rather than monthly. (All Enterprise plans from Enterprise E1 through E5 require an annual commitment.) And the company always sweetens that pot by offering more apps than you get with perpetual license products and with continuous supply. new features.

Like any subscription, Microsoft 365 provides a service – in this case, the right to run the suite’s apps and access related services – only as long as payments continue. Stop paying and app execution rights expire. It happens in a progressive waygiving you time to download your data or update your payment plan, whichever you choose.

For 30 days after non-payment, your plan will be “expired”. You will always have access to all your apps and files. If you don’t enable it again while it’s in the Expired stage, it switches to “Disabled”, where it will remain for 90 days. You won’t be able to access your apps or data until you pay. If you still do not pay for your package, it will be “deleted”. At that point, it’s gone.

A Microsoft 365 license is therefore dependent on sustained payments. Stop it and the license is revoked. Reinitiate payments — but don’t wait too long — to restore the license.

How each version of Office is serviced

While payments define a difference between Office 2021 and Microsoft 365, Microsoft’s pace of development and release ultimately matters more to users — and the IT pros who support them.

Think of Office 2021 as traditional software – a set of tools that typically don’t change much until the next major release. This also applies to maintenance. Microsoft releases monthly security and quality updates for perpetual license versions of Office. (You can check from any Office application if there is updates available. From, say, a Word document, navigate to File > Account and seek Product information. So choose Update Options and Update now.)

But Office 2021 doesn’t get the continually updated features and functionality of Microsoft 365. What you get when you buy the suite, feature-wise, is that. If you want the updates, at some point in the future, then you’ll need to purchase the version that Microsoft sells as a perpetual license.

(The the company says of the release of Office LTSC 2021, “While this is not our last perpetual release, we continue to make investments that make it even easier for customers to adopt Microsoft 365.” And in a online explainer of all Office products, the company says, “We are pleased to confirm our commitment to another version of the perpetual version of Office in the future, beyond this release.” »

However, Microsoft regularly releases feature and security updates for Microsoft 365 Apps. And it releases them as they occur. As new features and functionality accumulate and apps in Microsoft 365 evolve, Microsoft will decide it’s time for a new version of Office. It will then bundle some of these features into an upgraded suite for customers who continue to make one-time initial purchases. How long they will continue to do so likely depends on how long the demand for these “time-locked” releases lasts.

Another important note: Office 2021 and Office LTSC 2021 will only be supported with security updates until October 13, 2026. That’s only five years of support, compared to seven years in Office 2019 and 10 years in previous versions. In contrast, with Microsoft 365 subscriptions, support never runs out – as long as you keep paying, of course.

How Office connects to cloud services

One of the reasons to choose Office 2021 over Microsoft 365 is internet access. If you don’t have reliable cloud access, can’t be connected to the internet for security reasons, or for some reason you may live on top of an isolated mountain, your computer is often out of order. line, this is the type of software you need.

In fact, Internet access is one of the main reasons Microsoft can’t force us to subscribe to Microsoft 365. Microsoft 365 runs in apps downloaded to your computer, phone, or tablet, but these apps require nearly constant internet access. , especially if you use OneDrive and store all your files in the cloud.

In standard use, Microsoft 365 stops working if it can’t connect to the internet for 30 days. For some use cases, this is a deciding factor. But the company is working to overcome this objection to Microsoft 365 products. Last year, Microsoft launched features for enterprise users who allow Microsoft 365 to continue running smoothly even if offline for long periods of time. An IT administrator must set it up, but after that a user can continue working, offline, for up to 180 days.

Office 2021, on the other hand, doesn’t depend as much on an internet connection to run, save files, and update automatically. You can connect it when you have access to it and work offline when you don’t. This, as well as the cost and the desire to stick to old-fashioned software distribution models, is perhaps the most compelling reason to insist on one of the perpetual license products.

Whichever license you ultimately choose, you’ll get many of the same tools. And the reasons for choosing one over another have less to do with price and features than with how you or your users work, support and security needs, reliable Internet access. , online storage and collaboration needs, and how excited (or bored) you or your users are likely to be about new features that appear, like a freebie, in the software.

This article was originally published in July 2017 and last updated in June 2022.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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