With technology increasingly intertwined with all aspects of business, CNET Work can help you -- from prosumers to small businesses with fewer than five employees -- get started. If your small business is like most, it runs on Microsoft Office. You're probably also pondering whether it's time to switch from the traditional perpetual-license versions of Office to an Office subscription. In theory, making that switch offers multiple advantages.
You get a predictable cost instead of having to budget for upgrades every few years. You can install Office apps on multiple devices without activation hassles. Continuous updates and improvements remove some of the headaches of having to buy, install and manage upgrades every few years. You also get access to an ever-expanding assortment of cloud-based services. But making the decision to switch is just the first step. Much more important is choosing the right Office edition. So let's simplify the decision-making process.
To get started, let's look at what's in Office Every Office edition includes some combination of the following elements: Traditional Office desktop apps for Windows or Mac that are regularly updated so you always have the latest version. Each Office subscription allows you to install those desktop programs on up to five PCs or Macs Exchange Online email 1TB of OneDrive cloud file storage Mobile apps for installation on up to five phones and five tablets , running iOS, Android or Windows Group-based collaboration and communication tools For the sake of this analysis, we assume your small business has no more than five employees.
We also assume that you want access to the Office desktop apps for Windows. That removes many of the options that are designed for deployment in much larger companies that have a full-time IT department. With those conditions set, you have three broad choices available. The cheapskate's option: Office Home If your business is literally a one-person shop, you might be tempted to choose an Office Home subscription over one of the more expensive Office business editions.
That decision might even make sense if your requirements are modest enough. Despite the name, there are no license restrictions to prevent you from using Office Home in a business setting.
It also upgrades the free OneDrive cloud storage associated with your Microsoft account to 1TB and upgrades your free Outlook. You can share this subscription with up to five different Microsoft accounts, each of which gets to install the Office desktop apps and has its own 1TB OneDrive allotment and upgraded mailbox.
Despite the name, there are no license restrictions to prevent you from using these apps in a business setting. Who it's best for: Sole proprietors who already have a business email address and simply want convenient access to the latest Office desktop apps on up to five PCs. The business-class upgrade: Like the Home edition, it allows you to install the Office desktop programs on up to five PCs.
It also includes Exchange Online email, with a custom domain, 1TB of secure OneDrive for Business cloud storage, and a collection of online collaboration features, including SharePoint and Microsoft Teams. Recent additions also include customer relationship management tools.
The biggest difference between home and business editions start with who manages the account. Each Office Home subscription is managed by an individual user with a Microsoft account.
Business and enterprise subscriptions belong to an organization and are managed centrally, with an administrator assigning licenses to users in the organization.
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Windows, Mac, Linux Price: If you have an active Internet connection, you can use the free Office Online instead. We show you free alternatives, including free trials and light or mobile versions of the Microsoft Office suite.
For starters, you can access documents through a web browser on any computer. It also accurately retains Microsoft Word formatting unlike other apps. When you need an offline office suite, fully installed on your own PC, then good old Office is still your best bet.
Windows, Mac Price: The Office Preview can be downloaded and installed to your Windows or Mac computer, without paying anything or even having to save your credit card information somewhere for a future payment.
However, the Office Preview is only available on a trial basis for a limited amount of time— days from when you install it. That said, Office has smart and subtle changes that make it a more powerful application than ever before.
And in Word, you will also get real-time co-authoring, for actual collaborative work. A Microsoft Office Preview: We show you the new look and features of the world's most popular productivity suite.
Will you upgrade? More on that at the end of this article.