Office 365 vs Office desktop: which is really best for your charity?

Software and services of all kinds have been moving to a cloud-based subscription model, and Microsoft have been no exception. But many charities and non-profit organisations are still assessing the benefits and risks of ditching their traditional desktop-based versions of programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint and embracing Office 365 – Microsoft’s cloud-hosted version. In this article we take a step back and weigh up some of the pros and cons of Office 365 for charities.

If you’ve decided that Office Standard (the desktop version) is for you, head to Charity Digital Exchange where you can access discounted versions of this and other popular software for charities. We also help charities access Office 365’s various plans for non-profits, which you can find more on here.

Pro: You can access all the main apps
With Microsoft Office 365 you’ll be able to access all the core productivity apps that belong to Microsoft Office, including Word, Powerpoint, Excel and Outlook, plus some extras. Even the free donated versions of Office 365 (Business Essentials and E1) have access to web-only versions of these apps, along with document storage, sharing and collaboration services like OneDrive, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams. For more on what you get with the different Office 365 Nonprofit versions, go to the Microsoft website.

Con: You don’t get downloaded apps with the free version

With the free (donated) version of Office 365, all the apps included are browser-only versions, so you may not get access to the full features (plus you will need to have a decent internet connection at all times). You will need to invest in one of the paid subscription Nonprofit plans to be able to download the full version of the apps to your computer.

Plus, the free versions of Office 365 don’t include Access and Publisher. If you need those for your charity, PC users will be able to use Access and Publisher via a paid Office 365 subscription, or you can purchase Access separately through the Charity Digital Exchange catalogue.

Pro: You have free, unlimited upgrades

With Office 365, your subscription will always be improving automatically and you’ll always have the latest version. Because it’s hosted in the cloud, you will always have updates with the latest features, security updates and fixes for bugs. With Office Standard and other desktop versions of Office security updates are included, but you won’t have access to new features or upgrades after your software assurance has expired.

Con: It may be the more expensive option

Consider this carefully: Office 365 is a subscription service which you pay monthly or annually. This may or may not work with your budget model. For example, a Nonprofit subscription to Office 365 NonprofiIt Business Premium costs a minimum of £2.30 user/month, whereas you can obtain Office for desktop (Office Standard) for £23 on the Charity Digital Exchange catalogue. This only has to be paid once and will last the lifetime of the device it’s installed on.

You may want to consider mixing and matching plans for the most cost-effective approach that gives you the functionality you need.

We find that many charities who struggle with the subscription scheme opt to purchase Office perpetual licenses to cover the devices that are based in their head office, and combine this with the donated Office 365 Business Essentials to have access to features such as the 1TB storage in OneDrive and Sharepoint.

Pro: Apps works across different devices

With a paid Office 365 subscription you can install the apps on up to five different devices per user. So you could potentially have Office 365 on a PC, laptop, mobile device and a tablet – with another device remaining. With the donated Office perpetual licenses you can only install and activate it on one device – meaning if you have multiple PCs you will need to purchase several licenses, racking up the costs. Also, some devices such as mobile phones and tablets can’t run the perpetual version of Office. Having Office 365 in the cloud really does enable you to work from anywhere as long as there’s an internet connection.

Con: Doesn’t always work with every app out there

A potential issue with always having access to the latest versions of Office programs is that your organisation-specific legacy applications may not always be compatible. If you are on Office 365, though, you are able to use some older versions of Office programs. Always check compatibility with your existing apps before upgrading.

Pro: You don’t need much harddrive storage

Office 365 plans come with a very generous 1TB (terabyte) of storage with OneDrive and Sharepoint – to put that in perspective, about 85,899,345 pages of Word documents or 310,000 images would fill one terabyte.

One of the great advantages of using software in the cloud is that it saves on the need to purchase and maintain expensive, power-hungry servers in-house. There is also the added bonus that security is taken care of, as cloud providers such as Microsoft must commit to a high level of data security and certification.

Con: You do need a good internet connection

As we mentioned above, if you decide to go for the free versions of Office 365 apps are web-only, which means if you are in an area of poor connectivity or your broadband isn’t up to scratch you may not get the full app performance you were hoping for. Even if you have a paid version, Microsoft recommends evaluating your network connectivity and performance before deploying Office 365, especially if you want to use voice and video conference calling. More information can be found here on the Microsoft website.