Microsoft recently announced the general availability of the new Microsoft Office 2019 productivity suite. The latest in a long line of releases, Office 2019 is sold as a one-time purchase of on-premise only software. This is the very technical way of saying you pay an upfront cost to get locally-installed versions of the major Microsoft Office applications such as Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word for one computer.
However, while the Office 2019 suite of productivity apps have new features and functionality compared to the now-obsolete Office 2016 apps, the fact is that Office 365 is still the best choice for the majority of business users. The reason is simple: Office 2019 won't have any of the cloud-connected features that Office 365 subscribers see using the exact same apps. This means that if your organization chooses Office 2019 rather than Office 365, then you're giving your employees a subset of features that are proven to enhance their productivity.
If your business is near the end of your on-premise Office 2016 license agreement and is looking at Office 2019 as an upgrade, then Amaxra wants to provide you with some good reasons for considering a move to Office 365 instead.
Don't fear the cloud
Amaxra knows some businesses don't feel they are ready for the cloud and need the Office 2019 on-premise version rather than the cloud-powered Microsoft Office 365. The typical objection is usually based on an aversion to the cloud: "My organization is worried about employees unable to work on documents if the cloud goes down" is one of the big objections we often hear at Amaxra. It's based on the assumption that Office 365 apps are 100% cloud only like the Google G Suite, requiring all users to be online or else none of the documents can be edited. We agree that's just one of the downsides of using G Suite, but it's never an issue you have to worry about with Office 365.
Another issue with the cloud is security. Customers that buy Office 2019 get all the bug fixes and non-cloud updates that Microsoft has added to Office 2016 along with some new features and functionality. This is because there are some organizations that essentially need to have Office apps on a single computer but want that device physically isolated from unsecured networks such as the public Internet or an unsecured local area network. For example, we've run across financial organizations that want to use Excel but only if the computer is not connected to the internet to ensure there's no way for an outside hacker to access the valuable data. Amaxra concedes that Office 2019 has the advantage in these very isolated use cases, but the majority of businesses will get much more value out of the cloud-powered Office 365 than Office 2019.
The most obvious productivity enhancer with Office 365 is the 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage each user is granted for file storage along with 1 TB of shared organization-wide storage in SharePoint. This enables employees with Office 365 to create a document and have it saved on a cloud-powered corporate intranet. Any changes made to that document in the cloud are automatically updated across any devices your employees use—be they PC users, Mac fans, or mobile users on both iOS and Android platforms. Sharing files with external contacts in Office 2019 means sending an email attachment then wondering who has the latest version of that attachment. But with Office 365, the files in the cloud can be shared securely with either internal team members or external collaborators with a simple link.
The cloud files are secured so that only those with the right permissions can access the information and constantly backed up to ensure that you can either revert back to an old version or recover a lost file if needed. Office 365 and the secure Microsoft cloud features that come with it enable the best and most secure means for business collaboration.
A real loss in functionality
There are some new compelling new features in Office 2019 apps that are unavailable the previous on-premise version. For example, PowerPoint 2019 has the ability to add pre-made icons along with SVG file format images to add some "wow" to presentations. Word 2019 and Excel 2019 are getting text-to-speech and business intelligence upgrades, respectively. Outlook 2019 will support Focused Inbox and enhanced collaboration through Office 365 Groups. But users of Office 365 will be quick to point out that all of these "new" features in Office 2019 have been available in Office 365 apps for months. Thanks to the cloud, Office 365 apps not only get frequent security updates but also have new productivity-enhancing features added every six months.
The disconnect between the functionality in the cloud-powered Office 365 and the on-premise versions of Office is stark. For example, one Amaxra customer whose PC at work ran an on-premise version of Microsoft Office purchased the cloud-powered Office 365 for her home so the whole family could use it on multiple devices. When she was working at home on a presentation, she noticed that PowerPoint in Office 365 had significantly more options for building her slides compared to the on-premise version of PowerPoint she used at work. After experiencing the difference, she understood the value of an Office 365 subscription over the on-time Office purchase.
Another key decision point is the fact that Office 365 enables you to work on any platform you choose without sacrificing compatibility or functionality. The one-time purchase of Office 2019 is available on Windows PCs and Apple Macs, but those Windows PCs must be running Windows 10. In a break from the previous on-premise only version of Office 2016, the new version cannot be installed on PCs running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1—leading to double the required upgrade cost unless your organization wants to adopt Office 365 which runs fine on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs. In addition, Office 2019 does not include web-only versions of the apps enabling online "co-authoring" of files. For example, Office 365 users can open an expense report spreadsheet or white paper using the web-only versions of office apps in any web browser and then collaborate on those documents simultaneously. We touched on this previously, but Office 365 enables mobile versions of the apps with functionality that is almost indistinguishable from their Mac and PC counterparts. So, you won't automatically get the latest mobile versions of the Office apps on your iPhone, iPad, or Google Android devices on Office 2019. That's because these web-only and mobile experiences for Microsoft Office are powered by the cloud and Office 2019 is designed for an on-premise only experience.
Serious about support?
Microsoft commits to providing ongoing support for Office 365 in perpetuity for as long as you have the subscription. However, you only get five years of mainstream support plus two years of extended support for Office 2019. In plain language, that means you can download bug fixes and security patches for Office 2019 for free until 2023 then you'll be asked to pay for that same level of support until the year 2025. After that, you're on your own with Office 2019.
The so-called "5 + 2 year support" cadence for Office 2019 makes logical sense. The old way of installing software that sits on your computer for years at a time doesn't add real value to your organization's productivity compared to apps that are connected to the cloud and constantly updated with new features like the tight integration with the increasingly-popular Microsoft Teams. It's not only the new features in Office 365 that help people in your organization do their best work, but those innovations also enable new, more efficient manageability solutions and more comprehensive approaches to security that enable your IT staff to keep your employees safe and productive. So, it doesn't make sense if your company is using software that is a decade old because it increases your support costs, decreases your IT security, and your employees can't benefit from the ongoing innovation of cloud-powered Office.
Amaxra consultants have years of real-world experience with migrating on-premise Office installs into the cloud—including our own migration from Office 2013 to Office 365. We have successfully deployed Office 365 for every sized business, from tiny startups to large multinational enterprises.