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With Microsoft’s introduction of Cloud-oriented versions of their popular Office productivity apps, there has been a lot of confusion about Office 365, Office 2013, SkyDrive, OneDrive, and the so-called “Click to Run” options embedded in some of these offerings. There are some well-regarded sites that offer a lot of detail about the specifics of all of these offerings. Unfortunately, there is also an awful lot of misinformation floating around on the internet, and passed around by word-of-mouth from various tech consultants and technology wannabees, that introduces a lot of confusion into the decision-making process regarding these various Microsoft initiatives.

Let me try to provide a bit of clarity here.

First of all, Office 365 is NOT the new version of Office 2013, nor is it intended to replace Office 2013. Contrary to what we hear in many circles, Office 365 is actually the generic name that has been applied to the various “bundles” of popular hosted services that Microsoft offers. Some of these plans – but not all – offer a “Click to Run” version of Office 2013 as part of the bundle. This is essentially a subscription-based version of Office 2013. To make it even more confusing, although they are part of a “cloud” offering,  these “Click to Run” versions of Office 2013 are actually installed on the local PC, but still need to  be tethered to the “host” Office 365 subscription to operate properly.  And most importantly, “Click to Run” versions of Office 2013 installed as part of an Office 365 subscription generally cannot be configured to integrate with third party applications that routinely support integration with Office applications  (such as Time Matters, NetDocuments, Timeslips, etc.).

Office 365 does, however, play nicely with local copies of Office purchased and installed in the traditional manner on the local PC, either via individual or volume licensing purchases of Office Professional. Office 365 will also play nicely with earlier versions of Office (Office 2007 and later).  “Bundled” versions of Office 2013 purchased with a new PC, however, such as from HP or Dell, are typically the “Click to Run” subscription-based editions of Office, and thus will not integrate with most desktop applications that users expect to configure to work with Office. We have seen this misconception cause major headaches for many clients who understood that they could save money and reduce their installation requirements by using the subscription-based license, only to discover that it will not work with their existing “line of business” software.

To add another layer of complexity, there is also an item included in some Office 365 packages called Office Web Apps.  This is a Web-based version of a watered down version of the full desktop version of Office 2013 (whew!).  It is built into the hosted Microsoft collaboration solution called SharePoint.  Think of it as a competitor to Google Docs.  As with Google Docs, ou can only use the app if you have an Internet connection and need access to  a word processor.  Because Office Web Apps is browser based, and it is rooted in SharePoint, it is not nearly as powerful as any of the desktop versions of Office.  Do not expect to see ANY integration between this version of Office and the desktop apps that you have integrated with Office now. Essentially, Office Web Apps is simply a quick way to create or edit a document while using a computer that lacks any other document creation software.

So if Office 365 is not Office 2013 in a new suit, and Office 365 is not a complete Cloud replacement for Office, what exactly is Office 365?

The answer to that depends on the specific version of Office 365 you subscribe to, However, at its core Office 365 provides the following “bundle” of hosted services:

  • A web-based hosted Microsoft Exchange account, for email, contacts and calendars
  • Access to Microsoft Lync, an online meeting service providing audio and video capabilities, along with connectivity to Skype for instant messaging, voice and video calls
  • A SharePoint website
  • A 25 Gb OneDrive private storage area per user, providing document storage and retrieval from any computer with an Internet connection
  • A 10 Gb base shared storage area for all users on the account, plus an additional 500 Mb per user account
  • Downloadable mobile apps for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that can be installed on Windows phones, and OneNote, Outlook Web Access, Lync Mobile, and SharePoint Newsfeed apps that can be installed on most mobile devices.

At $60 per user per year, we think that this is a good value for many of our clients, especially for clients who do not presently use Exchange for their email management, or who host Exchange themselves internally and do not have dedicated IT support.  Having 25 Gb of Cloud-based, easily accessible  personal storage is a nice bonus, and represents a more secure and easier-to-manage repository than DropBox for Office-based documents.

Do not, however, look at it as a way to avoid having to purchase Office licenses for your desktops, however. You will almost certainly be unhappy with the results. As evidence for this I offer the following from Microsoft’s own website:

Will Office 365 Small Business work with my copy of Office?Office 365 Small Business works best with the latest version of Office, Office 2010, and Office 2011 for Mac. Office 365 works with slightly limited functionality with Office 2007. You do not need a desktop version of Office to use Office 365 Small Business. However, you will receive a much richer experience and be able to work offline if you do connect a desktop version of Office to the Office 365 services

 Have you purchased a new PC recently with Microsoft Office 2013 preinstalled? Better check to see if you are actually using a “Click to Run” version of the software. Here’s how:

  1. Open Regedit (if you aren’t sure what Regedit is, or how to open it, STOP HERE. Do not proceed, as a misstep here can corrupt your PC’s operating system)
  2. Navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREWOW6432NodeMicrosoft key
  3. Look for the Office key within this key, and then open the “version number” key within that key (it will likely be 14.0 or 15. 0)
  4. Open the CommonInstallRoot key from within that key
  5. Look for a REG_SZ key called “VirtualOutlook” with this area
  6. If there is no such key, you are running a “regular’ version of Office; if that key is there, you have a “Click to Run” version installed.

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As always, we are here for advice and recommendations on software applications designed to meet your specific needs, and we can help you figure out what works with what – and what doesn’t. Send your questions and issues to info@easternlegalsystems.com, or give us a call at 877-357-0555.