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May 23rd, 2018

This article contains edited excerpts from advice we've shared with our customers who are considering buying Office through the traditional Volume Licensing program.

TL;DR - "Don't do it, man; no really. Bad idea!"

Office 365 has become a really popular way to purchase Office, recently outperforming traditional Office sales for the first time. Yet there are still customers out there who desire perpetual licenses for Microsoft Office. If you're among these folks and are absolutely sure that traditional volume licenses are the correct choice for your business, we’ll enable this for you. We can absolutely get you set up with a Volume License Agreement so you can purchase and access licenses this way.

Let us point out that if you've never purchased VL software before, the process typically takes one to two weeks to complete - a timeframe that is entirely based on how long Microsoft takes to provision your VLA portal. There are also some rules about minimum purchases needed to get the agreement started.

Please allow us to make our heartfelt pitch for the alternative.

We'll use the MSRP here; there are certainly ways to get these products for less - some of which seem pretty sketchy. Chances are if you're able to buy an educational or charity copy, you're also entitled to cheaper cloud subscriptions too. So, we'll talk only about standard commercial pricing here.

Office 2016 business edition licenses are $482 and $699 depending on whether you need all the products in the Office suite or just the core.

Let's take a moment to that down.

  • The lower amount taken over 36 months is $13.38 per month.
  • The higher amount over 36 months is $19.42 / mo.

MS doesn’t offer upgrade licenses anymore, and hasn't for years now; instead they have Software Assurance, which is an agreement you would have entered into when you purchased whichever version of Office you currently have. This is typically a 2 or 3 year agreement that must be renewed, and it comes at additional cost to the above prices. Many times these agreements lapse, because customers either forget they exist or don't have the budget set aside to renew. In the end, they often become a waste of money, so many purchasers simply opt-out of SA from day one.

With VL, at the end of 3 years - say the year is 2021 - Microsoft will probably have had Office 2019 version out for a couple years and will be well on their way to completing Office 2022. If you bought volume licenses, you'll have a license to keep using 2016 forever if you want to… But is this really a good thing?

If you wanted to upgrade, you would need to pay even more up-front for SA or you’ll pay the current license cost [or maybe more] again at that time for the new version. Many folks would be tempted at that point to try to make their Office license last a few more years. Do you really want to be using Office 2016 in 2025 when it's nine years out of date and probably no longer even being supported?

  • By contrast, you can license the most expensive version of Office (Professional Plus) via monthly subscription and it would cost just $12/month per user. Over 3 years that’s $432 – slightly less than buying it outright.
  • Business Premium is an Office 365 plan that includes Office Pro Plus, and also gives access to SharePoint Online, an e-mail mailbox with 50GB of space, 2TB of OneDrive for Business Storage, and Skype for Business – plus a bunch of other stuff. It costs fifty cents more per month than Office Pro Plus alone - just $12.50/month per user.
  • If you truly wanted to pay the full $20 a month, you could purchase Office 365 E3 plans. These would grant you everything in the above, unlimited mailbox storage, and a bunch of enterprise quality features including security tools and upgrades to SharePoint Online. Also, with the modern version of Office and an E3 plan, it’s now possible to run it on a Remote Desktop (Terminal) Server using shared computer activation.

A couple other selling points:

  • The traditional license is for one copy of Office on a single machine. The subscription license follows the user, can be re-assigned, and allows them to install Office on up to five devices. That's enough copies to let everyone install Office on their home computer too - except maybe for the rare user with half-a-dozen laptops.
  • Office 365 licenses can typically be activated on the same business day that you pay the first month, and there's a free 30 day trial. No need to wait a couple weeks. No need to put all that money in at the start.
  • Software Assurance is embedded in the Office 365 subscription, so you can upgrade the same day that MS comes out with a new version of Office.
  • You can pay for Office 365 monthly, quarterly, or annually. Heck, you can pay us for three at a time if you want to. Paying annually generally entitles you to a discount. You can minimize up front cost, or capitalize on the discount and keep the purchase out of your OPEX budget.
  • The binary files in 365 are identical to the ones on the Office install DVD. They're the same program, down to a single bit; you can even switch from a traditional license to a subscription license without reinstalling - or vice-versa (but who'd want to).

Microsoft seems to be sending a clear message that they want to make it hard to buy Office the old way, and they penalize customers for doing it that way.

So, the question is: why would anyone ever pay seven hundred bucks up front to buy a copy of Office?

Over the past three years we've explained this to everyone who enquires about buying Office through the Volume Licensing program. As a result, we've sold zero copies of Office in the traditional way. You could be our first! We'll be happy to help you purchase whichever type of Office license you want.

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