Office 365 Shopping Advice for Small Businesses:
You’re walking through the aisles of your local Staples and there they are… Stacks of 1-year Office 365 licenses. Gears start turning… You’ve been reading and hearing all about it and you’ve probably been close to subscribing a few times, but all of the different versions had you a bit gun shy. Command decision… might as well throw some in the cart.
If that sounds familiar, your relationship with the cloud may have just gotten off to a rocky start.
Obviously, large enterprise customers have teams of folks working directly with their account managers at Microsoft to determine the right types of licenses, quantities and (generally) a hefty discount, but the world of the small business owner is a little different. You don’t have Microsoft working with your IT staff and you probably can’t afford to spend the next few days staring at (and trying to make sense of) the finer point differences between Office 365 versions. You want something that’s going to help you get the tools you need to empower your business, but a misstep here can cost you.
One of the greatest things about Microsoft’s Office 365 is its ability to grow (or shrink) with your needs. You may not know what capabilities you’ll want tomorrow and Office 365 provides the flexibility to transition between subscriptions as your needs change. Unfortunately, when you buy Office 365 in “pre-paid” form (packaged on a shelf), you’re locked into whichever plan was listed on the box.
“You can’t switch plans if you used a prepaid card to purchase your plan.” – Microsoft Office Support Article
Microsoft isn’t shy about marketing the flexibility between plans and it is a tremendous benefit, but they aren’t nearly as vocal about this small caveat. Aside from the home consumer crowd, small businesses are really the only other target for the “on the shelf” versions and sadly, they’re also the ones that are most likely to transition between plans as they grow.
I understand the desire to capture some of the “impulse buy” customers, but until the licenses are treated equally, Microsoft risks frustrating consumers.
That said, save yourself the headache… avoid the temptation to buy the pretty box and shop for Office 365 in the cloud, where it lives.