One of the biggest benefits of the Office 365 suite, and of subscription-based software as a whole, is the constant support. Traditional software was sold with an implicit time limit for everyone that purchased it. Sure, the software license might last indefinitely – but there was no guarantee that the software would retain all of its functionality or that the company would continue to provide updates. A perfect example is the Quickbooks series. Quickbooks had massive updates every year, but the updates were only available for customers that bought the “new” version of the software – so customers could theoretically continue to use their older versions, but they would miss out on all the nice new features.
For business software, obsolescence is a huge problem. When business software becomes obsolete, it means the manufacturer no longer provides vital security and functionality updates, and it lessens the likelihood that the software will work as intended with every new operating system update and hardware change. Too many offices are tied to Windows 98 because they can’t find an alternative to some business-critical software system that went obsolete long ago.
Software as a service is cutting edge – allowing business users to stick with a single type of software that is constantly updated over its entire life-time. For something like your email system or your productivity software, you will be sticking with the same program for the life of your business so it pays to find a reliable provider that you can use for the long term. For productivity software, file formats are also a concern. If you purchase a perpetual license, there is no guarantee that your older version of a program (like Microsoft Word) will be able to read the file formats of the newer versions of the program – especially if major new features are introduced that require fundamentally different methods of file creation.
With Office 365, you don’t have to worry about the ticking timer of your software relevance. Your software is constantly updated – and it’s in Microsoft’s business interest to keep you on the bleeding edge of software technology. Microsoft updates the Office 365 suite regularly, and the patching process isn’t nearly as intrusive as patching for traditional software is. Instead of having to overwrite portions of your software installation, the Office 365 updates run in the background – using a mechanism similar to Windows update.
For security conscious people, the automatic update process is vital to their use of Office 365. Every piece of software, no matter how well thought out, becomes less secure over time without patching. There are hackers and criminals that spend all of their free time finding vulnerabilities in software programs, and they will not stop until they’ve managed to crack the software. Microsoft keeps these vulnerabilities in check by issuing constant patches, while a traditional software program might not ever be updated – so it becomes less and less secure over time.
Also unlike traditional software programs, Office 365 has inspired an entire system of partners that support the software and every possible use case for it. No matter how specific your needs, and how you will be incorporating cloud software into your business, there is a partner somewhere that can help you with your migration and support. Between the ongoing patches from Microsoft and the ongoing support of the Microsoft Partners, the subscription model provides a stable and sensible way for businesses to purchase and use software over the long term.