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Office 2013 vs. Office 365 bout benefits business

Microsoft has made many changes in its suite, and some desktop admins have made surprising choices after comparing Office 365 vs. Office 2013.

Microsoft Office 2013 is still relevant for many businesses and IT professionals, despite the company's mantra of a mobile- and cloud-first world that includes the Office 365 productivity suite.

Not all organizations are ready to make such a transition, though. Concerns about corporate data security, licensing and functionality have encouraged administrators to investigate the advantages of deploying Office 2013 rather than migrating to its cloud-based counterpart, Office 365.

Applications for various versions of Office are similar. For the majority of end users, there is no discernible difference between Office 2013 vs. Office 365.

"If you were to sit a user down and show them Office 2013 Professional Plus and Office 365 Pro Plus, the only difference with Office 365 Pro Plus is asking the user to log in," said Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, an IT consultancy in Kirkland, Washington.

The distinctions between Office 2013 features and those in Office 365 may not be obvious, but some IT pros would rather remain with Office 2013 than move to Office 365 because of user- and technology-related issues.

Some companies use custom macros and may need to manage them, said Jamison West, founder and CEO of Arterian, an IT service provider that helps small- to medium-sized businesses migrate from on-premises versions of Office to Office 365.

On the other hand, because the Office 2013 Pro Plus macros exist as a built in Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), there is relatively little concern over how custom macros might translate to Office 365 Pro Plus, Miller explained.

However, Microsoft's Office Web applications do not support VBA, and the company has de-emphasized VBA for Office, he said. "[VBA] is largely in maintenance mode," Miller added.

Despite the macro issue, more Arterian clients are beginning to move to Office 365 for a variety of reasons, including the ability for each worker to use the suite on up to five devices, according to West.

"We do have some clients licensed for Office, but as quickly as we can, we are moving them to the [Office 365] E3 model," West said.

Unlike Office 2013, the cloud-based Office 365 can still be a nebulous concept for some businesses. Thus, the choice to stay with Office 2013 may be related to what stage an organization is at in its upgrade cycle. If a company is in the process of updating its email and desktop products, it may explore Office 365 and compare it with Office 2013.

At a minimum, IT shops should know that Office 365 can be used to simply replace Exchange for a company's cloud-based email without having to deploy the full suite.

"Businesses can still have Office 2013 and use Office 365 for email," said Evan Richman, co-CEO of SkyKick, a Seattle-based provider of an Office 365 automation migration tool aimed at small- to medium-sized businesses. "There are all sorts of configurations."

Not all organizations are moving to the cloud, and staying with Office 2013 may represent a better choice for some IT admins.

One such organization is Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm in San Francisco that invests in software and other technology-related businesses. The company has been using Office 2010 but plans to upgrade to Office 2013.

"It has been our philosophy to keep our data on premises," said Imran Shaikh, IT program director.

Vista Equity Partners was reluctant to store data in the cloud, and Shaikh said he was concerned about potential migration problems with email archiving. During the migration process, an email attachment is removed from Exchange and put into a low-tiered storage.

Once those emails are moved to Office 365 mailbox, the settings may not work, Shaikh explained. An organization may need to write special custom scripts as part of the move from Exchange 2010 or Exchange 2013 to Office 365, he added.

Senior Executive Editor Ed Scannell contributed to this article.

This was first published in July 2014

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