What is Office 365? - PRR Computers, LLC

by Phil Rice
8 years ago

You’ve seen it mentioned online. You may have seen it on a retail box in a store, or in a television commercial, or in a pop-up message on your own PC. You might even HAVE Office 365.

But you’re not exactly sure what Office 365 is.

You are not alone.

There’s actually a really good, legitimate reason for some confusion about what “Office 365” is. That’s because that label is used by Microsoft to describe:

  1. Microsoft Office software, delivered as a service via a subscription
  2. Microsoft Exchange email hosting services via a subscription
  3. A combination of the above

Microsoft Office software

For pretty close to two decades, Microsoft Office was a software product. You would purchase a license – Microsoft Office 2007 for example – and several years later you would purchase a newer version – Microsoft Office 2010 for example.

When you purchase Microsoft Office via Office 365, you are subscribing to the latest version of Microsoft Office software, and when the next version comes out, as long as your subscription is active, you’re entitled to upgrade to it for free. If you bought an Office 365 subscription in 2014 which includes the desktop software license, you would have been running Office 2013 applications. If you kept your subscription active through late 2015, you would have had the opportunity to automatically upgrade your suite to Office 2016.

Eventually, Microsoft is probably going to ONLY sell Microsoft Office using this subscription based model, so if you are an Office user it’s a product worth getting to know.
So that is one type or aspect of Office 365 – the application software like Word, Excel, Power Point, Outlook, and so on.

Microsoft Exchange (Hosted)

Again for close to two decades, business users have made use of Microsoft Exchange as their communications server. Exchange integrates with Active Directory, the server system used to manage users, computers, and policies in what is called a “domain” network. Exchange allows email users to fully synchronize mailboxes, calendars, and contact lists between all their devices, and allows users to easily share these resources as well.

Implementing Microsoft Exchange used to mean deploying an expensive server and expensive software on your own business premises. Office 365 is changing all of that.
Businesses small and large can now enjoy Microsoft Exchange functionality through an annual subscription per mailbox (starting at $60/year per user), and instead of having to procure their own hardware they can “host” their mailboxes on Microsoft infrastructure (i.e. “the cloud”).

The advantages, particularly for small businesses, are tremendous.

And the label given to this hosted Microsoft Exchange service? Yup. Office 365. This one has nothing to do with the software you run on your computer, it’s the features related to delivering and managing email and related data.

So Office 365 refers either to software or to email services, right? Well…


Naturally, Microsoft sells subscriptions which include BOTH the email services AND the Office software. And naturally, the main name given to this is… you guessed it – Office 365.

There are a wide array of choices available to provide yourself or your employees with access to Microsoft software and/or email services. Fortunately, Microsoft has enlisted Partners across the world who have been trained to help clients determine what they need.

PRR Computers has been a Microsoft Partner since 2010, and we’ve been actively assisting clients with Office 365 since the debut of the product line. If you need some help selecting the product or service that is right for you, please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to assist you.

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