Once upon a time, everyone used to pay for Microsoft Office. You had to for compatibility reasons, as collaborating on documents was much more difficult otherwise.
Today, we all have access to Google’s editing apps and even Microsoft’s free version of Office Online, plus free productivity suites like Libre Office. So it might seem strange to pay $100 a year for Microsoft 365 Family or $70 for Microsoft 365 Personal. Why spend money on a productivity suite? And yet, a Microsoft 365 subscription can still go a long way. Ditch the idea that it’s just Office apps and you’ll see why pretty quickly.
Lots of OneDrive storage space
This feature may be worth the cost of your entire subscription, no matter which tier you choose. You could never touch the Microsoft Office apps and still get a lot of bang for your buck, especially if you sign up for the family plan.
On the Personal plan, you get 1TB of space for one user. If you don’t need more space, you’ll save between $30 and $50 compared to rival plans from Google and Dropbox.
Meanwhile, on the family plan, you get 1TB of space per user (up to six total), with each person’s storage counted independently of everyone else in the group. You can pay as little as $16.50 per user per year. It’s still a steal for cloud storage, and the plan still includes other benefits.
Enhanced OneDrive security
In addition to more space, Microsoft 365 also offers better security in OneDrive. For starters, you can add expiration dates and passwords to shared links. Paid users also get unlimited use of Personal Vault, a feature that lets you put files in a special folder that you have to unlock to access. It’s perfect for tax forms, bank statements, and other sensitive information you decide to put in the cloud, and everything on it is also encrypted on your local drive.
It is also possible to restore your entire OneDrive. In case you accidentally delete everything, file corruption, or something else, you can roll back to an earlier time within the last 30 days. And if a ransomware attack is detected, you’ll get help restoring your files up to 30 days later.
Full web, mobile and desktop access to Microsoft Office applications
Free document editors have limitations, particularly Microsoft’s own free versions of its web and mobile apps. If you’re in a position where your document editions require formatting consistency across organizations or more sophisticated tools, you’ll need Microsoft Office.
A Microsoft 365 subscription unlocks access to full versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and more on the web, mobile, and desktop. It also ensures updates to the latest versions of applications as they are released, unlike a standalone copy of Office.
Microsoft’s line of programs is also bigger than the household names. You can also expect Access, OneNote, OneDrive, Skype, and Teams, but the full list includes many more these days. You’ll find helpful tools like Clipchamp that let you quickly trim video files, as well as heavy-duty apps like Power Automate and Power BI that let you easily create dashboards and automated tasks.
Seamless compatibility with various devices
A single license for Microsoft Office Home and Student software works on a single computer. With a Microsoft 365 subscription, all users can be active in Office apps on up to five different devices simultaneously and still have the programs installed on the other non-active devices. You will automatically be signed out of devices not in use when you use the apps on a new or previously deactivated device.
As mentioned above, the family plan includes up to six users, and each person in your group gets the same benefits as the primary account holder. That means six people can get the benefits of the Personal plan for just a fraction of the price. Microsoft also doesn’t require all plan members to live at the same address, so your “family” can be spread out far and wide.
Free Skype minutes
Whether you need to make the occasional domestic or international phone call, Microsoft 365 has you covered. All Personal and Family users get 60 minutes of free calling to landlines and mobiles per month. It may not cover all your needs, but it’s a start.
Bonus: discounted subscriptions
You can regularly pay less than the sticker price on Microsoft 365 subscriptions, unlike plans from known competitors. Between this strategy and regular sales at retailers like Newegg, Antonline, and Amazon, you can save a lot of money on discounted digital codes, especially since they can stack up to five years at a time.
A sneaky tip: You can apply personal codes to family plans, for a 9-month prorated amount. If you find a great deal on personal codes, do the math: You may still end up earning if you use them to top up your family plan. My best score so far? Newegg Black Friday 2015 Sale on Personal Plan Codes: $15 per year, max five codes. I wish it would show up again.
What about Microsoft 365 Basic?
The newest price tier of Microsoft 365 costs $20 per year (or $2 per month) for 100 GB of space, along with access to full versions of Office web and mobile apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and OneDrive. It’s a decent plan meant to go head-to-head with Google’s Basic One plan, but it lacks many of the perks of the Personal and Family plan. We recommend it primarily for people who need the Microsoft ecosystem but don’t want desktop Office.