FAQ, Popular

September 20, 2012

Office 365 vs. hosted desktop (Take 2)

First of all, to clear up any confusion, the  flexiDesk® is the 404® version of the hosted desktop.

We wrote this article in response to what is currently our most frequently asked question:  What is the difference between our flexiDesk and Office 365?  So the following is our attempt to answer that question based on our current understanding of Office 365, and enable people to decide which (if either) suits their needs.

What Office 365 and the flexiDesk® have in common

  • The Office “Suite”, so Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint
  • Both are accessed via the internet (in other words are cloud based or “in the cloud”) so the “anywhere working” benefits
  • The data (documents you save) are stored in a data centre aka the cloud and not on a local machine (PC or laptop) and not on an on-premise server
  • Both charge per user per month (although the cost is different and we come to that later)


Let’s start by telling you what the flexiDesk will feel and look like.

No different to how you operate now, with same experience of all your programs.   That’s key!!!  And what we would say is One Big Difference.

So if you’re using the Office Suite, and (and this is fundamental) another package to say do your accounts (eg Sage) or a CRM package (eg. Act!, Goldmine etc) then nothing will change.  All applications can be included in the flexiDesk®.  So the experience to you will be just the same.  Just the way you pay for it will change.

It’s as simple as that.

The harder thing now is to explain what Office 365 is, but here goes…

With Office 365 the main thing to get is that it will be a new experience from what you’re used to.  That’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing but it needs pointing out.

This is what you will get:

On top of the Office “Suite”, depending on the plan, you may also get Microsoft SharePoint (document management software) and Microsoft Lync (a communication tool for instant messaging and VOIP).   You will begin with an empty system that you have to set up, build on and populate from scratch.  If you have an existing network setup (i.e.  a group of users connected to a server, with people sharing files)  then you will have to move piece by piece all of that onto a new system and then use SharePoint to enable and manage the sharing.

Personally for us that’s a passion killer since who wants  the disruption of moving piece by piece a filing system with a carefully thought through structure and permissions that’s been  built up over the years  onto a new system.  Plus having to then learn to use and manage the new software (SharePoint).   When you could just carry on as normal, but still get the advantages for paying as you go, along with the “anywhere working” benefits.  Managing change is costly, stressful and time-consuming.   So avoid it, if you can!

Another Big Difference is that if you are using other applications, unless they’re web-based like online business banking, then you’ll have to deal with this yourself.  In other words, if you’re using an accounting package or a CRM that sits on your company server, then you’ll need to find someone to host that for you.   Or keep it running on your server, implying maintenance and upkeep costs, so negating the beauty of cloud computing, which is to do away with your server!

With Office 365 if you want to add an extra user it is a complicated, costly and confusing business,  as you need to sort out the licensing.  There are other niggles, like the fact that you cannot open older version of documents.  Also there is no upgrade path, so if you want to move onto a higher level package, then you’ve got to start all over and build afresh your system.

What’s great about Office 365 is the price. It’s so cheap. Packages start from about £8 a month – although to edit documents in the cloud (for sharing purposes) it’s more like £15 a month.

The bottom line…

Well, if you

  1. are a single user or a new start-up with little or no legacy data
  2. have no other applications (eg Sage, Act!)  – if you do, you will need them hosting or web-based or to keep them on a server or PC (both of which require on-going maintenance)
  3. you don’t need to access it on an iPad
  4. are self-servicing and are (or have to hand) an IT savvy person to guide you in the initial set up and /or you are happy to use the self-service help and training 365 offers

then Office 365 is definitely a good choice at this stage.

If, on the other hand one or more of the following apply to you:

  1. want something that requires no effort on your part
  2. have at least one server in-house and would like to remove the burden
  3. have an established shared company filing system (shared company network drive) that users save documents to
  4. want to access other applications (eg SAP, Act!) just as you do now, but from any device, anytime, anywhere
  5. want to free up your IT department to do more meaningful things than maintain PCs and severs
  6. want the personal contact with a company that will hold your hand through the set up and over the years to come

then seriously consider the flexiDesk®.

David Shaw

David Shaw

Digital Marketing Professional

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