Changes to Microsoft Support Policy for Office Suite and Office 365

Microsoft licensing… a topic that doesn’t typically set pulses racing (possibly, unless you have ever received a Software Asset Management audit request from Microsoft…). That said, there has been some confusion floating about which we’d like to clear up, as most businesses will use ‘Office’ in some way, shape or form.

There is some concern that Microsoft may be pushing customers to upgrade against their will, which we’re aiming to clear up.

The key to my blog post is the way Microsoft has changed the use of the word “allow” to “support”.

Back in April 2017, Microsoft posted an article on the Office Blog titled ‘Office 365 system requirements changes for Office client connectivity’. Of specific note, the article wrote:
“Effective October 13th, 2020, Office 365 will only allow Office client connectivity from subscription clients (Office 365 Pro Plus) or Office perpetually licensed clients within mainstream support to connect to Office 365 services.”

Rather alarmingly, this implied come 13th October 2020, if you were using perpetual licenses of Office 2016 (or a prior version), you would no longer be able to send or receive email using Outlook on your workstation device via Office 365’s Exchange Online service. Quite a big deal – and quite an expense to upgrade. Clearly this does not affect customer’s who run their own Exchange Servers on-premises.

Last month, Microsoft (finally) provided more clarity and changed the support policy wording to:

“Effective October 13th, 2020, Office 365 will only support Office client connectivity from subscription clients (Office 365 Pro Plus) or Office perpetual clients within mainstream support to connect to Office 365 services.”

This article link refers:

Ok, so that’s much better news for those of you planning to continue using perpetual licenses of Office 2016 (or 2013…) with Office 365, though I’d recommend using the latest Office suite version, having considered compatibility with any third-party applications of course!

So, what does “will only support” actually mean? Referring to the ‘System requirements for Office’ page on Microsoft’s website, Microsoft is continuing to state:

“Office 365 is designed to work with the latest browsers and versions of Office. If you use older browsers and versions of Office that are not in mainstream support:

• Microsoft won’t deliberately prevent you from connecting to the service, but the quality of your Office 365 experience may diminish over time.

• Microsoft won’t provide code fixes to resolve non-security related problems.”

In summary, while the future is unquestionably heading in the ‘cloud’ direction, for customers who presently use Office 36 Exchange Online for mail service provision who don’t currently subscribe to plans that include the Office suite for local install (e.g. Office 365 Enterprise E3 or Business Premium) – or plan to buy a perpetual license of Office 2019 via volume licensing (e.g. Open) – you are not being forced to buy these to continue with everyone’s essential task of sending/receiving email (or perhaps accessing a SharePoint library or Teams site). Well, seemingly for the next few years, anyway.

This is great news for customers who aren’t ready to make the leap to Office 365 yet. But for an affordable per-user-per-month subscription, you could give your business access to tools that are making paper-based processes redundant, reducing manual data entry and revolutionising the way everyone from field engineers to admin workers and even senior management figures work.

Office 365 includes a suite of business applications that are changing the way many of our customers are working, including Curo, Energetics and H. Malone and Sons.

You can find out more about Office 365 and what it can achieve for your business in our dedicated Office 365 section.