by Richard Stokes

mso2013Every time Microsoft announces the newest version of one of their software lines it’s largely greeted with uneasy looks and the nervousness of a cat sitting in a room full of rocking chairs.  Let’s face it, Microsoft doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to new software or product releases (think: Windows Millennium Edition, Vista, Zune, Windows XP Tablet Edition).

On one hand you could say it’s good for IT companies like us because it creates more work for us.  On the other hand, it’s bad for IT companies like us because it creates more work for us…and by that I mean work that comes bundled with the stress of the unfortunate end-users who just want to get their work done.  So, believe me when I tell you we take a measured approach when it comes to anything new from Microsoft.

That being said, what’s all the fuss about Office 2013?  It can’t be that much different, right?  Well, aside from the fact that it isn’t compatible with the XP and Vista operating systems anymore, Outlook 2013 also doesn’t work with the Exchange Server 2003 (email) platform.

Outside of Microsoft incompatibility, here are the 2 biggest complaints with any new version of Office:

1)    Microsoft has changed the layout again and you can’t find the (insert your issue here)  formatting tool in Word anymore.

2)    It doesn’t play well with other developers’ business applications.

Now the first of the issues is a relatively easy fix – Get training.  You’ve got the time for that, right?

The second is a little more difficult because this is completely out of your control.  You have to rely on the software developer to update their application and then release that update.  And, if your application is several versions behind and out-of-support anyway, then you can forget that option.

One application that comes to mind is ACT!  Sage actually states on their website that Office 2013 is not supported with the latest version: Sage ACT! 2013.

In another example, I have a client who integrates Outlook with their CRM application and Outlook 2013 doesn’t yet work with it.

So – what’s all the fuss?  Why not keep buying Office 2010 until everyone else has caught up?  Well, you can’t!  If you go to any main stream online retailer (Dell, HP), you’ll find that they are only selling new PC’s with Office 2013.  If you’re a tech company like us who normally goes through distribution channels such as TechData or IngramMicro, they aren’t selling Office 2010 anymore either.  In fact, Microsoft isn’t even selling Office 2010.

But before you hit the panic button – there is still one way to get it.  It’s called ‘Microsoft Open Licensing’.  This type of licensing has some advantages to it, such as the ability to install it on any PC at any time without running into any licensing issues.  As long as you don’t exceed the number of licenses you purchased, you can install it anywhere.

The biggest downside for small businesses (1-99 users) is going to be the cost; $373.00 (MSRP) versus the Office 2013 retail version – $219.00 (MSRP).  What Open Licensing does allow you to do though is downgrade to previous versions.  So if your business still needs Office 2010 you would have that flexibility.

So, your tip this week is to be mindful before you run out and buy a new PC for your business.  Avoid the headache and check with your IT provider on compatibility before you invest the money on an application that isn’t ready to play with everything else on your network.

Network 1 Consulting is a 15-year-old, IT Support company in Atlanta, GA.  We become – or augment – the IT department for professional services companies: law firms, medical practices and financial services firms.  Our IT experts can fix computers – but what our clients really value is the industry-specific best practices we bring to their firm.  This is especially important with technology, along with regulations and cyber threats, changing so rapidly.  We take a proactive approach to helping our clients use technology to gain and keep their competitive advantage.

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