What's the Difference Between Office Desktop and M365?

What’s the Difference Between Office Desktop and Microsoft 365?

Organizations that need Microsoft Office software have a variety of options to choose from among the donated and discounted options available at TechSoup.

But what’s the difference between the desktop versions of Office (on-premise) available through TechSoup as volume licensing products and the subscription-based Microsoft 365?

Office Desktop: Office Standard and Office Professional Plus

Locally Installed Office Applications Included

If you just need locally installed desktop applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Publisher, you can request Office Standard or Office Professional Plus through TechSoup. Office Standard is available as either a donated product or a discounted product, whereas Professional Plus is only available as a discounted product. Professional Plus includes all the same products that Standard includes, plus Access.

One-Time Payment

When you request Office Standard or Office Professional Plus through TechSoup, you pay a one-time admin fee and receive a perpetual license (through Volume Licensing / VLC) for the software.

Free Upgrades for Two Years

All Microsoft software products requested through TechSoup include Software Assurance, which provides you with a number of benefits. Those benefits include free product upgrades to new versions of the software released for two years, so if a new version of Office comes out, you can upgrade for free. However, when your Software Assurance expires after two years, you’ll need to pay for a new license if you want to upgrade to a newly released version.

Microsoft 365: Business and Enterprise Subscription Options

Exclusive Cloud Services

M365 subscriptions available through TechSoup provide exclusive cloud services that you won’t get with the standalone desktop applications. These services include hosted email and calendars, web and voice conferencing (Teams), online file storage and sharing (OneDrive and SharePoint), and more. The services that are included depend on the M365 subscription you choose. See a comparison of these plans.

Locally Installed Office Applications Included with Some Subscriptions

The same locally installed Office applications included with Office Standard and Office Professional Plus can be obtained through many M365 subscriptions. The following subscriptions available through TechSoup include all the Office applications that are in Office Professional Plus.

  • M365 Nonprofit Business Premium
  • M365 Nonprofit Business Standard
  • M365 Nonprofit E3
  • M365 Nonprofit E5

Subscription-Based Payments (or Free)

When you request an M365 subscription, you can choose one of the free donated plans where you don’t pay any monthly fees, or you can choose a paid plan where you pay discounted monthly subscription fees per user. The primary difference between the free, donated subscriptions and the paid, discounted subscriptions is that the donated plans don’t include locally installed Office applications.

Upgrades Included

M365 free
Apply for 10 free M365 licenses today

Since M365 is a subscription-based product, the software and services you receive are always up to date. This benefit means you’ll always be working with the latest versions of the Office applications if you choose a subscription that includes those products.

A Third Option: Use Both M365 and Office Desktop Software

For some organizations, it can be cost-effective to use a combination of M365 subscriptions and locally installed versions of Office that you request through TechSoup. For instance, maybe your organization already has several computers with desktop versions of Office installed. Or perhaps it’s just easier for your organization to maintain software licenses obtained through traditional one-time payments. In these cases, you could request free M365 subscriptions that don’t include Office applications to benefit from cloud services while still using your perpetually licensed desktop Office applications.

What’s more, your employees don’t need to be on the same Office 365 plan. If some of your staff members need Office applications and others don’t, you can pick the appropriate plan for each of them.

Just be careful not to install the Office desktop applications obtained through an Office 365 subscription on the same device as one of the Office desktop applications obtained through Volume Licensing. This principle applies to all Office products available as donations through TechSoup, including Skype for Business, Visio, and Project. You’ll need to uninstall any Office desktop applications that you’ve received through TechSoup before installing the applications provided through the Office 365 subscriptions.

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