OWA or full Office 365 – which is best?

Office365_Nov03_AOffice 365 for business is unique in many ways; one being that many plans come with full versions of Office 2013 that you can install on your computer. All plans come with Office Web Apps (OWA), a Web-based version of popular Office apps like Word and Excel. One thing you need to know before signing up for an Office 365 plan is whether you will actually need this to include Office 2013 or whether OWA will be sufficient. Here are five questions to help you decide.

1. Am I comfortable doing all, or most of my work in a browser?

Because Office Web Apps is browser-based, you will be spending a fair amount of time in your browser. Many of those who have switched to OWA have found that it takes time to get used to working with the system. Because of the way many of us work, you will start to see multiple windows and tabs open with different documents which could lead to increased confusion and more time finding the tab and window you need.

What’s more, you will need to ensure that all browsers on all computers in your company are kept up-to-date if you want to use OWA. For example, older versions of Internet Explorer may not support OWA. This means you will need to spend time ensuring that everyone within the business is updating when necessary.

To get around this, you can work with a company like us who can ensure that browser activity is not only secure, but also up-to-date, which basically guarantees OWA will work when you need it to.

If, however, you are not comfortable using your browser for everything, then it may be a good idea to go for an Office 365 plan that includes the full version of Office 2013.

2. Am I going to collaborate on files with users both in and outside of the organization?

Many business tasks are real team efforts, where users need to collaborate on documents. While this is possible with any Office program, one of the biggest weaknesses of traditional Office installs is version control.

If you have shared one document with a number of different users you will quickly find that the changes they make and send back to you are likely going to need to be manually added back into the original document. This takes time and can lead to confusion, errors, and a lack of productivity.

With OWA, any document you create is stored on your OneDrive account and can be easily shared with other users. When the document is opened, all changes are made directly to the main document in real time. This means each user can see the changes show up as they are being made, which increases the effectiveness of collaboration.

Of course, this is possible with almost all Office 365 plans – especially if you also integrate SharePoint, but OWA offers by far the easiest solution to collaboration. So, if you collaborate a lot, then OWA may be a better version of Office to use. That being said, if you just need a few people to edit documents or offer comments, then Office 365 plans with Office 2013 will usually be the better option.

3. Will I need to format documents, or need advanced features?

The Web-based versions of Office offer many of the key features found in the desktop versions. However, some advanced features, like in-dept formatting, adding charts, etc. are not currently available with OWA.

While many users find OWA is enough to meet their day-to-day document production needs, those who use the advanced features of each Office app will be better off with Office 365 plans that offer full installs of Office 2013.

4. Will I need more Office apps than just the core five?

Currently, OWA apps available to users are: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Lync. These five major apps cover the majority of document production needs for most users, however, if you require other Office apps, like Access, or Publisher, that aren’t included in OWA, then you will be better off going with an Office 365 plan that offers Office 2013.

5. Will I be constantly connected to the Internet?

In order to get the most out of OWA you will need to have a strong and constant Internet connection. While you can create documents offline, you will need to connect in order to save and update them. If you spend a lot of time out of the office, this may be a real inconvenience, especially if you often struggle to find a solid Internet connection.

What we recommend is talking to an Office 365 vendor like us. We can explain the different Office 365 plans in depth and how you can integrate them into your office. Contact us today to learn more.

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