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What Changes are Coming to Office 365 in 2020?

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London, United Kingdom, October 23, 2017 Microsoft office 365 logo on smartphone screen placed on laptop keyboard. Empty place to write information with red background.

 A Decade of Office Innovation With Office 365

Over the past year, Microsoft has made it very clear that they are trying to shift towards cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) as the primary business models regarding their software.

Recently they have gotten more aggressive in this approach by announcing a bevy of services that will be losing support at some point in 2020. Many of them are older programs that are naturally reaching the end of their life cycles, but others are standalone versions of Office software still offered by Microsoft.

This means big changes are coming for many users of legacy versions of Microsoft Office, and that whether we like it or not, utilizing the subscription model for software suites such as Office 365 is becoming a matter of when, not if. This is already apparent by the variety of services that already lost service earlier this year, including the Windows 7 operating system.

Like with any situation where a piece of software is losing support, knowing what that means and how it impacts you and your company can save a lot of time and stress. We have answered several common questions here to help you understand what the future of Microsoft Office looks like in 2020.

What happens to legacy versions of Office?

Standalone versions of Microsoft Office, such as Office 2013 and Office 2016 that have a perpetual license will still function with several of the included software services, however applications such as OneDrive for Business, Outlook, and Skype for Business will not connect to Office 365 after October 13th, 2020.

There are several things to look out for beyond this initial change, including:

  • Calendar data access from Exchange Online will become inaccessible for those using Outlook 2010, 2013, or 2016
  • Email will also become inaccessible for users of Outlook 2010, 2013, and Outlook 2016 as a result of the inability to connect to Office 365
  • Increased security risk due to lack of support or updates
  • Possible performance and reliability issues for clients attempting to connect to newer, modern cloud services
  • Users of Office Mac/PC 2019 with a perpetual license that are doing so via a subscription will experience no changes
  • Users of Office that do not have any Office 365 integration using only on-premises services will not be affected

For businesses that utilize many of the listed Office services, especially those for email and cloud services, this means that they will either have to pivot to use another application to fill that gap, or upgrade to the current version of Office.

Updates to Office 365

Though Legacy versions of office are losing support this year, Office 365 is gaining a host of new features in the coming months to improve the already robust set of services available to users. Some of the more noteworthy ones that are upcoming, or have already rolled out are listed here:

  • PowerPoint Ink: Using PowerPoint online, users can now annotate and ink in real time. Alongside this, inking has been retooled to allow for replaying preexisting ink in a slideshow.
  • Audio Transcription: Word is set to take advantage of utilizing Azure’s speech services which allows for audio to be converted into written text. Word Online is going to get this feature early in the year, with desktop and mobile versions to follow in spring.
  • Digital Pen for Excel: Also coming in the spring of 2020 is the ability to utilize digital pens with Microsoft Excel. Users will be able to edit, write, and delete values utilizing pen and tablets to mitigate the need for utilizing a desktop or laptop computer to create spreadsheets.
  • Updated Whiteboards: New templates that include KANBAN sprint planning, and SWOT techniques are present to allow for more effective, engaging meetings and better organize their whiteboard layouts.
  • Security Updates: Microsoft has already released a security update as of January 14, 2020 to address issues in the Office Suite, and specifically Excel. Updates like these occur frequently, and are both to address concerns that Microsoft finds, as well as to account for known security threats that arise from hackers and other digital ne’er-do-wells.

No doubt there will be many more updates to come, some larger than others. Microsoft is constantly working to improve and add on to Office 365 to make it more valuable to its users.

Making the Jump to Office 365

Since its introduction in 2010, Microsoft has wanted users of Office to make the move from stand-alone, perpetually licensed versions of office to the SaaS model. While there are many reasons for this, the ability to focus support, updates, and enhance the numerous applications available on Office easier is a major one, as perpetual, on-premises versions of Office do not receive new features or access to new cloud-based services.

Because of this, more and more people have made the jump to Office 365, and it is not unwise to think that Microsoft wants to do away with on-premises versions of the software suite entirely sooner rather than later.

For those that wish to remain on the forefront of Office services, or for companies that are looking to upgrade from legacy versions to Office 365, there are some things to consider before making the update.

Working with your IT or managed services is an important step in the process. Making sure that your workstations and other devices are compatible with the newest versions of Office 365 is necessary, as otherwise you’ll be trying to update a system unable to run the applications. After ensuring that you are prepared to make the move, make sure to back up all your important files and documents, then allow for an IT specialist to safely transition your software.

Looking Ahead

As the premier software suite for many business operations, Office 365 provides great value that makes transitioning worthwhile for most companies and enterprises. As technology in the work environment continues to evolve, use of legacy systems will bring wit them risk of compromise and being unable to meet ever changing needs. With access to Office 365 and cloud services soon to be disabled for these older versions of Office, if there was a time to upgrade, it may be now.