Freemium Apps vs. Office 365 for Business Collaboration

    This post has matured and may no longer be accruate, but we leave it here as it may still be useful. You might want to click on the associated category or tag to find something newer.

    Update: Microsoft Teams was recently opened up to teams of up to 300 users as a freemium product. Read our blog on Getting Started In Microsoft Teams to find out more.

    If your business is using freemium apps and paying over $5 per user per month you may want to consider alternatives. There is a huge storm of freemium business apps available for business collaboration, and finding the right combination will lead you to a streamlined business model.  Your employees can benefit from these tools that enable them to brainstorm, meet, discuss, and share files, ideas, comments, and conversations with each other without ever leaving their workstation.

    In this introductory post to freemium apps vs. Office 365 collaboration tools we explain some of the features and options available. “Freemium” is the combination of free and premium services, software, or mobile apps. These offer free limited options however you must pay for additional features in order to get the full experience and functionality out of them. This business model stemmed from shareware software in which anyone could download and try it free for a short time or with minimal features enabled.

    Microsoft steps into the freemium ring

    It wasn’t until recently (earlier this year) that Microsoft decided to shift gears slightly and change from their standard licensed products to a freemium approach for some of their Office 365 applications. Since the announcement in March, Microsoft decided to embark on the freemium journey as a tactic to polish their image. With this approach, Microsoft users can get a free preview of applications to see if they wish to pay for the full functionality of them so they don’t end up paying for a bundle of products they may not have a complete use for.

    While there are certain challenges that come with in-app charges associated with freemium apps, Microsoft is adapting and adjusting as necessary. By offering freemium apps, Microsoft has discovered they can offer more people useful software.   This also enables Microsoft to develop methods for users to extend their use of Office past phones and tablets to the cloud.

    The big push for Microsoft to go to freemium apps comes from the growing mobile and cloud services markets. The move toward Office 365 Freemium mirrors the tactic used by Windows. If you use Office 365 on a small tablet or smartphone you get basic Office free, however there are certain features available only with paid subscriptions. For the most part it is free. For example, the fine line between freemium and subscription is the size of the device screen. If you have a device with a screen under 10.1 inches expect the freemium treatment. If you have a device 10.2 inches or larger you’ll stick with the subscription to Office 365.

    Mobile Device Management (MDM) for Office 365

    While Mobile Device Management (MDM) for Office 365 is only one of several freemium offerings Microsoft has to offer, we will examine others in related posts. In the fall of 2014 Microsoft promised to add several MDM tools to their Office 365 commercial subscribers. With MDM you can manage Office 365 data over a wide range of smartphones and tablets including Android and iOS. Another great thing about MDM for Office 365 is that the built-in features are free!

    The freebie tools allow your Office 365 administrators to set access limits to corporate email, files, and company owned devices. These tools also allow you to set a PIN on the device and perform a remote wipe of Office 365 data on personal devices in the event of the employee leaving the company.

    Enterprise level organizations that need more features than what MDM has to offer can take a look at Microsoft Intune which offers a large Enterprise Mobility Suite. Intune also supports Windows-based computers, and covers more mobile apps than just those in Office 365. Administrators can configure additional security features with Intune such as VPNs. You can find more about the differences between freemium MDM and Intune on the Microsoft website.

    The only downside to MDM is that it only works with Office 365 apps. Microsoft’s freemium strategy with MDM offers a great move forward for their freemium strategy with other business apps. Keep an eye out for subsequent postings that will cover a wide array of how other freemium business collaboration apps stack up against Office 365.