Can you afford Office365 for Education?

Earlier this week Microsoft announced the pricing plans for Office365 for Education, the successor to the free live@edu.  Anyone who manages ICT services or is a budget holder will always we filled with dread when they read “pricing plan” as this often means expensive tiers and reduction of features.

So is Microsoft pulling a “bait-and-switch” on our schools with Office365?

In October last year I was looking to migrate my school to the free live@edu service that lots of people were raving about.  We investigated the service, signed up for a trial and were enthusiastic to move our provision across.  Then Microsoft announced Office365 for business and said ”availability and pricing for Office 365 will be announced at a future date.” 
This set off alarm bells for us so we slammed on the brakes and stopped our plans until pricing was announced.  Our main concern was that we would be offered free hosted email, 25GB SkyDrive and access to Office Web Apps today but will be charged tomorrow. 

Unfortunately that is exactly what has happened!

What was free for our school before email, SkyDrive and Office Web Apps is now only available in the Plan A2 in the diagram above.  This has been justified by adding additional features into the pricing tier including SharePoint and Lync, but the basic offer in live@edu has been reduced.

So how much would this cost our school?  We are a large secondary school with around 2000 students.  We have 285 staff with email addresses who would need to be migrated across.  These are not just teachers but our associate staff base who are essential to the running of the school. 

$10 per month = $120 per annum each
$120 x 285 staff members = $34200 per school

What makes matters worse is that the UK pricing has not been released yet.  We know that US pricing rarely equates to the equivalent UK price according to the exchange rate. 

Assuming direct exchange conversion this gives us a total cost of £21,500 at today’s exchange rates.   This is too much for any school to afford.

Four months ago I wrote an article “Has everyone gone gaga for Google?” about schools migrating to Google Apps for Education.  It now seems like these schools were ahead of the game!

It’s no secret that UK Schools are going to be suffering financially over the coming years and that budget cuts are looming.  If it was a choice between saving jobs or paying for extra services I’m sure very few schools would choose the latter. 

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