Choosing between Microsoft 365 vs Office 2021: Know the difference

Microsoft 365 and Office 2021 are two different software suites offered by Microsoft. They are made of productivity tools which include Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. While both suites offer similar core features, there are some differences between the two.     

In this Microsoft update and licensing knowledge sharing, you will get to see the differences between Microsoft 365 and Office 2021. Perhaps this will help you decide on which will meet your current needs.  


Microsoft 365 is a cloud subscription-based service that includes access to the latest version of the Office apps as well as additional features such as OneDrive cloud storage, Microsoft Teams, and Exchange email hosting. Microsoft 365 also includes regular updates and new features as they are released by Microsoft. However, some features are not accessible after or when a subscription is canceled.  

Office 2021, on the other hand, is a one-time purchase that includes a perpetual license to use the Office apps. Office 2021 does not include access to cloud-based services like OneDrive or Teams. When choosing Office 2021 and you do need Software Assurance, you can consider secondhand Office 2021 and save up to 60%. Contact the Q-Advise team for more info on secondhand / used Office 2021.   


Microsoft 365 receives regular security updates and features, updates for anti-virus and anti-malware software.     

Office 2021 is a one-time purchase, meaning users would have to pay for any future security updates independently.    


Microsoft 365 works for users who are always on-the-go or work remotely as it is cloud-based. With the suites online capabilities, users can access their files and documents from anywhere, anytime, as long as they have an internet connection.      

Office 2021, on the other hand, is for users who work from a stationary location and do not require the suite’s online capabilities.     


With Microsoft 365 you pay a nominal monthly charge or save money by making a one-year payment.With Office 2021 payment of a single, upfront fee is required.When buying Office 2021 with Software Assurance you have a spread payment benefit. That means you can spread the total cost over 3 years. Depending on your roadmap, Office 2021 with Software Assurance can be a good decision.  Speak to the experts at Q-Advise to find out if Software Assurance is advisable in your situation.   


Microsoft 365 gives you the ability to install up to five devices login all at once. PCs, Macs, tablets, and phones are included in this.      

Office 2021 on the other hand is a one-time purchase that can be installed once on a PC or a Mac.     

Technical Support  

With Microsoft 365 you can reach out for assistance or technical support at no additional cost, membership-related inquiries or billing support at any time during your membership.

But with Office 2021, support is given only with first installation and related technical help.

Collaboration Tools  

Microsoft 365 includes tools such as Microsoft Teams, which allow for real-time collaboration and communication with team members, who may be working or located in different places.

Office 2021 does not have real time team collaboration capabilities.     

What are the licensing plans for Microsoft 365?    

Microsoft 365 is available in various licensing plans to meet the needs of different organizations.    

  • Microsoft 365 Business Basic plan: It provides users with email hosting, access to online versions of Office apps, and OneDrive for Business cloud storage. With the Business Basic plan, users can collaborate on files and documents in real-time, as well as communicate and hold meetings using Microsoft Teams.   
  • Microsoft 365 Business Standard: plan offers all the features available in the Business Basic plan, in addition to desktop versions of Office apps that can be installed on up to five PCs or Macs per user.   
  • Microsoft 365 Enterprise plans: Is for larger organizations and offers additional features such as data loss prevention, advanced threat protection, and access control. The Enterprise plans also provide users with access to Office 365 Enterprise Suite, which includes advanced features for data analysis, task automation, and communication and collaboration.   

What are the licensing plans for Office 2021?   

For Office 2021, there is the traditional one-time purchase model, which allows customers to purchase the software outright and use it indefinitely.  

Another option allows customers to use the software as a service for extended periods without having to renew their subscription. This model is ideal for organizations that do not want regular payments and prefer a fixed cost that can be spread over several years. 

What options are available when Microsoft 365 and Office 2021 subscription expires?    

When subscriptions for these two Microsoft products expire, there are several options to explore. Let’s see the few available…    

  • Renew your subscription: You can renew your Microsoft 365 subscription monthly or annually. This will allow you to continue using the software and services provided by Microsoft.   
  • Purchase a perpetual license: For Office 2021, you can purchase a perpetual license. A perpetual license allows you to use the software indefinitely.   
  • Switch to a different productivity suite: There are many alternatives to Microsoft 365 or Office 2021 that may meet your productivity needs. You may want to know more about them when you reach out to an independent expert like us for assistance in choosing the most suitable option. Contact the team now!   

Choosing either Microsoft 365 or Office 2021 for your use     

Whichever is your final decision, you should first meet the needs of your users and the organization. Whatever you are deciding on, does it make room for scalability? Scalability means offering the technical space to either go up or down in terms of usage when the need arises. When users add up or are no longer in need of licenses, are you able to add or remove accesses respectively?     

Also, Microsoft 365 integrates with other Microsoft tools giving you tools to use within the same platform. This is flexibility that may allow users in your organization to work in different tools yet will be able to converge in one environment to review when it comes to work.      

Most importantly, check if your final decision is saving you on cost. Saving on your software spend requires doing internal checks like analysis on usage, needs met, are licenses under use and not necessarily focusing your attention on which of the two is more affordable.       

Our team of Microsoft licensing experts at Q-Advise are available to assist you with all Microsoft products, services and cloud-related optimizations. Do not wait till it is too late before you reach out, do it now and save on your purchase!     

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