Buying Microsoft Office

Whilst my Company is predominantly a Linux user, it has not been without its problems. OpenOffice in particular struggles with some newer Powerpoint presentations and the lack of the Calibri font seems to cause layout issues. More recently, our primary system vendor has introduced "Business Intelligence" as a product and we would like to take the benefit of that. Unfortunately most of those benefits are only available if you are also running Microsoft Excel 2010 and later, whilst we of course use OpenOffice.

So, with a heavy heart I reached for my dog-eared copy of the Internet, to see what this would cost me. I knew I needed Microsoft Office Professional, as Microsoft Access is occasionally needed. I found that a full retail licence from BT Business Direct cost £205 plus VAT, not so bad after all.

I considered buying 12 of these full retail licences, but decided in the end to contact our BT account manager to request a quote. I was informed by BT that the full retail licences could not be used on a server; no explanation was given for this, but I was assured that this was the case.  The result was that the cost would in fact be £288 each, an additional £1000. A rather strange reversal of the usual - the more you buy, the lower the unit price.

As I was going to be installing on a virtual machine, I was also interested in knowing that I would be able to reinstall on a new virtual machine, if for any reason I needed to rebuild. For some reason this seemed far less clear than I would have liked, but ultimately I did receive that assurance; albeit in a way that left me wondering if that would indeed ultimately prove to be the case.

One additional confusion is that 2013 is just out, and so there was a choice of 2010 or 2013, we had been told to buy 2010 or later, in order to work with Business Intelligence, but then I read an article on ZDNet Can Microsoft bring BI to the masses if the Excel 2013 masses can't get BI?. The upshot seems to be that Microsoft Office Professional 2013 may not be enough - I might need Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013, which as far as I can see is not even listed on BT Business Direct.

I visited the Microsoft page on Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013 but this left me none the wiser. Following the link to Licensing Options looked promising, but was not. Following the link to View Licensing Options - seemed to suggest that the only option was a three year Enterprise Agreement, but there was no pricing shown, not even under the "Volume Pricing" heading.

So now I need to re-contact BT to find out if they offer Professional Plus 2013 and try and find out if this is what I need and whether I can in fact reinstall on different hardware.

To seasoned purchasers of proprietary software this might all seem par for the course, or perhaps there is an easier way that I have not yet found? I suspect that the truth is that we are too large a company for buying single licences, but too small a company for an enterprise agreement. Neither fish nor fowl, as the saying goes.

But, for the past 5 years or so, I have not had to think about licensing once. If I need a copy of office, then I download OpenOffice (or more recently LibreOffice); if I need a desktop publishing program, then I download Scribus; a graphics editor, the GIMP; an illustrator, Inkscape. And for each of those programs I can install it for all staff without even a thought about how many licences I might have available.

There is no way out for me, sadly, and I will need to navigate these difficult waters whether I like it or not, but there is a better way and that way is Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS).

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