Google Apps, StarOffice and other competitors are becoming viable alternatives to the once unassailable Microsoft Office. And while cost is always a driver in purchasing decisions, IT has to be aware of other significant issues when implementing new software.

The cost, access and interoperability of emerging Office applications are causing Microsoft customers to consider other options when it comes to upgrading. For example, the City of Los Angeles and Jaguar dropped Microsoft in favor of Google and its cloud software.

This article will talk about the not so obvious costs of migrating away from Microsoft Office including security, access, support and collaboration.


Moving from Microsoft Office to a competitor’s Office suite can have subtle, but important, effects on the security of your documents. The fairly obvious concern is whether or not the new Office applications meet all of the regulatory requirements of your business. A more subtle concern is how to control access to your information.

Moving to a Cloud based solution enables users to access all of the documents they need wherever they may be located. But what happens when an employee leaves the company? If access to a Cloud based solution is based on an employee’s email account, simply shutting off their access to the company’s domain is not sufficient.

The first step an organization must take is to meet with their vendor to discuss all aspects of their security model . Once the new Office suite security functions are understood, the necessary policies, procedures and checklists for your organization can be updated.


The document that is created, modified and used by a single person is a rare event these days. All of the available Office suites are designed to enable collaboration to some degree. Finding the Office suite that best meets your needs should be fairly straightforward. But what happens to the documents that you exchange with your customers or vendors?

Companies can no longer assume that everyone they do business with is using the same set of Office applications. A document created using one application may look sloppy or incomplete when viewed using another. Comments added to a document are listed in the margin in one application and embedded in the main text in another.

Documents that contain formulas can be even more problematic. Does the spreadsheet being used by everyone in the review cycle support the same formulas? Do they all generate the same results?

Before migrating to a different Office suite, companies must identify all of the other applications they use that connect to their existing Office applications. Each of these other applications must be tested for compatibility with the new Office suite and possibly modified or replaced so that employees have all the tools they need to perform their daily functions.


When we think about support for an Office application, we typically think about what happens when the application fails to work. As different companies move to different Office applications, support for compatibility issues between Office applications takes on a much more important role. Inevitably, an organization’s users will be unable to open and read a document they received or downloaded. To reduce the volume of calls to the Help Desk, an organization’s Help Desk must be prepared for these issues and be ready and able to solve them.

Most people have been using Microsoft Office for many years. While few are fluent with all, or even most of the available functionality, everyone is intimately familiar with the tasks they use on a daily basis. A new Office suite may include all of the functionality your business needs but will your users be able to find it quickly and easily? Or should training be scheduled to help smooth the transition to the new applications?

Knowing which Office applications your users need to perform their work on a daily basis isn’t enough. Spending time talking with users about what they do each day or, even better, spending time watching them perform daily routines will help determine whether or not a new suite of Office applications is even the right move for your organization and, if it is, what level of training will be needed.


Being able to access the files you need when you need them is critical. Once all of your documents have been migrated to a new Office suite, the day-to-day issue of accessing files shouldn’t be a problem whether the files are still stored in-house or in the cloud.

Backup routines will need to be updated if you are now storing any of your documents in the cloud. Disaster recovery plans will need a similar update. A less obvious area to consider is e-discovery.

In the event that you need to produce all of the documents related to a particular customer, do you know how to find them? Will your existing tools work with the new storage structure? Before you can evaluate a new suite of Office applications for your company, you must have a good understanding of how your company uses Office applications, what your disaster recovery plans are and how backups are performed. A review of current policies and procedures should be the first step when considering a change in Office applications.

Take Your Time and Evaluate Carefully

Deploying a new suite of Office applications can have a major impact upon your organization. Lost productivity while users learn the new applications, lost or stolen data and the inability to find and access the files you need when you need them are key factors to consider when contemplating a new Office suite.

Taking the time to identify and evaluate all of the areas that will be affected is the key step to making the rollout of a new Office suite a success for both your users and your company.