Office for £5 per month... but only if you stay online

Web hosting firm offers Microsoft Office for £5 per month - but you have to stay connected to the internet

Fasthosts has launched a new service that allows customers to rent Microsoft Office for as little as £5 per month. However, the company has postponed plans to give users offline access to the Office suite.

UPDATE: Microsoft claims Fasthosts Office deal breaks its licence - click here for details

The monthly subscription service lets customers download the full Office suite on to their PC, but contrary to Fasthosts' original plans (as reported in the forthcoming issue of PC Pro), users must remain connected to the internet to use the software.

This not only makes the online Office suite impractical for remote workers, but could also lead to work being lost if a user's internet connection dips out. "If you lose a connection for any reason, the program may close and need to be reopened once a connection is resumed," a spokesperson for Fasthosts claims.

"We advise customers to check their autosave function to minimise any impact should the internet connection become intermittent," he adds.

The company says it still plans to offer the offline version of the software - where a small piece of administrative software regularly checks to see if the subscription is still active - but can't confirm when it will launch.

Student subscriptions

Fasthosts' Microsoft Office Standard prices start from £4.99 per month for users who qualify for the academic licence, which includes anyone in full or part-time education. And Fasthosts admits that checks on who qualifies for the cheaper licence (the normal Office Standard subscription is £14.99) are not particularly stringent. "It's a self-certification process," says Stuart Reed, product marketing manager at Fasthosts. "Customers will click on a message to say they agree they qualify for the academic conditions."

While the £60 a year subscription fee compares favourably to the £300+ price tag for the boxed version of Office 2007 Standard, the veneer starts to come off when it's compared with the £75 Home and Student version, which includes all of Standard's applications bar Outlook.

Worse still, the boxed Home and Student edition comes with a three-user licence, whereas Fasthosts' online subscription is one machine per licence.

However, Fasthosts insists the flexible pricing model still has appeal. "The monthly subscription basis will be of particular interest for people on tighter budgets, such as small businesses looking after their cash flow," claims Reed.

Microsoft refused to comment on whether it will rent Office itself or work with any other resellers.

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