Upgrade to Office 2003? Maybe.

Because I’m fairly technical (I’m a programmer by training) people ask me a lot of technology questions. One of the most common is “Should I upgrade?” Most frequently, these questions accompany the launch of a new version of Windows or Microsoft Office.

The most recent upgrade to Office, the “2003” version, made this question really difficult to answer. From the standpoint of a small business without centralized IT resources, there’s not much new in Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, et al. It’s pretty much the same old stuff. However, Outlook got some major enhancements this time around… but I could never in good conscious recommend the upgrade to most small businesses because of the high cost of entry.

This article in the Boston Globe gave me an idea, though: don’t upgrade the whole suite (over $300!) but do upgrade Outlook. They’re right– an upgrade to Outlook can be had for under $100 online, and would give you probably 80% of the benefit of upgrading for less than 1/3 the cost. Now that’s a recommendation I can live with.