Adobe Buying Guide: Creative Cloud vs. Creative Suite 6 – Pros/Cons
[UPDATE (May 6th) – Major news out: Adobe Unveils New “CC” Release (CS7)...]
When Creative Suite 6 arrived last year, there came with it a new way to buy Adobe software that the world had not seen before: the Creative Cloud. Traditionally, most Adobe products have been sold with “perpetual” licensing that doesn’t expire. The flip side is that these best-in-class tools often come with a steep price tag that is out of reach for many customers – though there have always been discounts when upgrading from recent older releases, plus much lower pricing for some market segments like students and teachers…
Enter the Creative Cloud – which, yes, is cloud-based in some ways – but at present, is primarily a different way of buying all the Adobe products you know and love. Creative Cloud membership is served as more of an “all-you-can-eat buffet” of the best software out there for any creative purpose, for one attractive monthly price ($29-$49/month standard in the US). The central idea is you can continue to use the same applications and services you always have – plus many more available at your disposal – with a term-based membership that includes all release upgrades (like CS7) and new feature additions over the period.
So the Creative Cloud offering contains all applications that are part of Creative Suite 6 (the entire Master Collection), as well as others like Lightroom, Adobe Muse, Adobe Edge, plus a host of professional publishing services for getting your work out there. It also can offer more recent versions than the packaged CS6 suites do – for example, Acrobat XI Pro which was released in October (instead of Acrobat X) and Photoshop CS6.1 from last month. Most of these components do not run over the network – they download and install on your system desktop just like normal, and only need to be connected to the Internet once per month for membership revalidation… In other words, you are not ever running your Photoshop remotely – it works just the same as it always has, running locally (and fast) on your desktop.
That said, however, there is an online collaborative Cloud component enveloping it all which allows easy web-based file storage, sharing, browsing, and syncing between computers and devices. For those who don’t have a paid subscription, there is also a free level of Creative Cloud membership that provides the same community features but with 2GB of free storage instead of 20GB.
Meanwhile, Adobe recently made some changes to how the perpetual licensing works. The products will still run indefinitely, but now the lower upgrade pricing is offered only when you own software that’s one major version back from the current release. So what this means is anybody who wants to upgrade to CS6 or CS6.5 (expected in 2013) will have to already be running CS5 or CS5.5, and going forward customers have to upgrade more frequently to retain discounted pricing privileges. However, any existing customer owning CS3, CS4, or later can still receive 40% off when upgrading to the Creative Cloud instead of a traditional version.
Cloud vs. CS6 – Which Is Right for You?
So there have been a lot of changes lately, and Creative Cloud is getting stellar reviews thus far – but with all these developments in mind, how do you decide which one to buy? The answer depends to a large extent on how you use the software, with these questions to ask:
- How long will you be using the products?
- How frequently do you usually [like to] upgrade?
- Which Adobe programs do you want or need to use now?
- Which tools would you like to expand to using in the future?
- How nice is it to always have the latest releases and best features?
- Do you own a prior product you can upgrade from, or would you buy full?
- What will your regular annual costs be when comparing the two different options?
The cost of Creative Cloud is $US49.99/month for a yearly plan or $74.99 when purchased month-to-month with the ability to turn it on and off as needed. It’s $29.99 per month for the first year for those upgrading from an older Creative Suite product with Adobe’s extended introductory offer, and $19.99/month for current students and teachers. Doing the math that’s about $600/year for regular customers, $360 for CS upgraders, and $240 for education customers… In sum it’s around $1-$2 a day. So when you look at these plans versus the traditional CS6 price sheet or the cost of upgrading your current tools, which is more attractive?
Well, if you just want Photoshop (US$700 full, $200 upgrade) and Lightroom ($150 full, $80 upgrade) and don’t see yourself ever growing into other tools like Illustrator, Premiere Pro, Flash Pro, or Acrobat, then you are likely better off just upgrading those two tools standalone and staying fairly current in the future to retain the lower upgrade pricing levels. And you can add the free level of Creative Cloud membership if you so desire… But, see the next section below for a third possibility.
On the other hand, if you’re a solid user of a Creative Suite and a happy upgrader, then the Creative Cloud could be a terrific deal for you. The CS6 Master Collection suite, for example, sells for $2,600 full, or $1,050 to upgrade from CS5, which is two years old. So paying $1,200 spread over two years for the Creative Cloud (and $240 less for upgraders) works out well, especially compared to the $2,600 full price for a static version. And it goes without saying that the Cloud option is absolutely ideal for situational and temporary needs like project-based work, contract employment, freelancing, and so on – you only pay when you need it. It’s even possible to start out with a month-to-month membership if you want to see how you like it.
Single-App Membership – The Little-Known Third Option
There’s actually a third choice that many people don’t know about yet – Adobe now offers the ability to subscribe to just a single industry-leading tool like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat Pro, Premiere, and others for only $14-$19/month, and that low pricing is available to everybody… The sign-up and download is all online so you can get going right away – and all upgrades are included, as well as early access to new features – so you’re always running the latest version.
All the individual products on this list are available on an annual as well as month-to-month basis (start-and-stop) in all languages for both Windows and Mac together, so very flexible. And if you happen to decide later that you want to upgrade to the complete Creative Cloud package to access all applications (at any time), then Adobe will credit back your account for the remaining amount due on your existing membership. So when you compare that pricing of $19/month versus $1,000 to buy (say) After Effects CS6, it’s definitely worth considering – and you’ll find all the details here: Don’t Need the Full Cloud? Get CS6 for $19 a Month
Creative Suite (CS6) vs. Creative Cloud (CC) – Pros & Cons
Here’s a practical feature list of the two major options that should help you decide when comparing them side-by-side:
|Consult the Creative Cloud FAQ for more details|
|Install & use all the top Adobe applications||Yes||No|
|All future product upgrades included (like “CC“)||Yes||No|
|Early and exclusive access to new features||Yes||No|
|Buy at higher price to own a static version||No||Yes|
|Pay a lower monthly membership price||Yes||No|
|Can buy just one tool if that’s all you need||Yes||Yes|
|Run tools locally on desktop, not over web||Yes||Yes|
|Can activate on up to two of your computers||Yes||Yes|
|Can install on both Windows and Mac OS||Yes||No|
|Available in dozens of countries worldwide||Yes||Yes|
|Includes multiple language use & switching||Yes||No|
|Can run on same machine as older releases||Yes||Yes|
|Can easily move it between two systems||Yes||Yes|
|Use without a continual Internet connection||Yes||Yes|
|Includes library of exclusive training & tutorials||Yes||No|
|Can try it out first with a free 30-day trial||Yes||Yes|
|Covered with a 30-day return/refund policy||Yes||Yes|
|Lower pricing for owners of older CS tools||Yes||Yes|
|Student & Teacher discounts are available||Yes||Yes|
|Volume licensing for groups is available||Yes||Yes|
|Can use short term, turn on & off as needed||Yes||No|
|Has a free level of membership & use for all||Yes||No|
If you’ve been thinking about going with the Cloud, Adobe says:
The new version‘s release date has not been announced, but there is a great way to get yourself to the front of the line. If you join Creative Cloud now, you will immediately receive the entire stable of currently shipping CS6 applications AND you will automatically receive the new versions of all your favorite Adobe applications as soon as they are available.”
Do you have any further questions about the comparison or your decision? Just ask them below and we’ll get you answers fast!