What happens when an Office 365 subscription expires?

If you're using Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365 and the subscription lapses, here's how much time you have to renew — or back up your data and move on.

Office 365 software boxes
Martyn Williams/IDG

Microsoft's pay-as-you-go Office 365 is, first and foremost, a subscription. And like other subscriptions — think newspapers (remember them?) or an online storage service — missing a payment doesn't immediately mean you're cut off.

Because it's less expensive to retain a current subscriber than find a new subscriber as a replacement, providers will go to great lengths to keep customers on the rolls.

When a business misses an Office 365 payment, or cancels the service, the applications and data don't immediately disappear. Instead, Microsoft steps a customer through a three-stage process that gradually decreases both employee and administrator access, but for months leaves the door open to a renewal.

Here are the stages of an Office 365 breakup. And for good measure, here's how to salvage a canceled subscription and get back in Microsoft's good graces.

1-30 days after subscription ends: Expired

Microsoft dubs the first stage "expired," but it could just as well be called "grace period" since everything works as if the customer's payments remain up to date.

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