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Subscription v perpetual: Which Adobe Acrobat licence should you put your money on?

After inventing the file format in the 90s, PDFs are to Adobe Acrobat what beans are to Heinz. Acrobat’s used throughout every business to easily create, convert and edit high-quality PDFs. And there are a range of purchasing options to suit every business’s needs, from a one-off perpetual purchase (Acrobat 2017) to an ongoing subscription for teams or enterprise (Acrobat DC).


Shariff Ibrahim

Here, we’ve pitted them against each other so you can see which plan you should put your money on.


In the red corner: Subscription licensing with Acrobat DC

Subscribing to Acrobat DC gives a lot more value than the basic desktop software. You get the latest Acrobat features plus the Acrobat Reader mobile app enhanced with premium mobile features and Adobe Document Cloud services.

Services include the ability to create, combine and export PDFs across desktop, web and mobile devices, sending and tracking important documents online, and collecting and tracking e-signatures from clients and colleagues. You receive 20GB online document storage compared to 5GB in Acrobat 2017. There are also extra tech support options included, and Adobe’s Admin Console for simple management of Acrobat licences.

The ‘Pro’ option comes with a few extra features for creating and editing PDFs, on top of what you get with a ‘Standard’ subscription. Pro lets you compare two versions of a PDF using an easy-to-scan results summary of all differences. It also lets you easily create PDFs with one click in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and turn scanned paper documents into instantly editable PDFs. Other useful features include the ability to add audio, video, and interactive objects, redact information and more.

Then it comes to whether you need a teams or enterprise version of Acrobat DC. Both teams and enterprise are essentially the same in terms of the core features you get, but the enterprise option gives you more control over your IT environment. Enterprise is ideal if you have a dedicated IT department who need the highest levels of security and control and/or have implemented SSO. You get additional identity types such as Enterprise ID and Federated ID (SSO) so you can use Acrobat securely across desktop and mobile, plus you own the assets stored on the cloud and can get a dedicated encryption key to further encrypt assets at rest.

Includes: Desktop and mobile tools, PDF services and Adobe Sign individual; immediate access to the latest features and updates; hassle-free deployment; security across all devices; and expert technical support. Adobe Acrobat DC for enterprise additionally includes federated single sign-on (SSO) or Enterprise ID; and enterprise level support and onboarding.

Great for: Small to midsize businesses or departments. Acrobat DC for enterprise is suited to midsize to large businesses or departments of 100+ users.

Pricing: £132 ex VAT per year for Standard, and £152 ex VAT per year for a Pro annual subscription. Acrobat DC for enterprise is available for £172 ex VAT per year for Standard, and £202 ex VAT per year for a Pro annual subscription.


In the blue corner: Perpetual licensing with Acrobat 2017

Your other option is to buy Acrobat outright with Acrobat 2017, and once again there are both Pro and Standard versions available. If you don’t require the collaborative and mobile tools available in Acrobat DC, or are maybe just working on your own, you can get away with the perpetual licence of Acrobat 2017. As with Acrobat DC, there are a few differences between the Pro and Standard versions of Acrobat 2017, as detailed above.

Under the Cumulative Licensing Program (CLP) and Transactional (TLP), there’s a one-off payment plan. This means to get updates and keep up with the latest Acrobat features, you have to upgrade every time there’s a new iteration, costing significantly more than a subscription in the long run.

Includes: Acrobat’s desktop tools only. 5GB online document storage.

Great for: Traditionally individuals or small teams who don’t require the mobile, e-signing and collaborative features, and want to limit access to cloud services.

Pricing: £255 ex VAT for Standard, £409 ex VAT for Pro as a one-off purchase.


The surprise contender: Adobe Creative Cloud

It’s worth pointing out that Acrobat Pro DC is also available within an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. So if you have an in-house creative team already using Adobe CC – the subscription suite of apps like Photoshop, InDesign and Premiere Pro – you automatically get access to Adobe Acrobat DC with your subscription.


The verdict

In conclusion, whether you choose subscription or perpetual licensing really depends on the size of your business and what you need from your PDF workflow. If you want the very latest Acrobat features, including additional PDF services, extra support and management options, Acrobat DC is the clear choice for you and your teams. If you can cope without, you might prefer to look at Acrobat 2017.

It’s quite a lot of information to take in, but if you do have any questions, feel free to give our Adobe team a call. As an Adobe Platinum Reseller, and the largest provider of Adobe Creative Cloud in the UK, we know a thing or two about Adobe, and can advise on the best option for how you work.


Want to know more about Adobe Acrobat? Get in touch with the team on 03332 409 204 or email For the latest news, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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