One of the main advantages of cloud services and other subscription pricing models is that they allow businesses to enjoy the latest technology for a manageable monthly fee rather than a hefty upfront investment.
Cloud-based Office 365 presents a departure from the original Microsoft Office pricing model, which provided the entire suite for a one-off payment with upgrade versions available at a discount.
The subscription model is certainly preferable to businesses concerned with cash flow, and there are many different options to choose from. Adding to the somewhat confusing array of choices is the ever-growing selection of apps and services included in the various packages, some tailored to small businesses, some to large enterprises, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and the list goes on.
Microsoft offers four Office 365 plans for business users, all of which feature a maximum user capacity of 300 and require an annual commitment. If your organization has a higher user capacity than this, you’ll need to opt for one of the enterprise plans instead.
The entry-level plan is Office 365 Business Essentials, which costs only $5 per month per user and includes the most popular services, including OneDrive, SharePoint, and Exchange. This package provides access to business-class email and a 50-GB inbox in addition to 1 TB of cloud storage on OneDrive. That’s a lot.
However, if you’re looking for a desktop productivity suite, this option will not be suitable for you, since it includes only the relatively feature-limited web-based versions of Microsoft Office applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Office 365 Business is the standard desktop productivity suite, and it includes the latest editions of all Microsoft’s office applications, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Like its predecessors, this edition of Office 365 may be installed locally on your employee’s computers, and it’s possible to add up to five devices per user, including mobile devices, for no extra cost. This package costs $8.25 per user per month, but the only online service it includes is 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage.
Businesses seeking to take advantage of Microsoft’s popular range of cloud services and its desktop productivity suite will want to opt for an Office 365 Business Premium package. Costing $12.50 per user per month, this package includes all the features of the previous two, including business email hosting, online storage, and the full suite of the latest Microsoft Office desktop applications.
The lesser known of the business plan options is Office 365 ProPlus, which is the highest-level package of the four. This subscription includes all the features of the previous package, plus a few extras that may prove invaluable in certain situations.
Employees can use the same license to install the Office apps on up to five different devices, which is especially useful for companies with BYOD (bring your own device) policies since it allows administrators to easily deactivate subscriptions whenever an employee leaves the company. And, like the Enterprise subscription package, there is no limit to the number of users you can add.
While Office 365 business plans are aimed toward small- and medium-sized businesses, the enterprise plans offer an unlimited degree of scalability as well as additional features designed for large IT departments. There are three enterprise editions for consumers, all of which can support an unlimited number of users. As with business editions, they also require a yearly commitment and are charged on a per-user, per-month basis.
The entry-level enterprise plan is Office 365 Enterprise E1, which is analogous to the Business Essentials package in that it doesn’t include any of the desktop office applications. Instead, it’s a purely cloud-based set of services that includes 1 TB of cloud storage, a Skype for Business subscription, business email, and web-based versions of the Office productivity apps. A subscription costs $8 per user per month.
The next step up is Office 365 Enterprise E3, which comes with all the desktop productivity applications as well as additional tools for security, regulatory compliance, data loss prevention and more. This package costs $20 per user per month.
Finally, the highest level is Office 365 Enterprise E5, which costs $35 per user per month and adds support for cloud-hosted PBX, PSTN conferencing, advanced analytics tools, and improved cybersecurity features.
As you’ve seen, the number of options can be a bit challenging to maneuver. As such, the best approach is to mix and match different plans after determining your needs, with the main considerations being:
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