Office 365 Licensing and Subscriptions Demystified

In this post, we’re going to explain the most common types of Office 365 licensing available for small businesses (including the difference between Business Premium and Essentials, Exchange Plan 1 and more), go over some strategies to optimize your license usage (such as moving terminated employees to shared mailboxes) and outline the difference between Office Pro Plus and Business, and why you would want to choose one over the other.

To begin with, this is essential to know: Choosing an Office 365 license is a critical step before migrating to the cloud. With a plethora of options available for small, medium and enterprise-level operations, navigating the differences between these can be a daunting proposition – but that’s where DMS iTech comes in. We’re going to help you understand the options available so that you can make the right choice for your particular organization.

Some Basic Understanding and Differences

Unlike Office 365 Enterprise, Office 365 Business plans were created for small businesses with fewer than 300 employees that might not require all the bells and whistles Office 365 offers. As a product line, Microsoft Office dates back nearly three decades, with early versions essentially fusing Word, Excel and PowerPoint into a discounted bundle; Office 365, which has been available since 2011, differs from that “old school” bundle in two ways: First, it’s licensed as a monthly or annual subscription rather than as a perpetual license. Second, it combines a suite of online services, including business-class email and cloud file storage, in addition to traditional desktop apps.

Here’s how each Office 365 Business plan breaks down for small companies:

Office 365 Business Essentials – This is as basic as it gets; Business Essentials offers business email with 50 gigs of mailbox storage, custom email domain and web versions of essential Office 365 applications like Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The Business Essential license also includes one (1) terabyte of OneDrive storage, SharePoint company-wide intranet, Skype for Business (unlimited HD video conferencing for up to 250 people), Microsoft Teams chat-based workspace, Microsoft Planner to manage tasks/teamwork and more.

Office 365 Business – As the next rung up, this applies to businesses boasting fewer than 300 users that only need Office applications, cloud file storage and sharing. You’ll get desktop versions of Office 2016 applications (Outlook/Word/Excel/PowerPoint/OneNote), Office Online (web versions of the Office 2016 applications Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint), OneDrive and one terabyte of OneDrive storage, FastTrack deployment support (for purchases of 50 or more seats) and 24/7 phone and web support.

Office 365 Business Premium – The best plan in the Business arsenal, Premium is for businesses with fewer than 300 users that need the latest desktop versions of Office applications, cloud services and email hosting. Business Premium includes everything the other plans offer and adds Microsoft Bookings, Yammer to collaborate across departments and locations and more.

Microsoft Exchange Online Plan 1 – Exchange online comes with all Office 365 subscriptions that include email services, and was designed for customers in need of only the hosted exchange service without add-ons. Online Plan 1 is, of course, the cheaper of the two plans and offers a secure corporate email platform for as low as $4.00 a user per month; each user is provided with 50 gigs of inbox storage and can send messages up to 150 gigs.

Strategies to Optimize Your License Usage

Through a smart license strategy and a few tips we can offer, your organization can optimize Office 365 license usage and minimize cost while simplifying day-to-day license administration. When it comes to optimizing Office 365, we recommend you follow the “umbrella principle” for overviews – through this approach, you start from the top and address five key points of efficiency:

  • Baselining User Data – Establish a list of all users by department and find out which plan they have and the last time they signed in.
  • Assessing Non-Use – Perhaps users are out on leave or have upcoming projects that require access to a certain tool; it is in this step that you can move terminated employees to shared mailboxes.
  • Considering the Mode of Use – Just a quick assessment of your users’ desktop needs can generate savings of up to 75-percent.
  • Making Sense of Storage – Consider your real storage requirements and downgrade options.
  • Reviewing Quarterly – By keeping on top of reviewing quarterly, you can maximize your ROI and keep your employees optimally equipped.

The Difference Between Office Pro Plus and Business…and Some Final Thoughts

Priced almost identically to Business Premium, Pro Plus does not include business email, making it perfect for businesses with their own email application already in place. What’s more, Pro Plus includes all applications that Business Premium boasts, but only has OneDrive as a service.

DMS iTech can provide you with all you need to know when it comes to Office 365, so if you have any further questions about licensing, contact one of our experts today.