Choosing 365 is Important
For most businesses in 2023 it’s not whether they will use cloud based application services but which service they will use. The two main gorillas in the office productivity software camp are Google, and Microsoft. If you’ve opted to stay in the Microsoft office 365 business camp then your work is not done. Microsoft offers a range of solutions tailored to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). If you wonder how to choose the right Microsoft 365 plan for your Business then read on. Depending on your needs, you can select from the Business Basic, Apps for Business, Business Standard, or Business Premium plans. All these plans offer core applications that enable collaboration, productivity, and security. Each plan also has it’s limitations. It is there fore important to know what you can expect with each subscription.
This article will dive deep into the business and enterprise plans of Microsoft 365, detailing their differences, features, costs, and helping SMEs make an informed decision. We will also consider some examples that help understand these licensing options in practice.
How to Choose the Right Microsoft 365 Plan for Your Business
When you examine at all the plans in order a structure of these offerings becomes more apparent. Each one escalates on the functionality of the other in an attempt to cater to successive business sizes and business types. Naturally there is no one size fits all plan that can accommodate for every idiosyncrasy in a business but if we take a moment to look at these in turn it will become more readily visible how to choose the right Microsoft 365 plan for your business. Before we do that lets take a moment to consider the differences between Microsoft 365 Business plans and home office plans.
Microsoft 365 Business Plans vs. Home Office Plans
The first step is distinguishing between Microsoft 365’s offerings for individuals and SMBs. While both cater to a seamless Microsoft Office experience, the business plans offer more extensive storage, advanced threat protection, custom email domains, and exclusive features tailored to cater to the collaborative needs of SMEs. These plans encapsulate the complete online experience, enabling businesses to operate efficiently and securely. Additionally, the Business plans all offer central management and integrations with other software that is not available with home versions of 365.
The 4 Microsoft 365 for Business Plans Unveiled
Each plan is designed keeping in mind the varied needs of SMEs:
Business Basic: Best suited for companies needing basic online services.
Apps for Business: Tailored for SMEs requiring both online and offline Microsoft apps.
Business Standard: A comprehensive solution that brings in more collaboration tools.
Business Premium: The ultimate choice for businesses requiring all the features with added security and management tools.
Microsoft 365 Business Basic
At a competitive cost, the Business Basic plan offers online versions of Microsoft Office Suite applications. It encompasses communication tools such as Exchange and offers additional services like Skype for Business, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, and Sway. If your SME needs a solid foundation for collaboration, this could be your plan.
Scenario: A newly-established startup, “EcoCraft,” specializes in handmade sustainable products. The team primarily works remotely and requires a platform to communicate, share files, and conduct basic presentations.
Example: Using the Business Basic plan, EcoCraft members utilize the online versions of Word and Excel to draft documents and track expenses, respectively. For team meetings, they rely on Skype for Business, and with OneDrive for Business, they share designs and prototypes without the need for any external file-sharing service.
Microsoft 365 Apps for Business
Beyond the online versions, this plan introduces desktop versions for up to five PCs, five tablets, and five mobile devices, ensuring complete flexibility. Excluding Skype for Business, SharePoint, and Exchange, it emphasizes on OneDrive for Business and the Sway presentation tool. Best suited for SMEs that prioritize a mix of online and offline Microsoft applications. In this annual subscription model you will have the option to install desktop versions of the office apps.
Scenario: A graphic design agency, “Visuals Inc.,” often needs to work both online and offline due to erratic internet connectivity. They need access to Microsoft applications on desktops, tablets, and mobiles for their on-the-go designers.
Example: With the Apps for Business plan, Visuals Inc.’s designers use the offline versions of PowerPoint to create pitch presentations. They can also access and edit designs from their tablets during client meetings, leveraging the mobile versions of the suite. The inclusion of Sway helps them craft visually stunning reports for clients, all while storing their large design files on OneDrive for Business.
Microsoft 365 Business Standard
Incorporating all functions from Business Basic, the Business Standard plan introduces Microsoft Teams video conferencing – a game-changer for collaboration, alongside SharePoint. With email hosting through Exchange and additional features like Microsoft Bookings, this plan is for businesses focusing on an integrated and expansive online experience. This option is the most used or basic unit of 365 for the companies we manage. It provides the flexibility to use all the features of the cloud storage and cloud apps or the desktop versions of the applications.
Scenario: A growing e-commerce company, “TechTreats,” has a mix of in-office and remote workers. They need extensive web support and collaborative tools for departments like sales, customer support, and product management.
Example: Using the Business Standard plan, the sales team at TechTreats schedules and holds online meetings via Microsoft Teams. Their product management team collaborates in real-time on Excel, tracking inventory and sales figures. Additionally, the customer support team utilizes Microsoft Bookings to allow customers to schedule query sessions, while the entire company enjoys the email hosting features of Exchange with a custom email domain like [email protected].
Microsoft 365 Business Premium
Moving into the Microsoft 365 Business Premium offering Microsoft starts to really offer compelling features for business. If advanced features like additional archiving, Advanced Threat Protection, and Azure Information Protection pique your interest, the Business Premium plan is the right Microsoft plan for your business. It ensures company data and devices are protected while offering a comprehensive suite of office and collaboration tools. With the Business Premium plan your business can also take advantage of the device management capabilities of Microsoft Intune or the advanced features of Microsoft Defender.
Scenario: A finance consultancy firm, “SecureFunds,” deals with confidential financial data of clients. They require advanced security features in their security system in addition to collaboration tools, especially when sharing financial forecasts, reports, and data analysis.
Example: With the Business Premium plan, SecureFunds ensures all their sensitive documents operating systems are protected using Advanced Threat Protection and Azure Information Protection. Their analysts share reports using OneDrive, knowing the data is encrypted and secure. The firm can also archive older financial data and control access to certain documents, ensuring only the right eyes view critical information.
Do I Really Need an MSP to Manage My 365 Account?
Having an MSP manage your 365 account can unlock hidden features and security settings, streamline license and subscription management, enable efficient monitoring and backup, and establish advanced policies to optimize your Microsoft experience. From controlling access to devices to managing in-house technical support, an MSP can be a game-changer.
In an environment as large as 365 it can be daunting to know if a feature is available, and where it can be configured. Relying on an MSP like Sylogic to help both in the pre-sales and post-sales portion of the process can be invaluable to a small businesses with limited resources. We regularly get calls from clients requesting license and features information as they grow or take on new projects. Using an outsourced IT services provider to help you get started can make sure you get off on the right foot.
A Word About NCE and Subscription Length
Microsoft has continuously evolved to cater to the changing business dynamics and customer needs. The New Commerce Experience (NCE) is one such innovation in their pricing structure. Under NCE, businesses get more flexibility in how they purchase and manage their Microsoft cloud services. Instead of the traditional, rigid subscription models, NCE offers more customizable subscription lengths and pricing options, allowing businesses to adapt their Microsoft 365 subscriptions to their specific needs and budgetary considerations. This approach can be particularly beneficial for SMEs as they scale, ensuring they pay for what they use without getting locked into lengthy contracts that might not reflect their changing requirements. While Microsoft tends to focus on the benefits of NCE it’s worth noting that changing a subscription may not be possible if you’ve opted for an annual billing cycle so pay close attention to your needs before you confirm.
Microsoft 365 is a powerhouse of intelligent cloud services for SMEs. From the Business Basic to the Business Premium plan, Microsoft ensures there’s a solution for every business type. However, choosing the right plan involves understanding your collaboration needs, security requirements, and the extent of Microsoft apps usage. Remember, an informed decision now can save you time, money, and potential IT challenges in the future. If you want to do an even deeper dive and reference the exact features that each plan brings to the table check out this handy matrix that compares Microsoft 365 features in detail. Make sure to explore every plan’s features and costs, and when in doubt, consult an MSP to get the most out of your Microsoft 365 experience.