What is Microsoft 365?

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Microsoft’s cloud subscription plan known as Microsoft 365 (also known as Office 365) has grown in functionality and popularity since its introduction in 2011. The pandemic significantly increased adoption as many companies moved to a remote work environment quickly. In fact, it grew by 33% in 2020. Microsoft 365’s cloud structure makes it an ideal choice for enabling remote work

But many businesses don’t know the full extent of Microsoft 365’s capabilities, especially in cybersecurity. Microsoft touts the service as a productivity and collaboration cloud suite, and the actual value lies in more than just remote work. Forrester reports that increased productivity saved users 3 hours per week on average, reduced downtime by 25%, reduced risk of breach by 40%, and more—all resulting in a return-on-investment (ROI) of 135% with payback in 9 months.

So exactly what is MS 365? This guide will fill you in and answer the most commonly asked questions.

What is Microsoft 365?

What comes with Microsoft 365?

How much is Microsoft 365?

How do I choose the right Microsoft 365 license?


What is Microsoft 365?

You’re probably familiar with Microsoft’s Office software suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.), falling into that “productivity” category. Initially offered as downloadable licenses, the suite included security patches but no feature upgrades for a one-time fee. The latest license version requires a downloaded to get those product updates. And eventually, backward compatibility between the versions expired, effectively forcing an upgrade.

In 2011, Microsoft came up with a new Office 365 with two significant changes: cloud infrastructure and a monthly subscription fee. The new model enabled users to work in Office apps and access their documents from anywhere, at any time. The subscription model also promised that users would receive the latest product upgrades and security patches as soon as they were released.

Over time, Office 365 began offering a lot more than those traditional Office products. “Collaboration” software was added to the mix: shared calendars, instant messaging, web conferencing, and internal team sites. All accessible from anywhere, with no on-premise hardware needed.

In April 2020, Office 365 was renamed Microsoft 365 to reflect the “evolution” of Office 365 and Microsoft’s overarching goal of combining all productivity and collaboration products under one umbrella. In other words, “365” was more than just Office. Today, MS 365 offers a wide array of software capabilities, including:

  • Office apps
  • Email, calendar, and scheduling
  • Meetings, calling, and chat
  • Internal social media, intranet, and document storage
  • Knowledge, insights, and content
  • Analytics
  • Project and task management
  • Automation, app building, and chatbots
  • Endpoint and app management
  • Threat protection
  • Identity and access management
  • Information protection and governance
  • eDiscovery and auditing
  • Insider risk management
  • Compliance management
  • Windows Virtual Desktop

Clearly, Microsoft is making good on its goal of taking productivity and collaboration to the next level.


What comes with Microsoft 365?

Now that you know the high-level categories of MS 365’s capabilities, let’s break it down into what you get. There are hundreds of options and features amongst the packages (which Microsoft still calls licenses) and different levels offered by industry organization size. And quite a bit of overlap between them. If you want a complete, item-by-item breakdown, check out Microsoft 365’s business plan comparison and enterprise plan comparison.

But we can give you a basic overview of the Microsoft 365 apps for business and the differences between license options.

MS 365 Apps for Business (All Licenses)

  • Web and mobile Office programs: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access, and Publisher
  • Email and calendar: Outlook

  • Chat, video calls/meetings, and screen sharing: Microsoft Teams
  • Personal cloud document storage: OneDrive
  • Intranet and internal sites: SharePoint
  • Security and compliance: Exchange Online Protection

MS 365 Apps for Business (Higher-level Licenses Only)

  • Desktop apps for Office programs and Outlook
  • Audio conferencing and webinars for Microsoft Teams
  • External scheduling: Microsoft Bookings
  • Project and task management: Microsoft Planner, To-Do, and Briefing
  • Endpoint/app management: management tools, deployment, and group policy support
  • Threat Protection: Microsoft and Windows Defender, remote data wipe, authorization lock, access management, malware protection

Microsoft 365 enterprise licenses have everything that business licenses have, plus much more.

MS 365 Apps for Enterprise (Varies)

  • Information protection: Azure IP, DLP, sensitivity labels, message encryption
  • Information governance: retention labels and policies, records management
  • eDiscovery and auditing: content search and basic or advanced audit
  • Windows 10 operating system and virtual desktop
  • External scheduling: Microsoft Bookings and Microsoft Shift
  • Knowledge, insights, and analytics apps: Microsoft Forms, Lists, MyAnalytics, and more
  • Automation, app building, and chatbots: Power Apps, Power Automate, and more
  • Insider risk management, compliance, and advanced access management

  • Endpoint/app management: Microsoft Intune, management tools, deployment, group policy support, and more
  • Threat Protection: additional Microsoft Defender variations, BitLocker, and more
  • Complete identity and access management: Azure Active Directory, multifactor authentication, additional access management, advanced threat analytics, and more

The full breadth of functionality of MS 365 is incredible, which is why it’s the leading business productivity suite worldwide.


How much is Microsoft 365?

MS 365 is a per-user, per-month payment model that increases as functionality increases. Several business and enterprise licenses are comparable in price, so the choice comes down to functionality.

Microsoft 365 for Business Licenses

  • Microsoft 365 Business Basic: $5.00 per user, per month
  • Microsoft 365 Business Standard: $12.50 per user, per month
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium: $20.00 per user, per month
  • Microsoft 365 Apps: $8.25 per user, per month

Microsoft 365 for Enterprise Licenses

  • Office 365 E1: $8.00 per user, per month
  • Office 365 E3: $20.00 per user, per month
  • Office 365 E5: $35.00 per user, per month
  • Microsoft 365 E3: $32.00 per user, per month
  • Microsoft 365 E5: $57.00 per user, per month
  • Microsoft 365 F3: $8.00 per user, per month

The Education, Non-Profit, and Frontline Workers licenses have specialized pricing models that range between $0-$8.


How do I choose the right Microsoft 365 license?

Choosing one over the other is a matter of fine details rather than broad brushstrokes. There are well over 100 features to consider, so you have to get into the weeds to determine the one that’s right for your business. Sorry, we wish we could make it easy for you, but MS 365 is a powerful, complex tool.

But we CAN make it simpler. Request a free cloud readiness assessment today. Our engineers will talk through your business needs and goals, then help you decide which license is the best fit for today… and tomorrow. They can also make sure your Microsoft 365 migration is hardened for enhanced security.

And we’ll be there every step of the way afterward on your business’s digital transformation journey. It’s all part of driving your IT success. When you’re looking for an IT company near you in Harrisburg and surrounding areas, get in touch.

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