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Office 365 for Businesses: Office 365 – part two

The first part of our series dealt with the extensive selection of licensing models, as well as the different software components, of Office 365. Part two of our guide will discuss the plans available for small and medium-sized businesses. How do the plans for Office 365 Business, Business Essentials, or Business Premium differ from those offered to private users? What makes them stand out? This comparison of the three models focuses on the products and features they include as well as the cost, the payment types offered, and the maximum number of users allowed. This overview of Microsoft Office 365 Business models will help you choose the right plan for your SME.

How do the Business plans differ from the Office models for private use?

With Office 365, Microsoft developed a concept of subscription plans with in-house Office applications to cater to a wide range of users. While the private sector is mainly covered with plans that include well-known programs like Word, Excel, and Power Point, the plans developed for companies include additional or business-optimized services, which simplify work collaborations. For example, Skype for Business replaces the standard Skype, which enables online meetings between hundreds of subscribers to be set up, managed, and tracked from a variety of devices. The communication software therefore provides you with the perfect basis for in-house and external internet calls and video conferences in HD quality.

In addition, there are several other services, such as Exchange Online, central team websites, the OneDrive for Business cloud storage, and Yammer’s social enterprise network, which considerably simplifies office life and daily business communications. In summary, with Office’s small business solutions, you can get the known and trusted Microsoft applications as online apps or installable components. On the other hand, Microsoft gives you access to useful tools and programs that help you and your business to develop, manage, and promote shared projects, while simplifying internal and external communication.

Office 365: three small business plans for different job profiles

For small and medium-sized businesses, Microsoft offers three different Office 365 models: Office 365 Business Essentials, Office 365 Business, and Office 365 Business Premium. These plans are limited to a maximum of 300 users. Microsoft also reveals how small a company has to be for it to classify as a SME and use these products. Companies with more than 300 employees have special solutions, such as Office 365 ProPlus or Office 365. As a useful addition, Exchange Online Plan 1 offers a professional e-mail server solution with Outlook support.

All small business solutions require a filled-out subscription, where users can choose between the slightly more expensive monthly subscription and the annual subscription. If you choose the monthly subscription, you can cancel at any time without additional costs. If you decide to end the yearly subscription (which you can choose to pay each month or the whole sum at once), you will usually have extra costs (and you will not receive any money back for what you’ve already paid). All major credit cards are accepted as payment methods. Office 365 Business Premium users also have the option of paying by invoice. But how expensive are the different plans, and what are the different product ranges? 

Office 365 Business Essentials

Business Essentials is the most cost-effective model for small and medium-sized businesses. It gives you access to online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote via any standard web browser. Employees can work on files from these programs at any time and from anywhere in real-time, provided they have internet access. Files that are created with online programs are compatible with the current versions of the desktop applications, so you can send your own documents or open and edit external documents.

Office 365 Business Essentials’ main benefit is its support of you and your company when it comes to communicating and collaborating. The plan therefore contains useful online services, of which Exchange Online especially stands out. The e-mail system, protected against viruses, spam, and phishing attacks, provides a centralized hosting platform for all your company’s e-mail traffic. Sent and received messages can be retrieved and read from any device at any time via the Outlook Web App. Each user receives a 50 GB inbox and can send attachments of
 up to 150 MB in size. If you additionally acquire an installable version of Outlook, you can also retrieve your e-mails as usual via the interface of the client application. It is also possible to set up shared inboxes and calendars.

Additional services of Office 365 Business Essentials at a glance:

  • Skype for Business: the business version of the popular instant messaging service, Skype, allows you to communicate conveniently via voice, chat, or video, internally or with business partners. With the help of Outlook integration, plan your online meetings in advance and send personalized links to those that should participate. The tool boasts first class sound and video quality. For example, you can carry out video conferences with up to 250 participants at an impressive quality of 1080p.

  • Yammer: Yammer is a software that connects all employees and business partners. Since it is seamlessly integrated into Office, you can use the familiar interface to make company announcements, share files, or create group projects.

  • OneDrive for Business: Microsoft’s cloud service, OneDrive, is the perfect solution to store and manage your company’s data. You can create individual directory structures and define which users can view, create, or edit files. All files are available online and are accessible from anywhere using any device, and synchronization means that they are always up-to-date. In the Office 365 Business Essentials plan, 1 TB of memory is available for each user.

  • SharePoint/Team websites: one element of OneDrive for Business is the ability to create team websites. These are basically folders for files belonging to a project, and are equipped with 10 GB basic memory. Each user involved can access team documents and share up to 500 MB of their own files.

  • Sway: Microsoft provides you with Sway, an application that allows you to easily create a presentation of your latest projects, an informative newsletter, or an online course. Interactive and web-based, the created 'sways' can easily be split and displayed on different display sizes.

Conclusion: Office 365 Business Essentials is the ideal office suite for all companies whose employees frequently go on business trips or work from home, but at the same time need access to project files and e-mails. The plan provides you with a secure storage platform for your company data and gives your employees access to the most important Office applications via a browser. In addition, communication features, such as shared mailboxes, web conferencing, or team websites make collaborating on your projects easier.

Cost: $5 (per user/month) on a yearly basis or $6 (per user/month) on a monthly basis.

Office 365 Business

The Office 365 Business plan enables you to use Office’s online applications: Word, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Excel via a browser. In addition, the plan includes the fully installable suite with the new Office 2016 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and Publisher (for Windows systems only). In addition, mobile apps for iOS and Android are available, so that you can use the Office applications Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on the tablet or smartphone without needing a browser. Each user can install the suite with up to 5 Windows or Mac OS X devices, as well as 5 smart phones and 5 tablets.

Installable applications offer the advantage of being able to work on documents without relying on an internet connection. Since Office 365 Business also has a link to the OneDrive for Business cloud, it’s also possible to share files and have multiple people work on them in real-time. The cloud service synchronizes documents as soon as there is an internet connection – if you happen to store your projects on OneDrive. The business plan also provides each user with 1 TB of space for their files.

While the presentation tool Sway is part of the business plan, Skype for Business, team websites, and Yammer are not included. To benefit project and company communication, it is therefore necessary to set up alternative solutions. The e-mail host, Exchange Online, is also not included in Office 365 Business. To archive and retrieve your e-mails, it then becomes necessary to have an independent mail server solution. As a client, you can use the Outlook Web App or installable desktop application.

Conclusion: if you are satisfied with the structure of the digital information and the work structure within your company, and you are looking for a functional and versatile Office plan, Office 365 Business is an excellent choice. This small and medium-sized business plan assumes that you already have an e-mail server and have access to your own communication software – if you need these exchange platforms. After completing your subscription, you’ll get access to the latest Microsoft Office programs in web and desktop versions for PC, Mac, and mobile devices.

Cost: $8.35 (per user/month) on a yearly basis or $10 (per user/month) on a monthly basis.

Office 365 Business Premium

Office 365 Business Premium combines the functions of Office 365 Business and Office 365 Business Essentials into a single plan. This plan includes both the latest Microsoft Office products in online and desktop versions, as well as access to the high-performing Exchange Online and Skype for Business. The advantage is having all the tools a modern small business needs for structuring and collaborating on projects from one single provider. You do not have to rely on additional hardware or software to run an e-mail server or a file server, for example.

Just like with the other two business plans, this plan’s functionality and services are reliable: Microsoft guarantees a high availability of 99.9% and can always be reached in case of critical software problems. Store data on Microsoft servers is protected by state-of-the-art security measures and proactive monitoring. Simultaneously, data is available to you and your company at all times – Microsoft does not scan stored e-mails or documents for advertising purposes. To ensure the standard of security stays high, all new version updates and features are free. Active Directory Integration allows you to easily add new users, manage registration information, and access rights for all employees.

Conclusion: with Office 365 Business Premium, you get the complete solution for every day office life in your company, which not only means you get a cross-company e-mail solution including calendar and 50 GB of memory per user, but also video conferences in HD quality for up to 250 people. Additionally, you can provide up to 300 employees with the latest Office suite (online and offline version). You can save project files and important company data in the Microsoft OneDrive for Business cloud. Whether your employees work on-site, at home, or on the road, it isn’t a problem with Office 365 Business Premium: with internet access and the appropriate license, each user can assess the majority of components at any time.

Cost: $12.50 (per user/month) on a yearly basis or $15 (per user/month) on a monthly basis.

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