Being in the industry, I get asked a lot by customer about what is Microsoft office 365 ??. Owners and Entrepreneurs keep hearing about Microsoft latest endeavour and they want to know if it can actually help them. With this article I am actually trying to answer the big question what is Microsoft Office 365 ?

Microsoft started offering Servers a little after 1995, They released the first Email Server, Microsoft Exchange 4.0 in 1996. Since then there have been various versions of Microsoft Exchange up till the latest Exchange 2013.  Microsoft Exchange was a highly successful software but Microsoft always had couple of concerns with it

  1. Smaller Businesses were not adopting it because of high cost of implementation and maintenance
  2. Various Companies and Individuals were not purchasing the product and rather using pirated or unlicensed version of same.

Since year 2005 the cloud wave really started to build up and Microsoft also decided to join the bandwagon and decided to solve its two biggest worries  (Listed above) with its cloud solution.

Microsoft decided to launch Exchange on cloud and called BPOS (Business Productivity Online Services) and with this they planned to solve their two issues.

  1. Smaller Business can now pay for per user license instead of worrying about implementation and maintenance cost.
  2. Business will be 100% license compliant to utilise active services.

BPOS started in 2009 and soon Microsoft realised that to make it a really successful and appealing package and also to solve their licensing and Piracy issues with other Microsoft products why not start to offer them with Exchange online as well. Moreover Google for work was also offering Docs, Gtalk, sites etc features, so Microsoft did have to counter the offer.

This is how Microsoft Cloud business started to evolve, they started to offer Exchange Online, Microsoft Office Desktop application, Microsoft Communicator ( Known as Skype for business or Lync now) , SharePoint (share Point online now), Yammer, Office Desktop Applications and many more stuff in a single license and they called it Office 365.

What is Microsoft Office 365 ?

Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud offering where they have clubbed together various MS Business products like Skype for Business (Messenger), Exchange Online (Exchange 2013 in cloud), SharePoint Online (SharePoint 2013 in Cloud) and many more features to ensure that even the small customers can use their per user licensing  model and use their services without investing a huge sum

What are Microsoft Office 365 Plans available ?

Office 365 Plans are divided as Business and Enterprise plans.  Business plans are for smaller businesses upto 300 users where as Enterprise Plans can have unlimited users. Though you can choose different licence for each user but the selection can only be done with in a plan i.e. Enterprise or Business plans.

Switching between Enterprise and Business plans is not possible, so, One should be very careful while signing up to ensure that they are choosing the right plan. Basic rule of thumb would be if your User base is not expected to go over 300 (ever) then Business Plan provide same/similar features for almost half the prices.

With in Business and Enterprise pool, there are multiple plans available. Depending on the features provided in them like Only email plan for Enterprise is called Plan 1 and retails for around $4/user/month, where as the basic plan for business retails for around $5/user/month but that includes Lync/skype , Email, Sharepoint online and more.

Similarly E3 Plan for enterprise which provides email, sharepoint, Lync/skype  and License for Office desktop apps retails for around $20 where as a similar featured business premium plans comes for only $12.5/user/month.

What is Office Pro Plus ?

So there are business or individuals who have their emails taken care of already and do not want to host their emails with Exchange online but they still need Office desktop applications as a cloud service, Such users can opt for this plan.  With Office 365 Pro plus they get to lease office desktop applications (Word,PPT, Excel etc) and cloud services (one drive and office cloud apps) at a cost of $8/user/month. This has two benefits

  1. No Upfront Investment: So you pay every month a fixed license cost per user ($8 in this case), there is no immediate burden on the business to regarding starting cost. This is specially useful for businesses in their early stages.
  2. Upgrades Included: I consider this as a bigger benefit because you get the free upgrade to the new version of Microsoft Office as soon as its available. For example you buy Office 2013 today for $300 and tomorrow Microsoft releases Office 2016, you are at loss and there is no upgrade option, its like the unfortunate customer who buy just before the facelift of the car.  Instead if you would have leased with Office 365 Pro Plus, you will get the newer version of Microsoft Office included with your existing plan as soon as its available.

And believe me, Even with out considering the upgrade benefit, the commutative cost of leasing MS Office (i.e. Office 365 Pro plus) for 3 years license will be cheaper then buying Microsoft Office upfront, which means upfront purchase only makes sense if you intend to use same version of Microsoft Office for over 3 years.

Having said all above, With the simplicity of Implementation and bouquet of services provided by Office 365. It definitely makes business sense to move to Office 365 and thats the reason that most Fortune 500/1000 as well as SMB’s  across the globe are opting for it.

As a esteemed Microsoft Cloud reseller we would love to help you do a cost benefit analysis for Office 365 implementation, please get in touch with us for more information.

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