Office 365 Plans 101

image of office 365 plans with question marks

If you’re researching Office 365 for your organization, you may have heard that there’s a lot of complexity to the plans. That may not be an indication of the actual Office 365 system, however, as much as of all the in-and-outs of the plans themselves. A quick look at the plans is enough to make most businesses want to give up. There are categories. There are plans. There are levels. There are tiers. There may even be tears, as the hapless consumer tries to navigate between all the offerings.

Trying to make sense of it all can be very daunting. One thing that might help is paring down the offerings into what a SOHO business would be looking for, and filtering away the rest. There are two basic categories that SOHOs can limit their scope to: Business and Enterprise.

Within each of these two major groups are the actual plan features. In the case of the Enterprise line-up, the plans have a number that seems to go up as features increase, so E1, E3 and E5. Why there are no E2 or E4 plans is best left for marketing folks at Microsoft to explain. Perhaps they exist as a special bundle, or maybe they existed but faded into obscurity. Also there is a ProPlus plan, which doesn’t have an E in it whatsoever, and sort of sits as an oddity on the outskirts of the Enterprise plans.

The business plans had a P number at one time, and one can only assume that the P meant Professional, or that maybe it was a B that had run into some sort of issue. Again, questioning Microsoft’s wisdom on this, while of great entertainment value to be sure, is out of the scope of this posting. Besides the P seems to have been abandoned altogether in favor of descriptive monikers: Business, Business Premium, and Business Essentials.

For SOHO business, the Business plans would be the most logical starting point. However, the Enterprise series offers features that might actually be of great interest to a smaller operation, such as e-mail archiving, and voice services. This is why the two categories should be considered in the early stages of consideration. I’ll be looking at the features of these two categories in separate postings.