100 Days of Cloud – Day 78: Microsoft 365 Licensing Options

Its Day 78 of my 100 Days of Cloud journey, and as promised todays post is all about the wide range of different licensing options available in Microsoft 365.

The migration planning is going well, and at this point we’ve decided the following:

  • Migration has been signed off, so tenancy created!
  • We know how we’re going to authenticate users!
  • We know how we’re going to synchronize our users identities!
  • We know what migration strategy we’re going to use!
  • Now all we need to decide on is what applications and services our users need once they migrate. So ……

We need to decide what licenses we need …..

Ugh.

Anyone who has dealt with Microsoft licensing knows that its a potential minefield due to the depth of options available. I mean, does anyone really understand how many OS and SQL Core License Packs you need to run your on-premise SCVMM Server with underlying SQL Server Enterprise Edition installed on a Windows Server DataCenter OS thats running on a VM in a 4-Node AzureStack HCI Cluster?

Nope, neither do I.

While an initial look at the Microsoft 365 plans would suggest that this is no different, its important to understand how the plans are structured. Lets start with the basics and what these plans are called. You can either have a Microsoft 365 Business Plan or an Office 365 Enterprise Plan, so lets explore the options in both and why you would choose one over the other.

Microsoft 365 Business Plans

Microsoft 365 Business Plans are recomended for companies with less that 300 users, and provide a cost effective way to migrate your users.

All Microsoft 365 Business Plans comes with the following features included:

  • 50GB Mailbox per user.
  • 50GB Archive Mailbox per user.
  • Office Online (web versions of Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote).
  • Maximum of 1TB OneDrive personal storage for each user (this can be reduced depending on your requirements).
  • 1 TB SharePoint Storage per tenancy, plus 10GB for each additional user (this can be increased with Storage Add-Ons if required).
  • Microsoft Teams.
  • Yammer.
  • Active Directory SSO for synchronized users.
  • Content Search and Basic Auditing.

In effect, the above list is what you get with the Microsoft 365 Business Basic plan, which is the lowest offering at $5.00 per month. As you can see, lots of great features, but the one thing thats missing is Desktop versions of the Office Apps.

For that, we need to go up to the next level of plan which is Microsoft 365 Business Standard, which at $12.50 per month is the most worthwhile plan to go for in your initial migration stage. As well as what’s listed above, this gives you the following add-ons:

  • Desktop versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
  • Desktop versions of Access and Publisher.
  • Install apps on up to 5 devices across all platforms.

And thats all you get as an extra. Just apps. But bear in mind, there is also a separate Microsoft 365 Apps for Business plan which is just Desktop versions of the apps and comes in a $8.25 per month.

Lets go up to the top level which is Microsoft 365 Business Premium, which comes in at $22.00 per month. Pricey, but on top of all of the above, you also get the following:

  • Microsoft Endpoint Manager.
  • Mobile Application Management.
  • Intune.
  • Windows Autopilot.
  • Shared Computer Activation (Use Office apps on Remote Desktop Services or Citrix).
  • Defender for Endpoint.
  • Defender for Office 365.
  • Windows Defender.
  • Azure Active Directory Premium P1.
  • Conditional Access.
  • Azure Information Protection.
  • Sensitivity Labels.
  • Office365 Data Loss Prevention.
  • Office Message Encryption.
  • Litigation Hold.

As you can see from from this list, Business Premium goes deep into the realm of data security, compliance and governance.

You can find more details on Microsoft 365 Business Plans here.

Office 365 Enterprise Plans

Office 365 Enterprise plans are designed for companies with more than 300 users who need more advanced features such as eDiscovery.

The plans structures are effectively the same as above with some subtle differences. Lets run through these quickly, and start with Office 365 E1 which comes in at $10.00 per month and gives you the following:

  • 50GB Mailbox per user.
  • 50GB Archive Mailbox per user.
  • Office Online (web versions of Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote).
  • Maximum of 1TB OneDrive personal storage for each user (this can be reduced depending on your requirements).
  • 1 TB SharePoint Storage per tenancy, plus 10GB for each additional user (this can be increased with Storage Add-Ons if required).
  • Microsoft Teams.
  • Yammer.
  • Active Directory SSO for synchronized users.
  • Content Search and Basic Auditing.

So in effect, the same as Microsoft 365 Business Basic above. When we move up to Office 365 E3 for $23.00 per month, we get the following add-ons:

  • 100GB mailbox per user.
  • Unlimited archive mailbox per user.
  • Desktop versions of apps.
  • 5TB of OneDrive Storage per user.
  • Shared Computer Activation (Use Office apps on Remote Desktop Services or Citrix).
  • Azure Information Protection for Office 365.
  • Office365 Data Loss Prevention.
  • Office Message Encryption.
  • eDiscovery.
  • Litigation Hold.

The top level plan is Office 365 E5 which is $38.00 per month. There are only a few add-ons provided here, but as you can see they are big ones:

  • PowerBI Pro for Data Analyics.
  • Phone System and Audio Conferencing.
  • Defender for Office365 Plan 2.
  • Advanced eDiscovery and Audit.

You cna find out more about Office 365 Enterprise Plans here.

Which one to choose?

As you can see, plenty of choice there. Just to clarify, you can use Office 365 Enterprise licenses in organisations with under 300 users as well if you feel this is a better option for your business.

For smaller business, the recommendation is to stick with the Microsoft 365 Business plans as they provide more of an “all-in-one” solution given the amount of features that are bundled into the licenses. Larger companies and those with specific regulatory requirements will make more use of the Group Policy, DLP, Compliance and Information Protection offerings available in the Office 365 Enterprise plans.

The key here is to use your 30-day trial wisely and roadtest each of the plans available to see which one is the best fit for your business.

The license plans I’ve described above cover the majority of companies, however its good to be aware that there is a also a set of Microsoft 365 plans specifically designed for Frontline workers. You can find more details on those here.

Conclusion

And thats a look at the different licensing plans available in Microsoft 365 and Office 365! Hope you enjoyed this post, until next time!

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