Skip to main content

Many people use the terms Office 365 or Microsoft 365 interchangeably, when in reality they’re two different products. Office 365 is a cloud-first app, offering programs such as Word, Excel, and Outlook, but with additional cloud-based tools for team collaboration. Alternatively, Microsoft 365 is a bundle of services that goes beyond a basic office suite. It includes security, infrastructure, as well as app innovation capabilities, and has different levels of licenses that can be taken out depending on business needs.

Of course, this is where it can get confusing. How do you know which type of license is best for your business and how do you plan for expansion or changes that may result in needing a changing number of licenses in the year ahead? There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Finding the most cost-effective bundle requires asking several important questions:

  1. What is the business looking to improve? Is there a need for greater collaboration across departments? Does the business need technology to support its goals of greater innovation? Is there a need to improve database management and security?
  2. What are the business benefits being sought out? While this aligns in part with what the business is looking to improve, it’s more specific about what the business will gain from one product or another.
  3. Does the business need advanced protections in terms of security, and what should this look like? Keeping in mind that while Microsoft 365 does not offer a security product, if there’s a need for a fully managed suite, it may not be adequate.
  4. What are the specific processes that need to be performed? This may differ between departments so a good understanding of what these processes are, is required to ensure systems not only meet the requirements but also integrate into broader company systems.
  5. What are the gaps that need to be filled? Sometimes the answer to this is fairly clear. Still, it requires a careful audit of systems and processes to uncover the gaps.

What commonly catches businesses off guard with licensing?

Aside from having many different options to choose from, there are a few elements of licensing that tend to trip up businesses. It’s good to do an internal audit to uncover what the business really needs.

Start out by looking at the bare minimum requirements for daily operations. These will likely be email, Word, Excel, and possibly PowerPoint. If employees in the company are already using more advanced tools, then that already signifies the minimum business package you’ll need.

Next, consider what version the license is. Office 2003, for example, may still operate effectively and integrate with newer versions, but at some point , in the future, Microsoft will stop support for it. Considering it’s a version that’s almost 20 years old, it would benefit the business to upgrade to the latest version to ensure continuity going forward.

Thirdly, find out the sizes of mailboxes and whether the business needs archives. Plan 1, for example offers 50GB mailboxes, which for most small business is more than adequate. Provided employees regularly empty out their spam and trash folders. Other plans offer mailboxes of 100GB with unlimited archives. For larger businesses, or for those needing archive facilities, this may be the necessary option.

Also, you should be aware that once you select a plan, be aware that there isn’t an option to downgrade to a lower plan. You can only add services or products or upgrade the plan. For businesses that are rapidly expanding this can be a challenge as they may not know at the beginning of the year how many mailboxes they will need.

While the temptation may be to go for a bigger plan, this could result in unnecessarily over -spending. One solution would be to go for a lower annual plan and then when the need arises to increase the number of mailboxes, these could be taken out on a month-to-month plan. The monthly plans may at first seem more expensive, but if you’re only using them for a few months of the year, they’ll still work out to be more economical.

Government Agencies and Non-Profit Organizations can apply for special categories of licenses. This requires going through an application process to ensure they qualify and tick all the boxes. Logically can assist with these license applications to ensure the organization benefits from having the right plan.

Microsoft 365 partner licensing and support

In early 2022, Microsoft implemented a new partner program with six major partner categories, four of which Logically is accredited for. These four include: 

  • Modern work 
  • Azure infrastructure migrations 
  • Data and AI 
  • Digital and App innovation 

Typically, these requirements will be aligned with specific business needs and depending on the client agreement, come with varying levels of technical support. The benefit of this approach is that the business doesn’t need to accept a one-size-fits-all product and service bundle. It can be built out depending on how much assistance and support is needed.  

Microsoft products will continue to evolve, and while the changes may be frustrating for some, they are usually beneficial for business. The good thing is that there is generally quite advanced notice before old products or services are discontinued or replaced by new ones. This gives businesses adequate time to secure their data and make the necessary changes.  

It helps to have a partner like Logically that is familiar with the different levels of and types of Microsoft 365 and Office 365 licensing, because they can evaluate your business needs and help you to work through a checklist so that you don’t overspend but still get what you need. To find out more, reach out to the logically team so that we can walk you though all that is needed when selecting a license.  

Alternatively, watch this informative Ask-Me-Anything session with Microsoft specialist Alex Burton as he discusses the various considerations to be taken into account with Microsoft 365 and Office 365.