what is microsoft 365

Microsoft 365: What Your Business Needs to Know [2020]

Bill Gates first announced Microsoft Office in 1998. 

Although this was a significant landmark at the time, these early versions of the product only came with Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint in a convenient bundle. 

It was later in 2011 that it’s more sophisticated and grand iteration, Office 365, was released. Back then, it was hyped up to be  “A Game Changer for Businesses of All Sizes.” It’s only continued to improve since then.

The most recent release in this product line is Microsoft 365, which isn’t precisely a new version of Office 365. Rather, Microsoft 365 is the new umbrella service that contains Office 365 and its applications and other cloud services.

While there is a consumer version of Microsoft 365 as of 2020, this product is geared primarily towards SMBs and enterprise businesses, which is entirely appropriate given the scale of its capabilities. 

Although the product has been available for some time now, it’s understandable if you’re not entirely familiar with what it can do for your business. 

This article aims to walk through what Microsoft 365 is, give you an understanding of its features and applications, and leave you competent enough to decide whether you’ll be using it to benefit your enterprise business.

What Is Microsoft 365?

microsoft 365 is the new office 365

Microsoft 365 is a new Microsoft offering that expands on it’s now defunct Office 365 service. It provides a productivity suite of applications and service offerings. It’s designed to help you accomplish more with the help of its cloud services, applications, and other innovative features. 

There are different plans available for this service, including family subscriptions, personal subscriptions, business-level subscriptions, but this article will be focusing on the business and enterprise levels. 

Does Microsoft 365 bring together all the tools for productivity, collaboration, and communication that your business needs to thrive in the modern business environment? Let’s find out.

Core Microsoft 365 Features

microsoft azure is a core feature of Microsoft 365

There’s a wide selection of features that come with Microsoft 365 which we’ll briefly describe in this section. Later in the article, we’ll explain which features come with each particular edition and plan. 

  • Cloud Services — One of the more stand-out features of Microsoft 365 is its integrated cloud platform, which not only delivers a suite of productivity apps like Word, Excel, and Microsoft Teams but also offers additional cloud and security services. 
  • SharePoint — Microsoft’s file management application, Sharepoint, enables your business to store and access your business files from all your workplace devices with ease. You can even share files with persons outside your organization if desired and terminate that shared access whenever necessary. The application secures your business files by utilizing advanced encryption measures.
  • Security — Microsoft 365’s security features come packaged as Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security. This is a robust security platform that comes with its own suite of products like Microsoft Intune, Azure Information Protection, and more. It provides a level of security designed to deliver greater detection, protection, and response capabilities for your enterprise and mobile workforce. 
  • Microsoft Editor — This is Microsoft’s writing assistant application. With it, you can strengthen your writing wherever you write, whether it be on LinkedIn, Facebook, Word, and other locations. It actively suggests grammatical and spelling corrections to make your writing clearer and more concise.
  • Advanced Audit — Microsoft 365’s unified auditing functionality provides your organization with visibility into various types of auditing activities. Advanced audit capabilities include long-term retention of audit logs, access to crucial events for investigations, high bandwidth access to the Office 365 Management activity API, the ability to search for MailItemsAccessed audit records, and the ability to manage audit log retention policies.
  • Mobile Device Management — With Microsoft 365, you get access to Microsoft Intune, which is a cloud-based mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) service. This feature also helps you manage your fleet of Windows 10 PCs, not just mobile devices.
  • Infrastructure (Azure) — Integrated with Microsoft 365 is Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service. Microsoft 365 uses Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) for user ID management behind the scenes. Azure also comes with functionalities that enable your enterprise to manage integrated apps that you can use to customize and extend your Microsoft 365 subscription.
  • Available Across Platform — Rather than being limited to PC, Microsoft 365 is available for use across platforms, including Mac, IOS, and Android. Some of its applications, including Microsoft Teams, are even available on Linux devices. 

 

What Apps and Services Come with Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 Applications

With Microsoft 365, your company gains access to some of the best productivity apps on the market, from tried-and-true originals like Word to relatively new and innovative newcomers like Team.

Below is a list of all applications and services you can get through Office 365. We’ll cover what comes with each particular edition and plan below.

Office Apps

  • Word — This is Microsoft’s word processing program that’s available for Windows and Mac devices. With it, you can type up documents, publish them as PDFs, and much more. 
  • Excel — This lets you generate spreadsheets from scratch or templates with ease. You can use its vast array of formulas to perform calculations for advanced data aggregation. 
  • PowerPoint — This application is Microsoft’s slide presentation program. It provides for team collaboration and has many templates to jumpstart your projects.
  • OneNote — A free-form note-taking program that allows you to write in Ink with the Surface Pen. You can organize your notes into notebooks, pages, and sections. 
  • Access (PC only) — Microsoft Access is a database management solution designed specifically for the Windows operating system. With it, you can create your own database applications personalized for your enterprise needs. 
  • Publisher (PC only) — Microsoft’s desktop publishing program for Windows. Use it to easily create newsletters, postcards, brochures, pamphlets, and more. 

Email and Calendar

  • Contacts — With this application, you can view, write, and send emails. Outlook also has a built-in calendar that lets you keep track of your schedule across your devices.
  • Exchange — Microsoft’s business-class email service for outgoing and incoming mail. Exchange comes with an advanced calendaring system and email storage services.
  • Bookings — Microsoft 365’s booking application. It allows for easy scheduling and management of appointments for your business. 

Communication

  • Teams — Microsoft Teams provides a hub for your organization’s internal team collaboration, chats, calls, and meetings.
  • Yammer — A collaboration tool that helps to improve engagement and connection across your organization with live and on-demand events. 

Files & Content

  • OneDrive — Microsoft 365’s file sharing and storage application. It makes file sharing secure and accessible to your employees anywhere, so long as they’re connected to the internet.
  • Sharepoint — With Sharepoint, your organization is able to share and manage data, content, news, and other resources.
  • Lists — Microsoft Lists makes tracking information and organization work a simpler, smarter, and more flexible process. It’s sharing capabilities to create and keep track of lists with anyone.
  • Stream — Microsoft Stream is a secure video service application that allows your organization to create videos and deliver live events that host up to 10,000 attendees. 
  • Sway — This application makes it easy for you to create and design interactive reports, newsletters, presentations, and share compelling stories in minutes. 

Task Management

  • Power Apps — With Power Apps, your company can create workflows, apps, and custom rich forms that help streamline your various business processes. This enables the creation of better solutions. 
  • Power Automate — Microsoft Power Automate lets you automate workflows, connect processes, and enable business logic to streamline tasks for increased productivity. 
  • Planner — Microsoft Planner is a Kanban solution. Like similar applications, it helps integrate, organize, and simplify task management for employees and teams across your organization. 
  • To Do — Microsoft To Do is an application designed to help you manage your to-do list online and across devices. Its smart daily planner provides personalized advice for daily to-do lists. 

Analytics

  • MyAnalytics — This is an analytics application that helps your workforce gain personal productivity insights as they work so that they can become more efficient and effective with their work patterns. 
  • Power BI Pro — A self-service analytics application that enables you to easily share and collaborate with your teams on interactive data visualizations. With it, your organization can continue to make more data-driven decisions. 

Device and Access Management

  • Microsoft Intune — This application is an integrated endpoint platform that ensures that all bring-your-own (BYO) and company devices are secure and properly managed. This allows your organization and employees to use which devices and applications they use without compromising on data protection. 
  • Azure Active Directory Premium — Built on-top of Azure AD, this is a service from Microsoft that helps move your enterprise to the cloud. It has both cloud and on-premise solutions, and also a combination of both: the hybrid enterprise. 

Threat Protection

  • Azure Advanced Threat Protection — The function of this application is to use cloud-powered insights and intelligence to protect your organization’s identities from various types of sophisticated cyberattacks.
  • Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection — This is a complete endpoint security solution that provides post-breach detection, preventative protection, automated investigations, and appropriate threat response. 

Information Protection and Compliance

  • Azure Information Protection P1 — This application helps your organization control and secure business emails, documents, and other sensitive company data. It also allows for simple classification, embedded labels and permissions, and uses Azure Information protection to keep your data secure.
  • Cloud App Security — A Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) that allows you to secure your enterprise cloud environment and deal with cyber threats and anomalies. It provides rich visibility, control over data travel, and sophisticated analytics. 
  • Compliance Solutions — Microsoft Compliance Solutions allows you to assess compliance risks while governing and protecting critical data. It also simplifies compliance so that your company can appropriately respond to relevant regulatory requirements. 

Microsoft 365 Editions

Microsoft business vs enterprise plans

When it comes to your business, there are only four Microsoft 365 editions that are really necessary to consider: Business Basic, Business Standard, Business Premium, and Apps. 

There are also editions designed specifically for enterprise-level organizations, but we’ll be covering those later.

Microsoft 365 Business Plans

Microsoft 365 Business Basic

The basic plan gives your company what is heavily a cloud-only environment, so you’ll be accessing your applications only on the web and with mobile office applications. 

This is the plan your business would go with if you need something lean, you have limited storage capacity, and you don’t want to install your applications traditionally. 

Along with the traditional productivity applications like Word and Excel, you also get Teams, Exchange, OneDrive, and SharePoint. 

Another potential use case for the Business Basic plan is when you have a worker whose workstation you don’t want to have to manage, and you need them to be able to collaborate with your team in your cloud environment. 

For instance, if you had a remote contractor, you could provide them a business email and grant them access to your cloud environment with little to no hassle.

Microsoft 365 Business basic has the lowest price point of these plans.

Microsoft 365 Business Standard

This is by far the most common plan utilized by small businesses seeking collaboration tools that allow for full remote work.

Business Standard comes with all the traditional office applications, including Microsoft Outlook, allowing your team to manage their calendars and contacts all from the convenience of your computer device. 

Additional applications and services that come with this plan are SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, Exchange, as well as Publisher and Access, though the last two are for PC only. 

Your applications can also be connected with third-party plugins. For instance, Outlook can be connected with HubSpot CRM, empowering you with the ability to track and log emails and use certain HubSpot sales tools, all from your email account.

With this plan, you receive physical applications that require installation; this leads to improved performance overall and gives you the freedom to use the apps even without an active internet connection.

Microsoft 365 Business Premium

The next step up in Microsoft 365’s plans is Business Premium. 

Along with the applications and features that came with Business Standard, your business would also get Microsoft Intune, which provides mobile device management (MDM).

Having Intune and MDM doesn’t always work on your phone, but it does have mobile capabilities, so it can, in fact, allow you to manage your PC and even Windows 10 from certain mobile devices. 

You would use this capability in situations where your organization had to manage multiple users and was providing them with devices. Intune lets you restrict their access and create policies to limit what they can do and what applications they could install. 

Business Premium also adds Azure information protection.

Microsoft 365 Apps

Apps is the simplest of the Microsoft 365 business plans. 

With it comes the standard office applications and also OneDrive, which is Microsoft’s cloud storage app. The Microsoft Office applications are installed locally.

While Microsoft Outlook comes with this plan, you don’t get the actual email address that comes with Microsoft Exchange, so you could still use Outlook to check your emails connected to Yahoo or Gmail or any other email service. 

A typical use case for this plan is when you’re using another productivity suite, such as G-Suite, but you still prefer to use Microsoft 365 Applications. 

Microsoft 365 Enterprise Plans

Generally, if you want to use specific enterprise applications like Microsoft Sway or Yammer, your organization has to go with a Microsoft 365 Enterprise plan. 

Business plans also only allow your company to have a maximum user count of 300, so once you go above that number, it’s time to transition to enterprise level. 

We’ll describe the essential features and use cases of each enterprise plan below. 

Microsoft 365 E3

The primary reason to go with enterprise-level plans is to gain access to applications that don’t come with the previously mentioned business plans. 

Enterprise specific applications like Azure Active Directory or Windows Stream improve productivity and allow for ease of collaboration across your large organization. 

Information Protection Premium 1 helps you proactively protect your data, employees, and private customer information all from one platform. 

Microsoft 365 E5

With E5, your organization gets access to Microsoft 365 Advanced Threat Protection and Advanced Compliance. 

Businesses with higher than average liability and compliance concerns or strict financial regulations will find that this plan fits their needs. 

Additional features you get when upgrading to the E3 plan include Microsoft E-Discovery, Customer Lockbox, Events Data Governance, and service encryption with customer key. 

Another significant upgrade you get on this plan is Azure Information Protection P2, which grants your organization software development capabilities through a software development kit (SDK). 

Microsoft 365 F3

The primary benefit of Microsoft 365 F3 is Azure Active Directory P1, as well as other applications like Microsoft Teams, Advanced Threat Analytics, and all at a cost-effective price. 

What this plan does, in essence, is it provides your business with the ability to operate entirely on the cloud at the scale of an enterprise-level organization. 

Microsoft 365 Licensing Details

For both Business and Enterprise editions of Microsoft 365, each user in your organization gains access to Office on up to 5 PCs or Mac devices, 5 tables, and 5 phones. 

When you purchase a subscription to the Business or Enterprise plans, you have to specify how many licenses (users) you’re going to need, which is typically based on how many people you have within your company. 

Keep in mind that Business plans have a maximum of 300 users, so once you exceed that amount, it’ll be time to switch to an Enterprise plan. 

Your organization is allowed to have more than one subscription, and you can assign different licenses to different employees if necessary, but a user can only be assigned one type of license at a time. 

For example, higher-level executives can have an E3 subscription while data entry specialists are just given Business Standard subscriptions. Meanwhile, John Smith from the IT department can’t have both an F3 and a Business Apps Subscription, only one or the other. 

Even if a lower-level user doesn’t have access to particular applications, they’ll still be able to view and view and edit files from them.

Business plans subscriptions can be paid for on a monthly or annual basis, while Enterprise plans are only available with annual commitments. 

Microsoft 365 vs G Suite: Which Is Better?

G-suite is similar to Microsoft Office

The immediate answer to the question, “Which is better, G-Suite or Microsoft 365?” is that “better” is the wrong metric to consider. 

The right question to ask is: which platform will best serve your business needs? 

A good way to look at G-Suite is that it is leaner than Microsoft 365 and yet still powerful. G-Suite is available only via the cloud, whereas Microsoft 365 still gives you the option to install applications traditionally. 

Because G-Suite is limited to the cloud, it provides a simpler and more straightforward experience comparatively easier to manage than Microsoft 365—at least in certain aspects. 

In most cases, G-Suite is also more cost-effective, though Microsoft also gives you more when you get to Business Premium. It’s at that level that Microsoft 365 really becomes more robust, providing your company with mobile device management capabilities with Intune.

While G-Suite has advanced over the years in some ways, it’s still primarily utilized as a suite of productivity applications. Google has outside services that handle cloud infrastructure and compliance needs. 

In fact, the reason Office 365 was changed to Microsoft 365 was that it had grown beyond a set of office applications. G-Suite is starting to move in that direction with products like G-Suite Enterprise, but it’s still centered around the cloud, and it’s own security. 

Many businesses end up using Microsoft 365 because their devices are already running on Windows 10, so it makes sense to stay within Microsoft’s environments. 

Even using a robust application like Intune makes your organization further entrenched in Microsoft’s ecosystem. 

Microsoft 365 Goes Beyond Office Applications

Microsoft goes beyond office 365

The advent of Microsoft 365 marks a significant transition from what businesses traditionally received with services like Office 365. 

Microsoft 365 goes beyond a productivity suite of office applications and aims to play an integral role in businesses of all shapes and sizes. We may even see Microsoft begin to offer desktop as a service options

We’ll continue to see the impact of this initial shift over time. If Microsoft is successful with this service structure, there’s no doubt that competitors will follow suit. 

To summarise: 

  • What Is Microsoft 365? —  Microsoft 365 is a subscription service that delivers a productivity suite of applications and service offerings. It was previously called Office 365.
  • Core Microsoft 365 Features — Cloud services, cloud storage via OneDrive, Microsoft Enterprise Security + Mobility, Microsoft Support services, Microsoft Editor, SharePoint, Advanced Audit, Mobile Device Management, Microsoft Azure, and cross-platform availability. 
  • Types of Applications Available with Microsoft 365 — Microsoft 365’s suite of office productivity applications include it’s the traditional Office Apps, email and calendar apps, communication apps, file and content storage/sharing apps, task management apps, analytics apps, device and access management apps, threat protection apps, and information security + compliance apps. 
  • Microsoft 365 Editions — The Microsoft 365 editions covered in this article include Microsoft 365 Business Basic, Business Standard, Business Premium, Enterprise E3, Enterprise E5, and Enterprise F3. 
  • Microsoft 365 Licencing Details — Both the Business and Enterprise editions of Microsoft 365 allow each user to have access to Microsoft Office on up to 5 PCs or Macs, 5 tablets, and 5 phones. Your organization can have multiple subscriptions, but each user can be assigned only to one at a time. The maximum user count for the Business plans is 300, meaning any more users will require you to upgrade to an Enterprise plan.   
  • Microsoft 365 vs. G-Suite — It isn’t about which platform is better, but rather which platform better suits your unique business situation. G-Suite works entirely from the cloud while Microsoft 365 still has traditional application installations. G-Suite is leaner and focuses more on office applications, whereas Microsoft 365 is more robust and can even service your business’s cloud infrastructure. 

Is Microsoft 365 Right for Your Business?

business consultant speaking with client

As mentioned earlier in the article, Microsoft 365 is a robust platform. 

Although these services are designed to help your business save time and simplify complex workflows, the complexity of the platform can often be overwhelming to navigate when considering it for your own enterprise business needs. 

Commprise is here to help you gain clarity on this matter. With our Managed IT Services, we’ll help you find out which solutions and services are best suited to serve your company. 

And whether you decide to go with Microsoft 365 or G-Suite, we’ll be able to manage your preferred productivity suite and the services that go with it.