Over a year ago, Microsoft made major changes to its Office 365 plans for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). But now, 15 months later, existing Office 365 SMB customers can finally switch their old plans to one of the new plans.
If you’re a long time Office 365 SMB customer, as I am, this change can be confusing. When Microsoft first introduced its Office 365 SMB offerings, there were three plans:
Office 365 Small Business. At a cost of $5 per user per month ($60/year), this offering provided the core Office 365 cloud services—Exchange Online-based email and calendaring with 50 GB of storage, SharePoint Online-based cloud storage and file sharing, Lync Online- (later Skype for Business-) based online meetings, IM, and video conferencing, Office Online, and more. It was originally capped at 25 users.
Office 365 Small Business Premium. At a cost of $8.25 per user per month ($99/year), this offering provided everything in Office 365 Small Business, but add 5 installs of the full Office desktop suite and 1 TB of OneDrive for Business cloud storage. It was originally capped at 25 users.
Office 365 Midsize Business. At a cost of $15 per user per month ($180/year), this offering was essentially Office 365 Small Business Premium with support for more users (up to 300, I believe) plus some additional business services.
Last July, Microsoft announced the new plans, and began offering them to new customers in October 2014. These new (now current) plans break down like so:
**Office 365 Business Essentials. ** A direct replacement for Office 365 Small Business, this provides the core Office 365 cloud services—Exchange Online-based email and calendaring with 50 GB of storage, SharePoint Online-based cloud storage and file sharing, Skype for Business-based online meetings, IM, and video conferencing, Office Online, and more. It costs $5 per user per month ($60/year), the same price as Office 365 Small Business today, but is a better value thanks to the inclusion of additional services like Yammer and Active Directory support, and a new cap of 300 users.
Office 365 Business. This replacement for Office 365 Small Business Premium provides access to the full Office applications—Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Publisher—along with 1 TB of OneDrive for Business cloud storage. It costs $8.25 per user per month ($99/year), a savings of $45 per user per year, and has a cap of 300 users.
Office 365 Business Premium. This replacement for Office 365 Small Business Premium and Midsized Business provides everything in both Office 365 Business and Business Essentials, so it’s the full suite of online services plus Office and the OneDrive for Business storage. It costs $12.50 per user per month ($150/year), a savings of $30 per user per year over Office 365 Midsized Business (and the same price the old Small Business Premium offering). And it includes additional services like Yammer and Active Directory support. It has a cap of 300 users.
Oddly, Microsoft didn’t let Office 365 SMB customers upgrade from the old plans to the new plans immediately. In fact, they are only now offering this capability, after a delay from the original October 2015 schedule. So now (or at subscription renewal time, anyway) you have a decision to make.
For me, the Office 365 Small Business Premium subscription provided both the online services and the full Office suite installs at a cost of $150 per year. I could go to Office 365 Business Premium for the same price and get pretty much the same functionality, plus some business services I’ll probably never need. Or, I could skip out on the email/cloud stuff (which I never use anyway) and save $50 per year with Office 365 Business. For testing purposes I’ll probably just stick with the more expensive offering, but I could see many SMBs mixing and matching in different ways than they did before.
This Office Mix interactive mix can help you make the right decision.And Microsoft has a nice migration guidance site as well.
When it’s time to renew—you’ll be on the current plan until you do—open the Office 365 Admin Center and navigate into Billing, Subscriptions. Then, choose the Renew button for a user to choose a new plan, and select “See other renewal options”—and you’ll see the applicable options in the list (plus some enterprise plans for big spenders/growing businesses).