How to choose the right Microsoft 365 plan

Microsoft / Office 365 has been the flagship office software plan for Microsoft for nearly a decade. It is popular with companies of all sizes and has achieved high rates of adoption and user loyalty. Key to this success has been Microsoft’s ability to create different Microsoft 365 plans for different types of businesses. But choosing the right Microsoft 365 plan has become harder as Microsoft has expanded plans to offer slightly differing solutions. 

Here is a guide for how to choose the right Microsoft 365 plan for your business:

1. Examine What You Currently Have

A good place to start is to examine what you currently have. What kind of hardware do you have and what kind of operating systems do they run? Are all workers using the same office software? Some businesses grow too fast and end up with a patchwork of different applications. Microsoft 365 is cloud based, and can work well with different operating systems.

2. Understand Your Needs

What is most important to you as you try to choose the right Microsoft 365 plan? Is improved communication your biggest aim? What about productivity and collaboration? Are you trying to increase your security levels? Is this move part of a larger digital transformation? All these questions can affect what plan is best for you.

3. Review Your Budget

Every migration will typically need two budgets. One is for the licensing fees of the Microsoft 365 plan you choose, and the other is for the actual migration cost. If your budget is tight you can keep the migration in-house. For the number of licensed users, always try to over-shoot slightly to account for growth.

4. Compare and Select Plans

It can get confusing as there are so many Microsoft 365 plans to choose from. Some decisions will make themselves. For example, if you have less than 300 users, then the Business plans are for you as they cater for companies with users under this number. If your organisation has many more users than 300, then the Enterprise plans are the only way to go. See below for an explainer of the service families and plans.

5. Reassess and review Later

It is normal to assess and evaluate the products you have purchased. Once you have had a chance to view how your chosen Microsoft 365 plan works for your business, you can decide if you have made the right decision.

You can ask your administrators to periodically generate user statistics to see which apps are working. You can also choose to poll your staff on how they find the tools. If changes need to be made, this can be done as a separate project.

Service Family – Business or Enterprise?

The Business Service Family is intended for small to medium sized companies. The Enterprise Service Family is intended for large organizations. Business plans cater for a maximum of 300 users, while enterprise plans can have unlimited numbers of users. Many companies will choose one service family based on their user numbers and then select the most efficient plans within that family.

Below are the most popular Microsoft 365 plans.

Business Plans

Microsoft 365 Business Basic
Previously known as Office 365 Business Essentials. This is the cheapest Microsoft 365 plan. It offers web-based and mobile versions of Microsoft apps and services. You do not get desktop versions of popular applications like PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and Outlook. This is an ideal plan for very small businesses with access to internet connectivity.

Microsoft 365 Apps for Business
Previously known as Office 365 Business. This is the next level up of the Microsoft 365 plans. It features web-based and downloadable Microsoft desktop apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and Outlook. You can use the free version of Microsoft Teams. This plan is good for small businesses that mainly need to use the tried and tested core desktop Microsoft apps.

Microsoft 365 Business Standard
Previously known as Office 365 Business Premium. This Microsoft 365 plan offers a good range of all the desktop apps and web services offered by Microsoft. The email hosting mailbox can hold 50 GB, and can offer customized company emails which can be used on a range of devices. You also have access to Microsoft Teams. This plan is good for slightly larger companies.

Microsoft 365 Business Premium
Previously known as Microsoft 365 Business. This is the most expensive Microsoft 365 small business plan. It has all the core apps, as well as Microsoft Teams access. What makes it different is the access to top-level business IT security. It defends businesses against ransomware and malware attacks and has advanced features like remote data deletion on company devices. Naturally, all these Business plans come at incrementally higher costs as their features are extended.

Enterprise Plans

Microsoft F3
Previously known as Microsoft F1. All Enterprise plans cater for 300 users and higher. There is no cap on the number of users. F3 offers robust enterprise versions of Outlook, OneNote, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Note that these are online and not fully installed desktop versions. Users also get access to SharePoint Team sites, video conferencing, and Yammer for enterprise social media.

Microsoft E3
E3 provides all F3 features with the added benefits of rights management, loss prevention, and encryption. This offers high levels of business security and compliance. Often, small and medium-sized businesses will normally choose to buy either the F3 or E3 plans and bolt on third-party applications to meet cloud security requirements.

Microsoft E5
Companies of the requisite user numbers and a strong budget will normally go for the E5 plan. If your business preference is a fully-managed range of Microsoft applications, the E5 plan is a full enterprise-level solution with all the standard features. You can also get access to analytics tools, advanced cyber protection, and unified communication solutions.


Microsoft 365 plans might seem confusing in the beginning. But once you go through the steps required to understand where you are and where you want to go, it is possible to choose the best plan for your business.

Within the two service families of Business and Enterprise, there are different Microsoft plans to choose from depending on your needs. Microsoft 365 plans are flexible. You can always mix and match plans for your users so that you are making the most efficient use of your Microsoft 365 plans.

More on Microsoft 365 plan options.

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