Build a better small business: Which Office 365 Business plan is right for you?

Arif Bacchus

Image of reflection on glass showing people working with Microsoft devices with "Office 365" text

Office 365, Microsoft’s monthly subscription-based experience of apps and services, gives you access to everything you need to be successful as a small business. Be it with collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams, Planner, or the cloud storage power of OneDrive, there’s a lot you get with an Office 365 Business Plan for the starting price of just $5 per user per month with an annual commitment.

However, there are are also slightly more expensive tiers which can unlock much more potential growth and productivity within your business. It all might sound confusing, but in this guide, we give a look at the various Office 365 for Business plans and help you choose which one is right for you.

Cheapest option — Office 365 Business Essentials

If you’re just getting started with your small business or operation, you’ve likely don’t have a lot of money to spend on extra online services. That said, the cheapest Office 365 subscription for you will be Business Essentials. This option, which we use here in our day-to-day operations at OnMSFT, comes in at $5 per user with an annual commitment or $6 with a monthly commitment.  It is an excellent choice if you want to collaborate with employees and keep track of what’s happening across the various invidiuals within your business.

Included in this plan is access to Microsoft Exchange for creating and hosting custom company email addresses, OneDrive for storing your company files on the online cloud, SharePoint for creating internal websites and sharing files, and the collaboration software Microsoft Teams for keeping touch with employees. You also will have access to Microsoft Planner, and Hub which allows you to assign and manage your tasks and teamwork, and connect teams with Microsoft Teams.

Naturally, the $5 per user cost also means you will make some sacrifices. If you opt for this plan, you will not be able to install Microsoft’s Office apps (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook) on the PCs or Macs in use throughout your business. This plan will only give you access to the web and mobile versions of these applications, which could make sense in situations where employees might be located remotely, or traveling. You’ll also miss out on some additional OneNote features, such as Local notebook support.

Keep in mind, that despite the low $5 per user cost, the storage limits on Microsoft’s services are all the same across all the other Office 365 Business plans. You’ll get the same access to up to 50GB of mailbox space in Outlook, 1TB of sharing in OneDrive. You also can enjoy 24/7 phone and web support, if something happens to go wrong or if you need help setting things up. A maximum of 300 users is supported in all of these plans.

Microsoft Teams, Microsoft
Office 365 Business Essentials is a great way to collaborate with employees

The middle option — Office 365 Business

If installing desktop versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access, is the most important options for your operations, then Office 365 Business is for you. For the price of $8.25 per user annual with an annual commitment or $10 per user with a monthly commitment, this plan is all about Office applications and storage with Microsoft OneDrive.

Unfortunately, under this option, there is no access to any of Microsoft’s collaboration services that were covered in the Business Essentials Plans. This means you’ll miss out on creating and hosting email addresses, talking or video conferencing with employees in Microsoft Teams and creating custom internal websites to share files through SharePoint.  You also won’t have access to Planner.

This is more of a plan that lets you get access to the Office Apps for an affordable price, without having to purchase Office 2019 separately and installing on each of the PCs or Macs within your organization. You should also keep in mind that any of your users with Office 365 Business will only be able to install Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access on 5 phones, tablets, PCs, and Macs per user.

Microsoft Office 365 icons
Office 365 Business is the best way to get Word, Excel, and PowePoint

The top option — Office 365 Business Premium

At the top of the Office, 365 plans is Office 365 Business Premium. As the name suggests, this plan is the most feature heavy, with a cost of $12.50 user per month with an annual commitment or $15 per user per month with a monthly commitment. We recommend this plan for bigger businesses, with more than 150 employees, and where customer relations come first.

Included with Office 365 Pro Plus is everything mentioned in both Business Essentials and Business. This means you get access to Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, Exchange, as well as the option to install Office apps on all of your PCs, Macs, and phones.  If you’re a larger organization, this plan will be most effective for you.

Microsoft also includes extra tools and services with an Office 365 Business Premium subscription. For one, you’ll be able to enjoy The Outlook Customer Manager. As we’ve explained, this service automatically collects all of your customer communications, bookings, notes, and tasks together in a convenient list on the side of your Outlook. Finally, you also get access to Microsoft Invoicing, Booking, and MileIQ. These were all launched in 2017 and can further help in your managing customer relations.

Office 365 Business Premium comes with extra services to help you manage your customer relations

At the end of the day, all three plans offer plenty of value for the money, but each is designed for various needs within different types of business. For most small organizations, Office 365 Business Essentials would be the most affordable and accessible option thanks to its small price, and access to collaboration tools. Next in line would be Office 365 Business, which brings the desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access to all employees. Lastly, Office 365 Business Premium would be the top of the top, including the best of both plans, and extra tools which can help manage customer connections to your business.

Alongside Office 365 Business plans, there are other options for larger organizations and schools. These range from Office 365 Enterprise, Education, Government, Nonprofit, and Education, and Firstline Workers. We’ll have more on those later, as we continue to dive deeper into Microsoft Office 365.