Looking at the Microsoft Office 365 site you’d be forgiven to think that this should be a straightforward decision. If I have less than 10 employees I choose the Small Business (P) Plan, for 10 to 250 employees I would choose the Mid-Size (M) Plan or for more than 250 staff I would go for an Enterprise (E) Plan.

Think business needs over size

In general these are great guidelines but you should give this far more thought around your business needs rather than the number of staff you employ or plan to employ as the plans offer very different features once you start looking ‘under the bonnet’ so to speak. All plans come with a 50GB Exchange Online Mailbox for each user, a 25GB OneDrive for Business storage allowance for everybody and 10GB (+500MB/user) of SharePoint storage so from that point of view there’s not a lot to choose between them.

6 reasons to think like an Enterprise

When I’m advising customers I always encourage them to think ‘Enterprise’ and start with an ‘E’ Plan. Here’s why:

  1. Scalability – Although the E Plans state they are suitable for organisations above 250 users they will also scale down to an organisation with a single employee. It’s not compulsory you have 250 staff but you do get reassurance that should your business grow to above that level you don’t need to change subscription plans
  2. Flexibility – Within the E Plans you can mix and match plans to users needs. If you have some staff who already have a licensed and up to date copy of Microsoft Office you can put them on the E1 Plan whilst those who need Office on their PC or Mac you can let them use the E3 Plan. Alternatively, if you have staff who just need to work with email, read, print and perform basic document editing you can put them on a low cost Kiosk Worker or K Plan. The K Plan option is only available as a subscription on E Plans and offers great value to organisatons in sectors such as retail, hospitality or manufacturing where staff ten not to have a dedicated computer to use.
  3. Compliance – Certain industries have compliance regulations over security and retention of data. Only the E3 Plan has advanced features such as email archiving, records management and DRM (Digital Rights Management) that are required to enable this.
  4. SharePoint Apps – Only E3 comes with the advanced features of SharePoint (Plan 2) that enable you to build custom form applications as well as use Excel and Visio services.
  5. Connectivity – If you need your SharePoint Online system to connect to external systems then BCS (Business Connectivity Services) is only available in the E3 Plan.
  6. Yammer – Yammer is rapidly becoming the private business social network of choice and a Yammer Enterprise Licence is provided to all Office 365 E Plan users,

When to choose a P Plan

If your business IT needs are extremely simple in that you want a single platform for email, managing documents, using Instant Messaging and Conferencing as well as hosting your web site, you have minimal compliance requirements and you really don’t think your business will grow beyond 10 employees in the short to medium term then a Small Business Plan could be for you. It’s then a case of deciding whether already have a current licence for Microsoft Office or not. If you don’t then opt for the Small Business Premium package that includes licencing to install Office on up to 5 machines.

When to choose an M Plan

If your compliance needs are fairly minimal, you don’t need any of the more advanced SharePoint functionality and all staff will require a licence for Microsoft Office then I would seriously consider the M Plan as it does offer considerable savings over the E3 option. The M Plan does enable you to sync your user accounts and directories to your on-premise systems.

Where to go for further information

If you need to further or more in-depth technical information on the differences between the Office 365 Plans I would recommend looking at the Office 365 Service Descriptions on Microsoft Technet here>>