The Latest Office 365 Editions: What Business Owners Need to Know

Just after Microsoft launched its new subscription-based Office 365 Home Premium for individual users, the company rolled out a major update to Office 365 for enterprise users, too. As with any major tech release, Microsoft has had its fair share of supporters and detractors. Most of the negative articles were focused on their licensing changes.

Whether you find a bit of confusion surrounding the new licensing terms a small hindrance or a deal breaker, you owe it to your company to check out all this suite of services has to offer.

Office 365 Offerings for Business

Office 365 for Business features cloud-based online versions of SharePoint, Lync, and Exchange, as well as the standard Office web applications you've come to know like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Additional applications, such as Access, InfoPath, Active Directory integration and other tools are available, too, depending on which version your subscribe to.

The update also includes a set of new versions of Office for small and midsize businesses and the Office 365 ProPlus package, which offers enterprise users the full versions of the standard Office applications as a service for up to five devices costing $144 per user per year.

The ProPlus package is also included in Microsoft's Office 365 Enterprise offerings, as well as the new Office 365 Midsize Business package. The Midsize Business version is intended for companies with between ten and 250 employees. This version of Office 365 comes with simplified IT tools for understaffed IT departments in smaller companies. The edition costs $180 per user for an annual subscription.

If your company has only one to ten users, Microsoft now offers a plan for $150 per user per year focusing mostly on email, calendars, video conferencing, and website tools.

As you can see, Microsoft has tried to create an Office 365 to fit organizations of all sizes, and priced its offerings to fit them as well. But, for the small business, Microsoft's revamped Office 365 plans offer smart value, making their subscription-based service worthy of a second look.

Office 365: Why the Fit with Small Businesses is Just Right

Office 365 offers a low upfront cost because small businesses can sign up with a plan that meets their exact requirements for a predictable monthly fee. This option is much more budget-friendly than setting aside funds to purchase new hardware, servers, software licenses, and CALs for the required server OS and Exchange Server — a large upfront investment that could cost a small business thousands of dollars.

The customizable licensing plans also fit perfectly with a BYOD working environment, as they allow employees to install the desktop apps on up to five devices per user.

Finally, Hosted Exchange is a bargain, thanks to Exchange for the cloud. While the service used to cost about $20-$25 per user per month, market pressure for cloud services has forced Microsoft to redesign Exchange for the cloud. Now, companies can get a robust Microsoft-hosted Exchange Online service for as low as $4 per person per month.

As you can see, Office 365 offers a world of applications and services that are becoming more affordable for small businesses with every iteration. Ask your provider how you can customize these services to fit your organization perfectly, and give this powerful suite another look if you are still shopping for an IT solution.