The Best Office 365 Plans for SMEs

the best office 365 plans
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Is your organisation considering moving to Office 365? The benefits for organisations who do this can be significant – take a look at our article to see a few of the advantages for the companies we work with.

Once you have decided to upgrade, you then need to determine which is the best plan for your business. There are nine Office 365 plans in total, all with different features and benefits – so it can get confusing!

We’ve put together a list of four questions you should ask yourself when choosing a plan and a comparison of the five plans that we believe are most suitable for SME businesses. These are Business Essentials, Business Premium, E1 and E3. We have also included Microsoft 365 Business – a new plan which includes Office and Windows features in one package. If you want to jump straight to the comparison table, click here.

NB – some small businesses try to save costs by purchasing ‘home’ Office 365 licence(s). Please be aware that these are not licenced for commercial use and would involve breaking the licence agreement. From a cost perspective, a home Office licence does not include a custom domain name or email hosting, so paying monthly for an Office 365 business licence is probably more cost-effective than purchasing both separately.

Key Questions When Choosing an Office 365 Plan

Desktop Applications or Online Only?

A major advantage of an Office 365 subscription is the opportunity to use applications such as Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint online.

» Most Popular Office 365 Tips & Tricks For 2019

Some subscriptions will allow you to access these Office apps online, as well as downloading them on up to 15 devices per user (5 phones, 5 tablets and 5 PCs or Macs). There are also online-only subscriptions, which allow you access the applications online but not download them onto your desktop.

Whilst the online-only subscriptions are cheaper, we generally recommend that SMEs who are purchasing Office 365 choose a subscription with desktop included.

The first reason for this is familiarity, especially if SMEs are planning on implementing addition subscription options such as Teams or Planner for their organisation. Office 365 desktop applications feel like an enhanced version of what employees used previously, rather than something entirely new.

The second reason is that having both options is more versatile for users. It means that when users are on the move, they are less reliant on an internet connection. They can download documents onto any device and use the internet when needed rather than all the time. For example, this could help users save battery when using a personal hotspot or allow them to keep working through a poor signal area on a train.

Many users do sign up for online-only versions and are happy with them. However, they do need to ensure that their organisation can work in an online-only environment.  

Do You Have Any Computers Running Windows 7?

Microsoft are ceasing support for Windows 7 in January 2020. This means that they will no longer be updating it or fixing potential security risks. Your business will be vulnerable to attacks similar to the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack, which is estimated to have cost between millions and billions of business damage.

If your business still has Windows 7 devices, your options are to buy a new computer, buy Windows 10 or get the upgrade included as part of a Microsoft Business 365 package.

Do You Need OneNote?

Many businesses have policies around computerised data, but also allow employees to carry around notebooks full of confidential company information and personal data. These notebooks are (obviously) not password protected and are vulnerable to loss or theft.

If employees use tablets or other touch screen devices such as the Microsoft Surface, then OneNote can be the perfect solution to this. Employees create personal notes or meeting notes using a stylus pen and their device. These notes are then stored within the company filing system. This reduces the business risk when it comes to personal and confidential data.

OneNote is available on the Business Premium and E3 plans.

What About eDiscovery?

Microsoft’s eDiscovery functionality is available within the E3 plan (an Office 365 enterprise plan). It is useful for GDPR compliance and for those involved in the legal industry or legal disputes.

For law firms, Microsoft’s eDiscovery functionality is rated 4.3/ 5 on Gartner and reviews are suggesting that its development is still progressing in leaps and bounds. In particular for SMEs, who may not have the budget for an enterprise-level eDiscovery solution, this is a great cost-effective solution. Reviewers suggest that some of the advantages include that they do not need to transfer documents to another solution and that it is easy to use for those without IT backgrounds.

It is also worthwhile for organisations currently involved in a legal dispute – they can reliably ensure that information relevant to a court proceeding is not accidentally altered or deleted during the proceeding.

Outside of the legal industry, the eDiscovery functionality is an enable of GDPR compliance. It allows administrators to run content searches within the entire Office 365 system – including documents, emails and Teams conversations. The results in a content search can be reported on in a GDPR-compliant manner, deleted or put ‘on hold’ so that nobody within the organisation can edit them. This is a key enabler for GDPR compliance, allowing compliance officers to process personal data requests and ensure that personal data is not accidentally altered during a data dispute.

The E3 plan also comes with manual retention and deletion policies, which can also aid GDPR compliance.

Which Other Services Could Be Replaced with Office 365?

One of the great benefits of using Office 365 is that you get so much more than your basic document creation tools.

  • Do you pay for email hosting? You now have 50-100 GB included for Outlook.
  • Do you pay for a file storage solution? You now have OneDrive for Business and SharePoint
  • Do you pay for video conferencing software? You now have Microsoft Teams.
  • Do you pay for Slack or another internal communications tool?
    You now have Microsoft Teams or Yammer (depending on your plan).
  • Do you pay for a project or task management tool? You now have Microsoft Planner.

Depending on what technology an organisation is currently using, replacing other paid solutions with Office 365 can often create a cost saving – producing instant ROI!

Comparison of Our Recommended Office 365 Plans for SMEs

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Which Office 365 Plan Should I Get?

At eXpd8, we do not believe that there is one Microsoft Office 365 plan that is right for every small and medium enterprise. It depends on the industry, the amount of personal data companies process, how technology is currently used in the organisation and how business leaders would like it to be used in the future. 

However, we do believe that there is a plan that is right for every SME and that all organisations can benefit from investing in Office 365 and using it to its full potential – whichever version of Office 365 you choose.

If you have read this article and are still unsure, please get in touch and we would be happy to discuss the options with you in more detail!

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