Microsoft 365 – An Overview

Microsoft 365 is a popular and useful cloud-based productivity platform, designed to help you achieve more with innovative Office apps, intelligent cloud services, and world-class security … but what does it do and how can you benefit from it ?

What is it exactly..?

Microsoft 365 is the current name for Microsoft’s product family of productivity software, collaboration and cloud-based services. It encompasses online services such as, OneDrive, Microsoft Teams, and applications formerly marketed as stand-alone solutions, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook (on Microsoft Windows, macOS, & mobile devices), as well as enterprise products and services associated with these products, such as Exchange Server, SharePoint, and Yammer.
More commonly in the business world it refers to subscription plans encompassing these products above, including those that include subscription-based licenses to desktop and mobile software, and hosted email and intranet services.

Popular Licenses & Their Main Features

Exchange Online Plan 1:
– the original hosted email solution for business, with a 50 GB Mailbox size and archiving options.

Exchange Online Plan 2:
– as above but with a 100 GB Mailbox.

Business Basic:
– as the above, but adds web and mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, plus the addition of MS Teams and OneDrive with 1 TB of storage.

Business Standard:
– as Basic but with installable Desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook…plus Access & Publisher for PC, and a Webinar hosting feature for up to 300 people on Teams.

Apps for Business:
– desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, with 1 TB of cloud storage per user

Business Premium:
– as Business Standard but with the addition of advanced security, cyber attack protection and device management facilities.

Defender for 365 Plan 1:  
– offers protection against advanced attacks across email and collaboration tools (Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, and Office apps)

– a cloud-based enterprise mobility management (EMM) service that helps enable your workforce to be productive while keeping your corporate data protected

Visio Plan 2:
– gets MS Visio including the desktop app for use on up to five PCs, and 2 GB of OneDrive cloud storage, for creating, viewing, editing, and collaborating on Visio files directly in Microsoft Teams.

Power Bi Pro:
– create rich, interactive reports that put visual analytics at your fingertips, then share & publish them across your organisation.

Project Plan 3:
– execute projects with ease with familiar scheduling tools through your choice of the web browser or desktop client.

Azure Active Directory Plan 1:
– secure access to all private apps and resources, for users anywhere, with identity-centric Zero Trust network access (Entra ID P1)

365 Extra File Storage:
– increases the size of your included Sharepoint storage facilities, should you requirements outgrow your ‘free’ allowances.

Commonly Included Extras

The most popular licenses also include a raft of applications that can provide some great facilities, and bring real value to your business.

Microsoft Pricing Structure

Typically Microsoft offer 4 different pricing schemes for their licenses, depending on the length of contract you sign-up for and the type of Organisation you are (as of Sept 2023).

Monthly Contract:
typically the most expensive way, but gives the flexibility to cancel each license every 30 days. Useful if you have a large pool of users, with changing requirements, and frequent staff number changes.

Annual contract, yearly bill:
the lowest cost way of buying into the eco-system (unless you’re a Charity – see below). Commits you to 12-months of billing for each license type *


Annual contract, monthly bill:
works out the same price as above but splits the bill into 12 segments, still with a 12-month contract term commitment though.


Charity Licenses:
Microsoft is rather good in this area and provides significantly lower rates for registered charities on a number of license types, providing you complete their online registration and verification first.

* depending on the provider, the purchase of the 1st license of each type initiates the 12-month contract for all subsequent licenses of that type, so that all the licenses within a type group ‘sync’ the the initial date.