Microsoft 365 vs. Office 365: Unraveling the Difference

Microsoft 365 and Office 365 are often used interchangeably creating a confusion in what they both entail. If you’ve found yourself wondering what’s the difference between them and which one is the best option for you then you’re in the right place. The history of Microsoft 365 and Office 365 is a bit complicated and untangling it will shed light on the differences of these two platforms. 

After reading this article, you will not only be able to tell the two apart but also understand their key features and pricings. Hopefully with this handful of information, you can make the right decision. 

What is Office 365?   

Launched in 2011, Office 365 was a cloud-based solution that included Microsoft’s most famous core applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and OneDrive along with a number of other apps and services such as Planner, SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, etc. Office 365 also offered mobile-friendly and online versions of these apps and services. 

Office 365 had a number of different packages available for licensing:

  • Home 
  • Business 
  • Enterprise

Office 365 used to be a subscription-based platform. Users had to pay a monthly fee depending on their package to use the services of the suite. 

So, why in the past sense? Is Office 365 gone? Not quite, but to understand what happened to it, we first need to look into Microsoft 365. 

What is Microsoft 365?

Up until April 2020, Microsoft 365 was a subscription-based platform that included Office 365 plus Windows 10 (OS) and the Enterprise Mobility Suite. So, prospective users of Microsoft had two options: either opt for Office 365 or get the larger package, Microsoft 365. 

However, in April 2020, Microsoft announced that it has rebranded all its services and everything will be available under one name Microsoft 365. Currently, the latter includes all Office 365 programs with additional and more advanced tools and features (e.g Microsoft Editor, Microsoft Money for Excel), plus Windows 10 Pro, and Enterprise Mobility+Security.

If you go to Microsoft’s web page and select “Office” from the menu, you will see the following headline: 

In their words, “Microsoft 365 includes everything you know in Office 365. Microsoft 365 is designed to help people and businesses achieve more with innovative Office apps, intelligent cloud services, and world-class security.”

According to Microsoft’s official website, there are still some Office 365 plans for enterprise available:

  • Office 365 E1
  • Office 365 E3
  • Office 365 E5

While they may seem expensive at first, it’s a one-time investment that allows you to take advantage of all Office programs and apps.  

After the rebranding, Microsoft introduced new, more affordable, and comprehensive plans of Microsoft 365 and the pricing is different for each. Besides Microsoft 365 for Home, there are also three other options available:

Microsoft 365 for Business

There are four different packages available under this category. 

  • Microsoft 365 Business Basic – costs $5 user/month and requires an annual commitment. In the package you’ll receive Microsoft Teams, secure cloud storage, and the web and mobile versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to make presentations from scratch or by reusing editable PowerPoint templates.
  • Microsoft 365 Apps – costs $8.25 user/month and requires an annual commitment. It includes Office apps across devices and cloud file storage but doesn’t include business email and Microsoft Teams. 
  • Microsoft 365 Business Standard – costs $12.50 user/month and requires an annual commitment. Includes Microsoft Teams, secure cloud storage, business email, and premium Office applications across all devices.
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium – costs $20 user/month and requires an annual commitment. The package comes with all Standard features, as well as advanced cyberthreat protection and device management.

Microsoft 365 for Enterprise

This plan is specifically designed for large organizations especially the ones with international teams. There are three different packages available:

  • Microsoft 365 E3 – costs $32.00 user/month and requires an annual commitment. In addition to all productivity apps, you also receive core security and compliance capabilities for the enterprise.
  • Microsoft 365 E5 – costs $57.00 user/month and requires an annual commitment. The key features are voice and analytical capabilities for the enterprise.
  • Microsoft 365 F3 – costs $8.00 user/month and requires an annual commitment. This package is created with frontline workforce in mind and provides them with productivity apps and cloud services. 

Microsoft 365 for Education

As understood from the name itself, this option is for educational institutions. To get more information on the pricing packages, you can contact Microsoft’s sales team

The key difference between Microsoft 365 and Office 365 

Coming back to our original question, what is the difference between Microsoft 365 and Office 365.

Office 365 is a suite of Microsoft’s productivity apps such as Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and more. Microsoft 365, on the other hand, is a bundle including Office 365, Enterprise Mobility, Windows Enterprise. Essentially, it includes several other services for security, mobile devices management and enterprise operating system. 

It’s an “all thumbs are fingers but not all fingers are thumbs” kind of situation. 

But the picture is a lot clearer now. There is only Microsoft 365 and its different plans/packages. The only thing that comes close to Office 365 (besides the still-existing limited one-time purchase packages) is the Microsoft 365 Apps package available under Microsoft 365 for Business. 

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How to choose the right solution? 

Unless you want to go for the $149 Office 365 package, your choice is pretty much between the different plans and packages of Microsoft 365. It all comes down to the needs of your organization and how often your teams use Microsoft and its services. Microsoft has already done the difficult part for you and separated its plans and packages based on industry, so the first thing to do is to go to the one that applies to you. Here are some questions and notes that will guide you and help you settle on a specific package and a pricing plan for your company:

  • How often does your team use Microsoft? Perhaps most of your employees own MacBooks and do virtually everything with either Pages or G Suite products, so they need Microsoft productivity or any apps very rarely. 
  • How important is security for you?
  • Are you going to be a long-term Microsoft user?
  • Do you prefer to pay a relatively big sum once and save in the long run, or would you rather pay smaller monthly fees?

Hopefully, this article helped you understand the whole Office 365 vs. Microsoft 365 story. If you want to continue your research before choosing your Microsoft solution, keep browsing the web but keep in mind that there is a lot of outdated information out there. Anything dated before April 2020 is old news, so make sure to pay attention to the date of the articles you read.  

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