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Microsoft offers several Office 365 options to choose from, but deciphering the details can be confusing. How do you know which plan is the right size for your needs?

Does Microsoft have a Psychology department? Not technically, but Microsoft does hire teams of personnel whose primary objective is to understand both the nature and the needs of the average professional office worker.

See, if Microsoft can understand the fundamental needs of the average professional office worker, then it’s easy to see how Microsoft can market their line-up of products that have become the staples of professional workers.

Is it a science or an art?

Understanding the basic needs of people is considered a scientific process, but the designs of the applications Microsoft develops – the user interface – is an art.

  • What is ‘user interface’? The programming elements that result in the way a user interacts with an application and all the operations that result from this interaction are considered the user interface. Software design and specifically its user interface is a critical component of the application package because if users don’t find the user interface appealing, simple to use, and overall a pleasant interaction, it results in limited use followed by plummeting sales, and the death of a product!

Microsoft takes the concept of user interface seriously. Microsoft encourages feedback of its products from users – you – and often incorporate feedback into product updates. New iterations of Microsoft products might get visual updates, but the overall look and feel generally remain the same user interface to which longtime users have become accustomed. There’s a comfort in knowing that a new version of something will function in essentially the same way it always has, but with improvements. Take, for example, the mouse on a laptop. Various manufacturers have tried to introduce updated mouse designs, like the Lenovo ThinkPad’s TrackPoint – the little rubbery button in the middle of the keyboard that looks and feels kind of like an eraser on a pencil. No matter how widely adopted the TrackPoint and other reinterpretations of the mouse, there is still the basic mouse or clickable trackpad on every laptop currently on the market.

Microsoft focuses on the psychological impact of user comfort with each update. The evolution of the Microsoft Office software makes this clear. Since its introduction nearly 30 years ago, Windows’ versions of Microsoft Office have seen about a dozen versions packed with improvements to evolve with the latest technology and needs. The same team that studies human behavior as it relates to professional office workers brainstorms new product ideas or just new ways for consumers to use existing products.

Online Dating

When Office 365 was released, consumers found this new service from Microsoft a match made in Heaven! The ongoing relationship with Microsoft Office plus consumers’ love of the Internet made an Internet-based version of Microsoft Office applications the next logical step. In 2011, Microsoft released a subscription-based Office Suite to meet demands of modern professionals, different from typical users of versions used roughly a decade ago who were more likely to work in a standard office building to which the professional commuted. Compared to today’s professionals who may work from home, either on occasion or are fully remote, and travel is routinely involved in modern schedules.

Office 365 users can choose from a variety of subscription-based plans that match your needs. Whether the basics or the full shebang, for one user or 1,000 users, Microsoft Office 365 has an option for you.

Which Office 365 plan is right for you?

All of Office 365’s components are accessed through an online portal using a single login. Every plan comes with Microsoft OneDrive for cloud data storage, but the application package within each plan varies.

For small businesses, there are a few options:

  • Office 365 Business Essentials
    • Services: Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams
    • *This plan does not include access to the standard productivity apps
  • Office 365 Business
    • Productivity apps: Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access, and OneDrive
    • Services: OneDrive
  • Office 365 Business Premium
    • Productivity apps: Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access, and OneDrive
    • Services: Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams

For larger operations, there are a few more options:

  • Office 365 ProPlus
    • Productivity apps: Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access, and OneDrive
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1*
    • Services: Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Yammer
    • *This plan does not include access to the standard productivity apps
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3
    • Productivity apps: Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access, and OneDrive
    • Services: Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Yammer
  • Office 365 Enterprise E5
    • Productivity apps: Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access, and OneDrive
    • Services: Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Yammer, Power BI Pro

The primary difference between E3 and E5 is access to Power BI Pro.

With every Office 365 Enterprise subscription comes email hosting and custom email domain address, though the E1 plan does not include productivity app Outlook with its email client. Outlook has long been the professional favorite for email and calendar management, providing features like reminders for appointments and tasks, plus a healthy helping of user settings to customize the user experience.

Go with the Flow

Did you know that you can create automated workflows between Microsoft’s apps and services? Set up custom notifications for every time you get an email from a prospective client you’re trying to close the deal with, or when files are done uploading to OneDrive. Synchronize your files across SharePoint and OneDrive and share access to your team. Microsoft Flow makes all of these simple with a “set it and forget it” approach to automation.

Teamwork

Microsoft Teams is a collaboration tool that is Microsoft’s response to Slack. Considering productivity apps are Microsoft’s forte, adding a collaborative spin was the logical next step. With cloud data storage solutions SharePoint and OneDrive, plus the launch of web-based Office 365, Microsoft Teams is truly a teamwork treasure.

Skype for Business was the predecessor to Microsoft Teams, though it’s found its own niche in the professional arena. Focusing on Internet calling, conferencing and video conferencing, Skype for Business has helped scores of remote teams foster an environment of communication.

So, which Office 365 is right for you? Only you can answer that question. The level of support from Microsoft doesn’t change with your plan or the cost, so you get the same quality you’d expect whether you’re a sole proprietor or a corporate conglomerate.

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