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Microsoft Makes New SMB-Focused Office 365 Plans Available

Microsoft on Thursday launched three new new Office 365 subscription plans aimed at small-to-medium businesses (SMBs).

First announced in July, the new plans are called Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Essentials and Office 365 Business Premium. They replace the old Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business plans, respectively. Only the cost of the new Business plan went up with the change; the other two plans had price decreases.

Microsoft indicated that it had made the changes based on customer feedback.

All of the plans support organizations with up to 300 seats. Microsoft bumped up the seats supported in the new plans over the old plans with the exception of the old Midsize Business plan, which already had supported up to 300 seats.

Microsoft previously indicated that all of the basic features of the software would be maintained between the old plans and the new ones.

All of the new plans include 99.9 percent service level agreements (equivalent to about eight hours of downtime per year), Active Directory integration and phone support. In addition, the three plans all offer access to Office Online, which is Microsoft's suite of stripped-down Office applications that run in a Web browser, and 1TB of OneDrive for Business cloud-based storage.

The least expensive option is Office 365 Business Essentials, at $5 per user per month. That plan provides access to Office Online. It doesn't provide access to the full Microsoft Office suite of applications. To get the full Office suite, organizations need to subscribe to either the Business or Business Premium plans.

The Office 365 Business Essentials plan is the only plan that lacks Office use rights on Windows tablets and Apple iPads, as well as viewing and editing rights on smartphones. That's presently an involved consideration since what you can do on a mobile device with Office seems to vary by platform.

For instance, the Office for iPad app permits creating, editing and viewing documents. The Office Mobile app for the iPhone also permits those same actions. The Office Mobile app for Windows Phone, though, just allows viewing and editing of documents. Meanwhile, the Office Mobile app for Android smartphones just allows viewing and editing of documents. At least that's the breakdown provided at this Microsoft "Office on mobile devices" page.

Office 365 Business Premium, the most expensive plan at $12.50 per user per month, includes all of the features in the Business and Business Essentials plans.

Microsoft provides a comparison of all three plans at this page.

In July, Microsoft had recommended that users of the old Office 365 small business plans should wait to move to the new plans until "their first renewal after October 1, 2015." The idea, apparently, is that there's no real hurry for organizations using the older plans to make the move. Migration details are getting communicated to subscribers through the Message Center in the Office 365 admin center.

New subscribers can purchase the new plans either on a month-to-month basis, or they set it up so that they pay annually. Paying annually comes with a discount, but early cancellations "may incur some penalties," according to Microsoft's FAQ.

Microsoft's announcement of the new plans can be found here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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