Microsoft 365 Business Hits General Availability

After a three-month beta period, the Business edition of Microsoft 365 is now ready for production use.

Microsoft 365 Business is part of the new Microsoft 365 suite that Microsoft announced in July's Inspire partner conference. An overhaul of the older Secure Productive Enterprise product, Microsoft 365 brings together Office 365, the Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) device configuration and management service, and Windows 10 upgrades and licenses.

Three other editions of Microsoft 365 are already in the market: Microsoft 365 Enterprise, Microsoft 365 F1 for firstline workers, and a version with two licensing options for educational institutions.

In preview since August, Microsoft 365 Business is designed for small and midsize organizations with up to 300 users. With the release Wednesday, Microsoft is hoping to entice the millions of customers who already pay $12.50 per user per month for Office 365 Business Premium to pay an additional $7.50 for Microsoft 365 Business, and take advantage of the additional configuration, management and security services, new apps, and Windows 10.

Those who manage Office 365 Business Premium users will be transitioned to the Microsoft 365 portal. The Microsoft 365 portal is effectively the same as the Office 365 portal, just with additional features, said Caroline Goles, Microsoft's director of Office for SMBs.

"We designed it so it looks exactly the same, except it just lights up those extra device cards," she said during a pre-launch demo in New York City. "If you manage Office 365, it will be familiar but will bring in those new Microsoft 365 capabilities."

Unlike the Enterprise version, Microsoft 365 Business includes a scaled-down iteration of EMS suited for smaller organizations. Garner Foods, a specialty provider of sauces based in Winston-Salem, N.C., is among the first to test and deploy the new service. Already an Office 365 E3 customer, Garner Foods was looking to migrate its Active Directory servers to Azure Active Directory, according to COO Heyward Garner, who was present at the New York demo.

"They were able to downgrade most of their Office 365 users and gain the security and management capabilities offered with Microsoft 365," said Chris Oakman, president and CEO of Solace IT Solutions, the partner who recommended and deployed the service for Garner Foods. "It's a tremendous opportunity for small business."

As part of its Microsoft 365 Business release on Wednesday, Microsoft is introducing three new tools for business users called Connections (designed for e-mail marketing campaigns), Listings (for those who want to perform brand engagement on Facebook, Google, Bing and Yelp) and Invoicing (to generate customer bills with integration into QuickBooks). These are in addition to previously announced apps: Microsoft Bookings for scheduling and managing appointments, MileIQ for tracking mileage and Outlook Customer Manager for managing contacts.

The tools are available for customers in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, and are included with the $20 per user per month subscription. These apps can all be managed in the Microsoft Business Center, and Microsoft is considering additional tools for future release.

Microsoft is also releasing Microsoft StaffHub, a new tool for firstline workers designed to help them manage their work days, for Microsoft 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium subscriptions.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.