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What is Office 365? Office 365 Demystified



Hotality Office 365Exactly what is Office 365?


Lots of people are confused around what exactly Office 365 is.  Is it just email or it is something more?  Does it come with the latest Office suite of applications or not?  How is it any different to a hosted email solution?  And finally, how will it benefit my business?  Hotality can answer all these questions for you.


At its heart, Office 365 is a collection of different Microsoft on-line packages, some also come bundled with the latest Office 2016 applications that can be downloaded and installed onto a PC or Mac.


In typical Microsoft fashion though, there is also a different consumer offering that is also branded as Office 365, called Office 365 for Home.  We’ll only discuss the business offerings below as the Home version only allows 5 users to install Office locally on their PC’s or Mac’s and doesn’t come with email or document collaboration.


So what’s included in each package?


There are a number of different tiers and pricing models available, with some tiers only being available for businesses up to 300 users.


Each package has full 24×7 support by phone or web, with 99.9% uptime.  One thing to note is if you start on the 300 Users packages you can move to the Over 300 packages but you can’t go the other way.


Up to 300 Users


The table below gives you a brief understanding of what is included in the tier up to 300 users:


  • Office 365 Business Essentials – Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Skype for Business.  Online (but cut-down) versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint
  • Office 365 Busines – Locally installed versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher1, OneDrive for Business, for Windows and Mac.  Office applications on Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows phones
  • Office 365 Business Premium – Combines both packages above


Over 30o Users


  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 – Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Skype for Business, Yammer.  Online (but cut-down) versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint
  • Office 365 ProPlus – Locally installed versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher1, OneDrive for Business, for Windows and Mac.  Office applications on Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows phones, SharePoint Online, NO EMAIL
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3 – All the features of ProPlus and E3 above plus email archiving, rights management, data loss prevention and hosted voicemail support available
  • Office 365 Enterprise E5 – All features of E3 plus PSTN conferencing to dial in to Skype meetings, advanced security with threat protection, amongst others.


Is That It?


Well not quite.  There are also email-only packages branded as Office 365 but which do not have Office 365 in their name.  It’s no wonder why some people are confused.  These packages are:


  • Exchange Online Kiosk – Outlook Web Access and ActiveSync (Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows phone) only.  Does not support Outlook.  Ideal if you have someone who only uses a web browser, phone and tablet.
  • Exchange Online Plan 1 – As above, but supports Microsoft Outlook


There are many other packages available, with CRM, document collaboration, communication, security and auditing, mobile device management, and Azure Active Directory integration.  Look out for other articles on these in the future.


OK, so what else can you tell me?


Let’s go into a little more detail on what the major applications are and what they do.


Exchange Online


This is Microsoft’s customised version of Exchange and is provided and supported by them.  It was originally based on Exchange 2013 with additional features and enhancements added to it over time.  All of Microsoft’s energy and focus is on bringing new features to their cloud-based offerings first before their on-premise offerings.  As such, the on-premise release of Exchange 2016 came out after all the new features were released for Exchange Online first.


Each user (ie a person with a mailbox) has a 50 GB limit and needs their own license, be that Business Essentials, Exchange Online Kiosk or whatever.  A shared mailbox however – ie, a mailbox that is not a person but is shared between lots of people, like a Sales or Support mailbox – does not need a license.  Each mail sent or received can be up to 150 MB.


SharePoint Online


Documents, documents, documents, oh – and databases too, these are the core functions of SharePoint.  It is basically a large library which allows you to store all your company documents and information.  This can then be accessed over the web and downloaded and synced onto a PC.  Once on the PC it becomes just a normal file and folder path, the same as on any other drive letter.  The later versions of Windows can map a network drive straight to SharePoint online.


SharePoint – confusingly – has been re-branded a number of times and is known by different names by different people.  Depending upon what part of the Microsoft web site you happen to be on, it is now known as either OneDrive for Business also also SharePoint Online.  This tends to confuse people as OneDrive for Business is completely different to the OneDrive application that many home-users use.


Each person gets 1 TB of private file storage that only they can see and use, although they can elect to share individual documents or folders with others, whilst business documents reside in a shared area.  Basically, OneDrive for Business is where you store your personal documents, but SharePoint is where your company’s shared documents are kept.


SharePoint really is the ‘he who shall not be named’ of the Microsoft portfolio as most people think of it as far too complex for their needs when “all we need is a simple network file share to store our documents on.”  Look out for a later article when we explain just how fantastic and easy to use it really is – and how it will help your business keep control of who has access to what. Ever get that dreaded feeling where you realise Tom from Accounts has overwritten your spreadsheet you spent the whole morning working on?  Ever get frustrated that IT aren’t able to restore it for you because the latest version wasn’t backed up?  In the later article we’ll show you just how useful Sharepoint document versions will be to you.


Skype for Business


Formerly known as Microsoft Lync but now Skype for Business, this is a totally separate product to Skype although it is still a video and audio conferencing system.  By adding SIP trunks to it, your PC, Mac or phone running the Skype for Business app is able to make phone calls as it is were just a normal phone.  Video and audio conferencing from one employee’s machine straight to another is also possible, as is online instant chat and presence awareness.  This interfaces with Outlook so when you send a Skype for Business-enabled person an email Outlook will show if the recipient is available at their desk or not (based on how many minutes ago they were typing for example).


How can Hotality help?


Do you want the hassle and complexity of supporting and managing email or collaboration services?  Of course you don’t.


Or do you want to have a better way to share and securely give access to company documents to roaming users?


Contact us to book a free appointment for us to speak to you and discuss the options in more detail.  We’ve moved companies from their own on-premise systems to Office 365 – let us help move you too.


1 Windows only

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