Microsoft 365 vs Office 365: Differences Explained

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In recent years, there has been confusion surrounding Microsoft’s naming conventions, specifically when it comes to the online subscription plans. Microsoft’s flagship cloud-based suite Office 365 is often mixed up with Microsoft 365. But aren’t they the same product? What are the main differences, if any, between Microsoft 365 and Office 365? Is one better than the other?

In this blog post, I help you find the answers to all the aforementioned questions by taking a closer look at both Office 365 and Microsoft 365, discussing the history behind the naming, and listing the different plans and corresponding features.

Before we start
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A brief history of Office 365. What is Office 365?

Since 1995, Microsoft has consistently released a new desktop version of Office every two to three years. Each version improved upon the previous iteration enough to make the purchase worthwhile for loyal Office users. New applications and plans were introduced with every Office release, progressively turning the suite into a comprehensive package of collaborative tools for businesses of all sizes.

Office 2010 was the first desktop version to include online functionality with web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Right after the release of Office 2010, Microsoft announced Office 365, a cloud-based subscription model version of Office. Microsoft’s Office 365 officially launched in 2011 and incorporated Office Web Apps with Exchange for email, SharePoint for web hosting, and Skype for Business (formerly known as Lync).

In 2013, the Office 365 platform underwent a major overhaul. Microsoft introduced new subscription plans: Small Business Premium, Midsize Premium, and Pro Plus, University, and Home Premium. It also added cloud-based services to the package such as OneDrive, the file hosting service, and Yammer, the social networking platform.

The 2013 update of Office 365 was a pivotal point in the platform’s history as all subsequent releases were built upon the features introduced in this version. By the end of 2019, the services provided by Office 365 were spread across a multitude of plans dedicated for personal, business, and enterprise use including Personal, Home, Business, Business Essentials, 365 Business Premium, Microsoft 365 Business, Office 365 ProPlus, and Office 365 Enterprise.

Most of the plans above were renamed in mid-2020 when a sizable part of Office 365 was unified with Microsoft 365, but more on that later.

What is Microsoft 365?

In 2017, Microsoft bundled Windows 10 Enterprise with Office 365 Business Premium and Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS) and released the package under the name Microsoft 365.

Up until 2020, Microsoft 365 exclusively offered businesses Windows 10 licenses and a fully-featured Office 365 suite accompanied by advanced security features such as Advanced Threat Analytics, Azure Active Directory, Azure Information Protection, Cloud App Security, and Windows Intune.

At the end of Q1 2020, Microsoft announced that all of the Office 365 personal and SMB plans were effectively rebranded as Microsoft 365. Microsoft unified both products under one banner to offer customers a streamlined catalog of products and a wider variety of plans.

The renamed Microsoft 365 personal and family plans received a few improvements as they now provided users with the core Office 365 features and applications, in addition, to access to Microsoft Teams, greater OneDrive storage, phone, and audio conferencing tools, and an enhanced version of Microsoft Family Safety.

As for the Office 365 SMB plans, most of the existing packages were just renamed to include Microsoft 365 in their titles without introducing any significant changes to the applications and features included. Here is a list of all the renamed Microsoft 365 plans:

For home:

  • Microsoft 365 Personal (formerly known as Office 365 Personal): $6.99 user/month, license for 1 user, can be installed on up to 5 devices, 1TB of cloud storage (OneDrive), and access to desktop and web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, OneDrive, and Skype.
  • Microsoft 365 Family (formerly known as Office 365 Home): $9.99 user/month, license for 6 users, can be installed and used on up to 5 devices at the same time by each user, 1TB of cloud storage per user, and access to the same applications as the Microsoft 365 Personal plan.

For business:

  • Microsoft 365 Business Basic (formerly known as Office 365 Business Essentials): $5.00 user/month, ideal for small and medium-sized businesses, access to the web and mobile versions only of Office apps including Word, Excel, Outlook PowerPoint, and OneNote as well as collaborative tools like Exchange, Sharepoint Online and Microsoft Teams, 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage per user, 50GB of mailbox storage.
  • Microsoft 365 Apps for Business (formerly Office 365 Business): $8.25 user/month, access to up-to-date desktop versions of Office apps including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneDrive, Access, and Publisher, can be installed on up to 5 devices per user, 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage per user, 50GB of mailbox storage.
  • Microsoft 365 Business Standard (formerly known as Office 365 Business Premium): $12.50 user/month, combines the features available in both Business Basic and Apps for business plans in one package.
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium (formerly known as Microsoft 365 Business): $20.00 user/month, ideal for businesses with up to 300 employees, combines Microsoft 365 Business Standard with Windows 10 Business, Microsoft Intune, and Microsoft Defender for Office 365.

What is Office 365 used for?

Even after the rebranding of Office 365 into Microsoft 365, Microsoft did not completely retire Office 365. In fact, Office 365, as a brand, is still being used for enterprise, education, government plans.

Here is what is included in the Office 365 subscription plans:

Office 365 Enterprise has three main plans to choose from E1, E3, and E5. E1, the entry-level plan, provides small businesses with essential services like web-based Office apps, cloud storage, and email. E3, targeted at bigger enterprises, gives access to the full suite of online and offline Office applications alongside added security features. E5, Office 365’s top-tier plan, includes all the features present in E1 and E3 in addition to audio conferencing and advanced security functionality.

One additional plan has been recently added to the Office 365 Enterprise series. Microsoft chose to name the plan Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise (without the Office 365 name) due to the shared similarities with the Microsoft 365 Apps for Business plan.

  • Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise (formerly known as Office 365 ProPlus): similar to Microsoft 365 Apps for Business but offers 100GB of mailbox storage, access to Skype for Business, and advanced analytics tools like Delve Analytics and Power BI Pro.

The Office 365 Government plans offer various services and tools for U.S. governmental organizations and other companies that process data for governments. Similar to its Enterprise counterpart, Office 365 Government comes in three main plans: G1, G3, and G5. G1 is the only Office 365 plan that does not include Office applications in any shape or form. However, G1 users can take full advantage of Microsoft’s cloud-based services such as Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams. G3 and G5 reintroduce the core Office applications and includes advanced security features to meet U.S. compliance and security standards.

The three Office 365 Education plans A1, A3, and A5 for students, teachers, faculty, and staff improve classroom and school collaboration by offering cutting-edge productivity tools. The Office 365 A1 plan is completely free and features web-based Office apps and the following cloud-based services: Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams, Sway, Forms, Stream, Power Automate, Power Apps, School Data Sync, and Yammer. The higher-tier A3 and A5 plans add access to Office desktop apps, additional management, and security tools, and advanced compliance and analytics systems.

Enterprise and Education Microsoft 365 variants are also available in Microsoft’s expansive catalog of online subscription-based products. Microsoft 365 plans build upon their Office 365 counterparts offerings by adding corresponding versions of Windows and introducing advanced management and security features such as Advanced Security Reports, Conditional Access, Cloud App Security Discovery, Privileged Identity Management, and Insider Risk Management. Note that most Office 365 plans cost a fraction of the more comprehensive Microsoft 365 plans.

Wrapping up

Microsoft 365 and Office 365 are subscription-based products that provide users with up-to-date collaborative tools and a safe cloud environment to work in. While most of the Office 365 plans have now been renamed to Microsoft 365, the offerings remain almost the same in terms of functionality, features, and cost. The currently existing Office 365 plans target bigger organizations that don’t have use for a Windows license but extensively use Office applications as well as Microsoft services such as Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams.

At the moment, Microsoft 365 plans cover a wide range of Microsoft products, starting with web-based Office applications and reaching all the way to Microsoft’s flagship operating system, Windows. The Microsoft 365 plans also include the most advanced online security features Microsoft has to offer. But without third-party Microsoft backup solutions, Microsoft 365 environments are still exposed to threats like accidental data deletion, internal threats, and malicious attacks like ransomware. NAKIVO Backup & Replication backs up Microsoft 365 data to onsite storage for easy and quick recovery in case of deletion or corruption. Deploy the Free Edition of NAKIVO Backup & Replication in minutes for free and keep your data safe for one full year.

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