A Cheat Sheet to Selecting the Right Microsoft Subscription for Your Business

Microsoft’s M365 offers a suite of cloud-based productivity tools that help companies build business agility by improving accessibility, security, and recoverability while saving costs.  

Unfortunately, getting onto the M365 bandwagon isn’t as straightforward as punching in your credit card number. Microsoft offers seven M365 plans, and it isn’t always easy for businesses to navigate the licensing maze. 

This post reviews these M365 subscription plans and helps you decide which is right for your business. 

What’s Microsoft 365? 

M365 combines Microsoft Office 365 apps with robust cloud and security features to enhance communication and collaboration. Besides the Office suite many know and love (i.e., Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook), M365 offers an all-in-one solution to meet evolving IT needs of the modern workspace. 

The Four Levels of Microsoft 365 For Business 

M365 for business comes in 4 tiers: 

  1. Microsoft 365 Business Basic (formerly Office 365 Business Essentials)
  2. Microsoft 365 Business Standard (formerly Office 365 Business Premium)
  3. Microsoft 365 Business Premium (formerly Microsoft 365 Business)
  4. Microsoft 365 Apps for Business or Enterprise (formerly Office 365 Business) 

Payment Options

Microsoft offers “New Client Experience (NCE)” program pricing which runs on an annual basis, or customers can pay a 20% premium to stay on a month-to-month plan. 

Here’s what you get in each tier: 

Microsoft 365 Business Basics 

For $7.20 per user per month* or $6 if you choose the NCE program, you can use the web and mobile (but not desktop) versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The plan also includes Teams, Exchange, OneDrive, and Sharepoint. However, you dont get the complete feature sets for teamwork, communication, security, and calendaring. 

The plan also doesn’t include PC and mobile device management or advanced threat protection—falling short of helping businesses achieve the accessibility and security they need to improve business agility.  

While the Basic plan can be a low-cost option for a small local business to get its feet wet with the M365 suite, it isn’t optimal for companies that seek to support a modern, mobile workforce and meet fast-changing security and compliance standards. 

Microsoft 365 Business Standard 

This full-featured plan gives you access to web, mobile, and desktop versions of all Premium Office apps, including Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher (PC only), and Access (PC only), plus secure cloud services (i.e., Teams, Exchange, OneDrive, and Sharepoint) for $15 per user per month or $12.50 NCE*. 

You can also access Microsoft Forms, Lists, and Bookings to support external and internal communication. However, the plan doesnt include cloud archive and long-term preservation policies with Exchange Online Archiving, PC and mobile device management, and advanced threat protection. 

The M365 Business Standard plan is sufficient for most businesses to support a mobile workforce and remote collaboration. However, it lacks the top-tier features for implementing a robust digital transformation strategy. 

Microsoft 365 Business Premium 

For $26.40 per user per month or $22 NCE*, the Premium plan gives you access to all the Premium Office apps and secure cloud services, plus Azure Information Protection (AIP) for document discovery, classification, and protection.  

It also offers cyber threat protection and device management, which aren’t included in other business plans. These features allow you to implement advanced security measures like mobile device management (MDM) and conditional access. You can also remotely set up, update, or wipe devices to support a truly mobile workforce. 

The M365 Business Premium plan provides the advanced framework required to improve accessibility, security, and recoverability to support your business growth and long-term success.  

Microsoft 365 Apps For Business 

If you want access to all the M365 apps (i.e., Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Access) but don’t require the cloud services like Outlook and Teams (you’ll still get OneDrive for cloud file storage), this plan can meet your needs for $9.96 per user per month or $8.30 NCE*. 

While this option can be a good alternative for businesses that use the Office apps but not much else, the lack of secure cloud services like Teams, Exchange, and SharePoint may hamper collaboration and prevent organizations from achieving optimal business agility required to stay competitive in todays digital environment. 
*Reflective of current Microsoft pricing. Subject to change. 

But Wait, There’s More

Enterprise Plans 

Beyond the Business subscriptions outlined above, there are Enterprise (E) and Government (G) plan options available which offer additional security and compliance features designed to meet more rigorous standards.  


The E1 plan is suitable for businesses that primarily rely on web-based applications and collaboration tools, making it a cost-effective choice for organizations with budget constraints. While it may lack some advanced features available in higher-tier plans, the E1 plan still offers a solid foundation for improving communication and collaboration within your business. The E3 plan provides businesses with access to all the Premium Office apps and secure cloud services, including Azure Information Protection (AIP) for document discovery, classification, and protection. It also offers cyber threat protection and device management capabilities.  

The E5 plan, on the other hand, includes advanced security and compliance features such as advanced threat protection, advanced compliance, information protection, and identity and access management. The Enterprise plans are most suitable for large organizations that require extensive security and compliance features. 

Government Plans 

The G1 plan offers government organizations access to web and mobile versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, along with other collaboration tools like Teams, Exchange, OneDrive, and SharePoint. 

The G3 plan includes all the features of G1, along with advanced security and compliance features. 

The G5 plan provides government organizations with the most comprehensive set of security and compliance features, making it suitable for organizations with stringent regulatory requirements.

The GCC plan is designed for U.S. government customers and includes features tailored to meet government security and compliance standards. It offers web and mobile versions of Office apps, along with other essential collaboration tools. 

The GCC High plan, on the other hand, provides an even higher level of security and compliance features, making it suitable for organizations with more sensitive data. 

CMMC (Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification) 

CMMC is a certification framework that assesses the cybersecurity maturity of defense contractors. Microsoft offers CMMC compliance support to help these organizations meet the necessary security requirements for working with the Department of Defense (DoD). 

F1 Licensing 

F1 Licensing is designed specifically for frontline workers who may not require access to the full suite of Office apps but still need basic productivity tools. This plan includes features like Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneDrive, tailored to meet the needs of frontline workers.  

NCE (Nonprofit Cloud Essentials) 

NCE (not to be confused with the pricing model mentioned above!) is a specialized licensing program for eligible nonprofit organizations. It offers discounted pricing and includes access to Office apps, cloud services, and collaboration tools to support the unique requirements of nonprofit organizations. 

When selecting the right Microsoft subscription for your business, consider the size of your organization, the level of security and compliance needed, and the specific requirements of your industry or sector. Microsoft provides a wide range of plans to ensure that businesses of all sizes and industries can find a suitable solution. 

Choosing the Right M365 Plan is Just the First Step 

M365 offers almost every app a business needs in a single suite. You dont have to manage multiple vendors, spend money on overlapping features, and worry about data security risks caused by tool sprawl. But choosing the right plan is just the beginning—you must set up your IT infrastructure and configure the apps to support effective implementation. 

At Entech, we help our clients achieve and maintain business agility by responding to shifting market landscapes, workforce trends, cybersecurity best practices, and regulatory requirements. We provide expert guidance to help you implement M365 to support your business processes effectively, lower operating costs, and improve your security posture. 

Learn more about our business agility solutions and get in touch to see how we can help you future-proof your business. 

Unlocking ROI: How SMBs Can Adopt a Business Agility Mindset; download the guide

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