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What Is The Difference Between The Office 365 Enterprise Plans?

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Last month we wrote a detailed post about the different update channels to choose from for Microsoft 365 (Office 365 ProPlus) based on your organization's needs, as well as the name changes that have occurred in the products over the last year. Now we are updating this post about the different plan options that Microsoft has for enterprises. We will be discussing Office 365 E1, E3, and E5, Microsoft Apps for enterprise, and Microsoft 365 E3, E5, F1, and F3. From pricing to productivity to security, each plan offers a deeper or more shallow dive into the Microsoft ecosystem.


What's important to remember, as we discussed in our earlier post and which Microsoft discusses here and here, is that while the naming conventions changed, the functionality didn't change. The Office 365 apps are still at the core of the offerings, but Microsoft 365 is a more encompassing Microsoft bundle which also includes products like Enterprise Mobility + Security (EM+S) tools and Windows 10 licenses.

This post outlines the plans and features of Microsoft 365 and Office 365 and the differences between the two service families. It also highlights why Microsoft made the changes and updates (such as replacing Office 365 ProPlus with Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise) and what the changes mean for large enterprises.

Office 365 Plans for Enterprise

Office 365 Apps enable you to create, collaborate, and share from anywhere on devices with a cloud-based suite of apps and services. It includes the following plans:

Office 365 E1

Office 365 E1, the lowest priced offering, costs $8 per user per month and does not include the desktop Office apps, but rather the web versions of the core Office apps. Its business services include email, file storage and sharing, intranet capability, meetings and IM, and five layers of security and monitoring.

The E1 plan, with its integrations with Teams and OneDrive and web versions of Office apps, allows productivity from anywhere. For full details and requirements, see Microsoft's overview page.

Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise (Previously Office 365 ProPlus)

This version is the go-to base version for productivity for the enterprise employee. It contains the enterprise editions of the Microsoft Office apps with cloud-based file storage and sharing. At $12 per user per month, it packs a lot of features. However, it does not support business email. Other features included are:

  • The web and mobile versions of the Office apps
  • Always up-to-date apps
  • Device and app management
  • Identity and access management
  • FastTrack assistance

It's the best budget-friendly plan if your business relies on webmail or has a preferred email client. However, it lacks an intranet, a video portal, corporate social networking, and advanced security capabilities. For full details, see Microsoft's overview detail page.

Office 365 E3

The E3 plan contains all the features of E1 and Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise, and costs $20 per user per month. It can be installed on up to five PCs or Macs, plus five tablets and five phones per user. The E3 plan has additional security and compliance, such as:

  • The ability to facilitate legal compliance with eDiscovery
  • More secure access to company resources and safe sharing of data internally and externally for safeguarding company data
  • Message encryption, rights management, and data loss prevention

This plan offers more robust security and control features on top of productivity. For a full list of features, please see Microsoft's E3 overview page.

Office 365 E5

The E5 plan has all of the E3 features, plus even more advanced security, analytics, voice capabilities, and compliance features, and costs $35 per user per month. This plan allows you to:

  • Make, receive, and transfer calls from anywhere and any device
  • Protect against malware and phishing from emails, links, etc.
  • Assess your compliance risks, govern and protect sensitive data, and effectively respond to regulatory requirements

The E5 plan is the most robust in the Office 365 plan series, offering a high level of protection, compliance, and productivity. For a complete list of its offerings, please see the E5 page from Microsoft.

Office 365 F3, For Frontline Workers

The F3 plan is the entry level plan for frontline workers in the field. Priced at $4 per user per month, it includes the web and mobile version of Office, 2GB of OneDrive storage per user, Microsoft Teams, business class email, security and monitoring.

The F3 plan empowers your frontline workforce with reliable productivity tools, and with its low price tag, allows an enterprise to offer it to all workers and ramp up fast. For full details, see Microsoft's F3 page.

Microsoft 365 Plans for Enterprise

Connect and empower every employee with Microsoft 365 solutions that enhance productivity and drive innovation at the enterprise level. With advanced device management, increased security, and innovative online services, the Microsoft 365 plans are a more robust choice for enterprises.

Microsoft 365 E3

The plan includes the best-in-class apps with core security and compliance capabilities. It costs $32 per user per month and is comparable to the Office 365 E3 plan. However, the Microsoft 365 E3 plan adds threat protection, namely Windows Defender Application Guard, Device Guard, and antivirus, plus Microsoft threat analytics.

On top of the always up-to-date Office apps, also included is Windows 10 Enterprise, Microsoft Intune, Autopilot, etc. This bundle of services combines Microsoft's top productivity offerings in an Evergreen IT environment with advanced security and management.

This plan is designed for enterprises that are already using or are migrating to using multiple Microsoft services where they can bundle licenses to save costs, and manage their IT estate more effectively. For a full list of features, see the Microsoft 365 E3 page.

Microsoft 365 E5

At $57 per user per month, this is the top tier of plans, which includes all the Microsoft 365 E3 features as well as PowerBI pro, audio calls and phone system integration. It also includes security features such as Microsoft 365 Defender (For Endpoint, Office 365, & Identity), Azure Active Directory Premium plan 2, and Cloud App Security. Another feature is advanced compliance, with Customer Lockbox, Advanced Data Governance, Advanced eDiscovery, etc.

This is the plan for enterprises that want to have the best in productivity, security, and compliance in an always up-to-date Evergreen IT environment, to have efficient and productive employees, and to focus on digital innovation. For full details on the E5 plan, please see Microsoft's overview page.

Microsoft 365 F1 & F3

Like the Office 365 F3 plan, the Microsoft 365 F1 & F3 plans are designed for the frontline workforce as opposed to the office worker. These plans both provide the Office apps and secure communication to get the job done. The F3 plan takes things further to increase productivity and collaboration. The F1 plan costs $4 per user per month, and the F3 plan costs $10 per user per month.

Some of the additional features of the F3 plan are Microsoft Defender, BitLocker, Credential Guard, SCCM, Windows 10 Enterprise, etc.

Which Plan Is Right For You?

The Office 365 and Microsoft Apps for Enterprise plans are made for organizations that want to provide their employees with the productivity tools they need — tools that are always up-to-date with the latest security and features. Since Office 365 doesn't include Windows 10, companies not ready to migrate to Windows 10 should choose this option. Also, companies that are heavily invested in proprietary or non Microsoft vendors for security and compliance might not be ready to shift to Microsoft for those needs yet.

The Microsoft 365 E3 and E5 plans are for the enterprises that want not only the productivity tools of the Office suite, but the most advanced security, compliance, device and user management possible. This option relies heavily on Microsoft, and in an Evergreen IT environment, makes updates and migrations within Microsoft products an almost painless process. 

For the full comparison of features between the Office 365 and Microsoft 365 models, please see this PDF and this article from Microsoft.

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