The changing face of the Office 365 plans

 Dec 11, 2014

Since Office 365 was first released in Australia back in 2011, Telstra have had a virtual monopoly on anyone in the small to medium business category (up to approx. 250-300 users) getting an Office 365 account - apart from large Enterprise, Government and Education accounts who had the clout to go direct to Microsoft. This caused a lot of angst with a large percentage of service providers and support organisations, as their only option was to just refer clients who wanted Office 365 to Telstra - meaning that the service providers/resellers/support organisations etc. could not support their own clients “in the cloud,” and those clients had a fragmented support path. Well, this year has brought quite a number of changes to the Office 365 plans, and I think they have opened up and improved the access and features of Office 365 quite dramatically. On April 2, 2014, Microsoft made Office 365 available via their Open Licence Agreement through their resellers and retail partners who support Electronic Software Distribution (ESD). On the 29th August 2014, the Microsoft Online Portal was made available to both directly applying customers and Microsoft resellers, which broke the Telstra monopoly, and gave resellers the ability to support their own customers using Office 365. Telstra still offer Office 365 plans of course, so now potential Office 365 customers have three choices:
  1. They can go direct to Microsoft for their Office 365 plan and get general support from Microsoft, but will need to have a good understanding of Office 365 themselves. The new Microsoft Office 365 plans can be found in the table below.
  2. They can get their Office 365 plans from Telstra and have Telstra support for those plans (and it must be said that while the Telstra support was lambasted quite critically to start with, that support has improved considerably over time). Telstra’s current small business plans can be found here.
  3. They can now get their Office 365 plans from their current reseller or service provider, thereby allowing those Microsoft partners to bundle Office 365 with their existing services, and giving their customers a “one-stop-shop” for their billing and support channels.
You can get further information and details in the Microsoft Office 365 Go-To-Market Announcement here. And if you think that is good news, it gets even better. On the 1st October 2014, Microsoft upgraded their plans, particularly for the SMB market – and in some cases, the subscription fees have been reduced! Under the “old” plans you had 3 main plans for the SMB market – Office 365 Small Business, Office 365 Small Business Premium and Office 365 Midsize Business. The first two were limited to a maximum of 25 users, with the last having up to 300 users. The 4 main Enterprise plans – Hosted email, Office 365 E1, E3 and E4 plans – gave you unlimited users. The “new” plans, available since the 1st October 2014, increased the maximum user limit of 300 on all three SMB plans – now called Office 365 Business Essentials, Office 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium. The table below has been copied from the Microsoft website, and show the Australian pricing as at the time of writing this article.

The Enterprise plans have changed too – there are now three Enterprise plans – Office 365 Enterprise E1, Office 365 ProPlus, and Office Enterprise E3, with the previous Hosted Email plan now split into two: Exchange Online Plan 1 (at $4 user/month) and Exchange Online Plan 2 ($8.10 user/month), which includes the larger enterprise features such as Data Loss Prevention, voice mail and Archiving etc. The Archive Mailbox feature effectively is unlimited in size per user, but keep in mind here that no matter which plan you might be on that includes Exchange Online, each user gets a 50GB inbox, with an individual message size limit of 25Mb. Combine that with the fact that each Office 365 user for the last few months has had a storage limit of 1TB on their OneDrive for no extra cost, and it gives the Office 365 users one heck of a lot of online storage! As a comparison, Google Drive charges $9.95 per month for 1TB of storage and Apple’s iCloud is way behind with their charges of $24.99 per month for 1TB. The table below, again copied from the Microsoft website, shows the 2 new “Exchange only” standalone plans (in Australian dollars).

In addition, if you have purchased 150 seats or more, Microsoft has set up 2 free plans to help you get started with Office 365:
  1. The Office 365 Adoption Offer, where customers can chose to either have Microsoft do email migration for all qualified offer seats or reimburse Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) or a Cloud Productivity Competency Partner for qualified adoption activities.
  2. The Office 365 FastTrack Onboarding Center. This Center will support you in provisioning and configuration of Office 365 workloads including Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Office 365 Pro Plus, and Yammer.
So check out the new features and plans Office 365 now gives you for yourself, and start becoming “cloud savvy” – your business will thank you.

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About the Author:

Gordon Cowser  

With over 22 years real world and training experience, Gordon is our most senior IT Infrastructure trainer. His expertise includes but is not limited to; Microsoft Server and Client OS, Messaging, Collaboration, Active Directory and Network Infrastructure. Gordon also specialises in SharePoint technologies training in both technical and end user aspects. With his extensive skill-set he brings a thorough mentoring capability to the classroom where he can advise on technical issues and challenges often beyond the scope of the course curriculum. A very approachable and experienced training professional, he has the ability to establish credibility fast with students at all levels.

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