The SMB Guide to Office 365

Kris WilkinsonJuly 28, 2021

Microsoft has an overwhelming number of licensing options. It can be difficult to understand the available software and services, let alone choose an appropriate license for your team.  We’ve put together the following information to help you make the right choice.

Office 365 licensing should be based on the size of your business. If your organization has more than 300 users, you must look at their Enterprise licensing options. If your business has less, Microsoft offers unique bundles to save money while still maintaining access to enterprise features. This article pertains to small and medium-sized businesses only.

We’re going to cover the following:

  • Licensing types (Subscription vs Perpetual)
  • Office 365 Apps
  • Office 365 Services
  • Office 365 Licenses

For more information on Office 365, and its packages, click here.

Licensing Types

It’s important to understand the difference between subscription and perpetual licensing. For decades, Microsoft offered perpetual licenses of Microsoft Office (e.g. Office 2010, Office 2013) and other server software. Perpetual essentially means that you buy it once and use that specific version until you purchase another version in the future.

Office 365 is a subscription-based service where each user requires a month-to-month subscription. When you no longer want the service, you cancel the subscription for that specific user (or all users) and access to the software or service is no longer available. The benefits of Microsoft subscriptions:

  • No up-front purchase is required
  • You are automatically upgraded to the latest versions (including major releases)
  • You can cancel at any time (unless you choose an annual subscription)
  • Licensing keys are usually moot (not need to track them or purchase new licenses if lost)
  • Licenses are transferrable (some perpetual licenses are bound to users and hardware)
  • You can choose what is appropriate and save money

Office 365 Apps

Most of us have used Microsoft Office for decades. When you choose Office 365, you can select a license that includes the latest version of the Microsoft Office software.

Certain licenses include the full software suite while others offer a limited web version only. For subscriptions that include the full license, you are typically provided 5 licenses that can be installed on your own devices (PC, mobile phone, etc.).

Here are the applications that are typically available:


Outlook is an e-mail application through which users can send, receive, and manage e-mails.


Word is a word-processing software that allows a user to create, modify, adjust, etc. electronic documents.


Excel is a spreadsheet program meant for organizing and managing information and data.


PowerPoint is a program that allows a user to create, view, present, etc. slideshows.


Microsoft Publisher is a publishing application that allows a user to create graphic works. It is similar to Adobe InDesign but aims to be a bit more user-friendly.


Access is a database management program. It combines the Jet Database Engine with a graphical user interface (GUI) and software development tools.  Access is typically not required for most businesses.

Office 365 Services

Although Microsoft originally started out as a software company, they now offer cloud-hosted options of their most popular server platforms. This eliminates the need to purchase and maintain expensive physical servers and perpetual versions of their popular platforms like Microsoft Windows Server, Microsoft Exchange (e-mail), and SharePoint (collaboration).

Ideally, you should work with an IT consultant to fully understand the benefits of each service and whether they make sense for your business. All of Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud services are well-established and highly secure, typically well beyond what the average business can facilitate internally. They are available per user with a subscription (just like the Microsoft Office software above).

Here are the latest services:


Teams is an instant-messaging platform that allows your employees to communicate and collaborate in real-time. This application offers per-team communication, file access, and security. Teams offers instant messaging, voice calls, video calls, and integration with many 3rd party software vendors to pull everything together into a simple interface. This is quickly becoming Microsoft’s most popular platform.


Exchange is a mail server that facilitates e-mail services (typically everything you see in Outlook). While using e-mail on Office 365, the backend service is Microsoft Exchange.


OneDrive is a personal cloud container for each user that can be used to synchronize Desktop, Documents, and Pictures folders to the cloud so that they are accessible from a mobile device.


SharePoint is a web-based collaborative tool that integrates with Microsoft Office. It is primarily used as a document management and storage system (e.g. file server), but it is highly customizable and is used in many ways across organizations.  It offers advanced full-text document searching, revision control on documents, live-collaboration on documents, forms, lists, and more.

PC & Mobile Device Management (InTune/AutoPilot/Azure Active Directory)

A cloud-based management tool that provides Windows and mobile-device management and automation. It aims to provide unified endpoint management of equipment in a way that protects data. These services apply security policies to protect business data on all your devices, including iOS, Android®, and Windows PCs. This service replaces a number of existing on-premise services.

Advanced Threat Protection

ATP (known as Defender) adds enhanced protection for the Office 365 environment by protecting against sophisticated threats hidden in email attachments and links, and offering cutting-edge defenses against zero-day threats, ransomware, and other advanced malware. Administrators can also remotely wipe company data from lost or stolen devices with a selective wipe from Intune and restrict copying or saving of company information to unauthorized apps and locations with app protection for Office mobile apps.

Office 365 Licenses









Price $6.40 per user $16.00 per user $25.60 per user $11.00 per user


Outlook X X X
Word X X X
Excel X X X
PowerPoint X X X
Publisher X
Access X


Teams X X X
Exchange X X X
OneDrive X X X X
SharePoint X X X
PC & mobile device management X
Advanced Threat Protection X


Which license should I choose?

Business Premium is the package that SIRKit recommends to most of its clients. This package is the most comprehensive available, giving access to both apps and services. The premium version includes access to Microsoft Azure, which can help remove the need for a physical server by moving services to the cloud.

Moving to Office 365 has the following benefits:

  • Simplified information management
  • Enhanced security with a zero-trust security model
  • Eliminates the need for on-premise servers/hardware
  • Eliminates the need for a VPN
  • A simple per-user licensing model that scales with your business
  • Access to the latest tools as they are released without major capital considerations

Other packages can be appropriate depending on your business’ needs. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have. We would be happy to help you choose the package that is right for you.