Office 365 vs. Microsoft 365

February 7, 2020
Mike Kaufman

Office 365 vs Microsoft 365. How do you know which is the right choice? As a Qualified Multi-Tenant Hoster (QMTH) with Microsoft, Aktion is able to offer our customers the use of certain Office 365 subscriptions in the Aktion Cloud.  This is a great benefit, as many Aktion Cloud users need Office in their hosted environment.  Prior to our QMTH status those customers frequently had to pay for separate subscriptions for this.  Now, many of those customers use the same Office 365 subscription for both their workstation and their Aktion Cloud profiles.

Several of the Enterprise Office 365 subscriptions, as well as all of the Microsoft 365 subscriptions, are eligible for this licensing right, called Shared Computer Activation (SCA).  The Office 365 Business products are generally not, with one exception – a subscription bundle called Microsoft 365.  Microsoft’s naming conventions for these products have caused a lot of confusion, and we’d like to help clear some of that up.  See below for more detailed descriptions of the Office 365 and Microsoft 365 products.

Office 365

Far and away more widespread than the newer Microsoft 365 bundle, Office 365 is the original Microsoft Office subscription. It comes with common Microsoft Office applications like Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint with cloud features like OneDrive.  Additional options can add hosted Exchange mailboxes, threat protection, archiving, and more.  There are also subscriptions available for additional applications like Project or Visio.  Depending on number of users and required features, an organization can select Office 365 subscriptions from one of the two main categories described below (or both: product mixing is allowed).  There are also some specific plans for Non-Profits, Government use, and Educational institutions, but we will not explore those here.

Office 365 Business

Office 365 Business is designed for the Small to Medium Business (SMB) market.  Generally more cost effective than the Enterprise plans, the Business plans (Essential, Business, and Business Premium) offer a nice range of core features but come with some limitations, as well.  Primarily, the Business plans are limited to 300 users, and do not include Shared Computer Activation (SCA) rights – making them ineligible for use within an Aktion Cloud Services environment.

Office 365 Enterprise

For those businesses who require a different level of functionality, Microsoft offers the Office 365 Enterprise family of subscriptions (ProPlus, E1, E3, and E5).  These plans are focused on some of the features required by larger organizations, have options focused on meeting compliance requirements and more automated roll-out.  Most of these plans (except E1) also include the SCA rights – which means they can be used in an Aktion Cloud Services environment.


Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 (M365) is a bundling Office 365, Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS), and Windows 10 licensing.  This makes it a great choice for a Windows 7 upgrade path where needed.  The Widows 10 license also works for Virtual Desktops in Microsoft Azure.  Additionally, all the Office 365 versions included with Microsoft 365 come with the Shared Computer Activation licensing rights mentioned above.  Microsoft 365 subscriptions belong to one of three categories: Business, Enterprise, and Education (we won’t cover Education here).

Microsoft 365 Business

The Microsoft 365 Business plan is designed for SMB deployments.  It includes Office 365 Business, and some EMS and Intune (Microsoft’s Mobile Device Management solution) features.  Like the Office 365 Business products, Microsoft 365 Business may not have more than 300 users. They also don’t support any sort of group policy.  This subscription also includes an upgrade for Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8.1 Pro to Windows 10 Pro.

Microsoft 365 Enterprise

Microsoft 365 Enterprise subscriptions are based off the Office 365 Enterprise plans, E3 and E5, and come with Office ProPlus.  Additional features offered include Advanced Threat Protection, more fully featured versions of EMS and Intune, and other Enterprise focused options.

Office 365 vs Microsoft 365 is all about choosing the right solution for your business.