Microsoft Expands Office 365 Plan Switching Options

As their org charts grow, Microsoft wants to make it easier for businesses to transfer between subscriptions of the company's cloud-enabled productivity software.

Growing businesses buy more software. Microsoft is simplifying the Office 365 upgrade process with new, more flexible additions to the Switch Plans feature, the company announced on Dec. 19.

Office 365 Switch Plans, first released this summer, enables businesses to move from one Office 365 subscription to another without jumping through hoops, according to Paul Andrew, technical product manager for Office 365. "Previously, switching between plans required customers to manually reassign user licenses and call Office 365 support to cancel the old subscription," he noted in an Aug. 1 company blog post.

Following brisk adoption, Microsoft grew its Office 365 product portfolio in February with the introduction of Office 365 Small Business Premium and Office 365 ProPlus. "The number of small and midsize businesses using Office 365 has also grown by 150 percent in the past 12 months," said Microsoft in press remarks.

Sporting new wizard-driven account management options, the Switch Plans feature enabled organizations to make Office 365 plan changes "without calling support or manually reassigning licenses," Andrew added. The option appears in the Office 354 Admin center, within the Purchase Services page under the Licenses.

At first, Microsoft supported only a handful of transitions, each largely limited to its product class. For instance, organizations running Office 365 Small Business P1 could switch to Small Business Premium P2. Similarly, Office 365 Enterprise and Education customers could only swap their licenses for other products in their respective plan families, as Microsoft refers to them.

Now, some customers have more options to choose from.

In a Dec. 19 blog update, Andrew returned to announce that his company had eliminated some of the barriers that may have kept some businesses from upgrading their Office 365 subscriptions. "Now Small Business subscribers can switch to both Midsize and Enterprise plans, and Midsize Business subscribers can switch to Enterprise plans," he wrote.

Making the move to an eligible plan requires little more than selecting a new subscription, viewing the changes in pricing and features, and pulling the trigger, boasted Andrew. "When you use Switch Plans, we automatically reassign your licenses and credit you the unused portion of your old subscription."

Switch Plans works more seamlessly for businesses that purchase their subscriptions directly from Microsoft. Andrew warned that "syndication customers should contact their partner to use the Switch Plans feature." Open License customers—organizations using the software under the Office 365 Open channel partner program—cannot access Switch Plans.

Customers with custom domains will also want to exercise caution. "You may not be able to switch plans if you have a custom domain associated with your Office 365 tenant. If this happens you can remove the custom domain from your tenant and add it back after you have switched plans," informed Andrew.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...