Microsoft Mobilizes SMBs With New Office 365 Plans

Enterprise mobile productivity at SMB prices? New subscription options are meant to help SMBs capitalize on the popularity of mobile devices.

Microsoft Office 365 for SMBs

Microsoft has released three new Office 365 plans tailored to small- and midsize-business (SMB) environments.

The new plans--Office 365 Business, Business Essentials and Business Premium--offer "more flexibility, with the ability to mix and match plans to meet specific employees' needs," Thomas Hansen, vice president of Microsoft Worldwide Small and Medium Business, said in a statement. "In addition, the new plans provide more value by offering additional services like Yammer for social networking within a company."

The new subscription options arrive in the wake of several additions and enhancements to the Office 365 ecosystem. Last month, Microsoft began rolling out a Yammer-inspired collaboration feature called Office 365 Groups. On Sept. 8, the company released Office Delve (formerly Oslo), an app that leverages machine learning to surface content and information that is relevant to a user's role or projects.

Now, Microsoft is offering Office plans aimed at the growing number of small-business users that rely on more than just one device to get work done.

Citing a Microsoft-commissioned survey from the Boston Consulting Group, Hansen revealed that "62 percent of small-business employees use mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to access their email, which is up from 39 percent just three years ago." The increased use of mobile devices and cloud computing also has an impact on the bottom line, he argued.

"Given this new norm, SMBs are realizing that their competitive advantage comes from what they do with technology in and out of the office," stated Hansen. Boston Consulting Group's research "found that tech-savvy SMBs—those using modern technologies such as the cloud—grew their revenue 15 percentage points faster than their counterparts using less technology," he added.

Forty-two percent of SMBs credit cloud and mobile solutions with better customer relationships, the research group found. Forty percent expect such technologies to increase revenues and profits.

Starting at $5 per user per month with an annual commitment, the cloud-enabled Office 365 Business Essentials plan includes Office Online—the Web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Publisher—along with 1TB of OneDrive for Business Cloud storage, Exchange email, Lync online meetings, SharePoint Sites and Yammer. Office apps for PCs, smartphones and tablets are not included.

The Office 365 Business plan, at $8 per user per month, swaps out the cloud email and collaboration services (Exchange email, Lync, SharePoint Sites and Yammer) for installable Office apps, Office for iPad and Windows tablets and Office for smartphones. Finally, Office 365 Business Premium combines both Business and Business Essentials for $12.50 per user per month.

All three plans include a four-nines (99.99 percent) "financially backed uptime guarantee," 24/7 phone support and a seat cap of 300 users. They also offer Active Directory support for on-premise single sign-on functionality.

"We made these changes to the existing Office 365 plans in response to feedback from our customers, and as part of our longstanding commitment to bring the benefits of cloud-based productivity to every SMB," said Hansen.

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...