During discussions with our clients regarding Office 365 plans, I realized that most of the people are not aware of differences in Office client apps that comes with different Office 365 plans. Instead, most people think that all Office 365 plans, that include Office client apps, actually contain same Office client applications (Word, Excel, Outlook,…). For example, Office 365 E3 contains Office client apps as well as Office 365 Business Premium. However, these are not the same (although very similar) Office client apps. This misunderstanding can sometimes lead to wrong licensing decisions and/or missing functionalities. And that’s the reason I’m writing this post.
So, if you decided to license your Office client applications through Office 365 (instead of buying standalone Office package), you should know that we are basically talking about two, very similar but still different, licensing options – Office 365 ProPlus and Office 365 Business. Both can be purchased separately, or as a part of some Office 365 plans.
Office 365 Business is also integrated in Office 365 Business Premium. Similarly, Office 365 ProPlus is integrated in Office 365 Enterprise E3 and E5 license plans.
Although Office 365 ProPlus and Office 365 Business provide very similar functionalities and features, they are not the same product. Users tend to think that Office applications provided in the Office 365 ProPlus package are exactly the same, as the Office applications in Office 365 Business; this is because both versions are installed in a same way and provide almost the same user experience.
Both Office 365 ProPlus and Office 365 Business provide Office client apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher, and Skype for Business. Also, in both versions, you can use these apps on up to five devices per user, and in both versions you have the ability to get Office updates as long as you have valid license.
However, there are number of differences between Office 365 ProPlus and Office 365 Business.
The most important differences are:
• Office 365 Business can be deployed on up to 300 users per organization, while Office 365 ProPlus does not have such a limitation.
• Office 365 ProPlus provides Microsoft Skype for Business application while Office 365 Business does not.
• Office 365 ProPlus allows you to run Office client apps in virtual desktop scenario, while Office 365 Business does not allow this.
• Office 365 ProPlus supports features for archiving and compliance such as Exchange Online and SharePoint Online Archiving and Compliance, while Office 365 Business does not. Besides, you can integrate Office client apps from Office 365 ProPlus with Azure Information Protection. Client applications from Office 365 Business does not fully support integration with Azure Information Protection.
• Office 365 ProPlus supports Group Policy–based deployment configuration. This is not possible with Office 365 Business.
• Office 365 ProPlus provides InfoPath Designer application while Office 365 Business does not. Also, Power Query, Power Pivot and Power View are not supported in Office 365 Business.
As you can see, most of differences are not visible to the end user, but admins should be aware of these differences – especially in medium sized companies that usually go with Office 365 Business Premium as their choice. And yes, this is usually good choice for small and mid-sized companies unless you need some functionality that is available only in Office 365 ProPlus and not in Office 365 Business. For example, if you are running a 100 users company and plan to go with Office 365, you’ll probably think about Office 365 Business Premium. However, if you go this way, and later decide that you want to deploy Azure Information Protection to your clients and have it integrated in Office apps – you will not be able to do that. If you run into this scenario (or already have it) you will need to buy your users Office 365 ProPlus or E3 license.