Differences Between Office 365 and Microsoft 365

Microsoft offers two different subscription products that give users access to the Office Suite of products, Office 365 and Microsoft 365. Both offerings have evolved over the years to offer a more expansive set of products design to help people navigate the digital workplace and stay productive with growing demands. We’ll explain the difference between the two products to help you choose which one is right for your organization.

Office 365 and Microsoft 365 are both productivity suites and give access to the Microsoft Office applications but are differentiated by target audience and size of each organization

With Microsoft offering multiple subscription plans it can get confusing understanding the differences between Office 365 and Microsoft 365. On the surface they both offer access to the most popular productivity apps like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint but there are some key distinctions and differences in price points to be aware of.

Let’s jump in!

A Brief History of Microsoft Office

To understand Microsoft’s current productivity offerings, it helps to have a basic understanding of Microsoft Office.

Back in the days of boxed software, Microsoft sold Office as a one-time purchase. New versions came out every few years of floppy disk or cd rom that businesses had to buy at full price to stay current. Prior to the subscription licensing model, there were a number of people who would also refuse to upgrade software causing many Windows cyber security issues, or businesses would intentionally or unintentionally purchase or pirate unlicensed software leading to numerous lawsuits from Microsoft.

This started to change in 2010 when Microsoft introduced Office 365, a cloud-based subscription plan that’s now become the norm across most organizations.

In 2017, Microsoft began offering a new subscription, aimed at corporate and enterprise customers by bundling Windows 10, enterprise management tools, and advanced security into a complete cloud solution under the name Microsoft 365.

Each one of these offerings contains the same core products, but there are some key differences.

How Office 365 and Microsoft 365 are Different

At their foundation, Office 365 provides hosted access to productivity apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint while Microsoft 365 combines Office 365 with Windows 10 Enterprise plus additional security and device management capabilities.

Office 365

This is the least expensive and most approachable subscription for Microsoft’s Productivity apps, and the one that most people will be familiar with if they’ve used the Microsoft Office Suite in the past. It includes the following features.

  • Cloud or Desktop Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc.)
  • Access to the Power Platform of Apps at higher tiers
  • Basic security and management features

Office 365 is the entry point for Microsoft Office Subscriptions. It will be the preferred solution for small businesses and many mid-sized organizations. Subscription tiers range from low-cost cloud services and apps to more expensive comprehensive solutions for business process and reporting automation.

Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 is more expensive than Office 365 but offers more advanced features targeted towards mid-sized to Fortune 100 companies. The core set of features, such as access to productivity apps will be the same as Office 365 with most of the added benefits coming from back-end services managed by professional IT departments.

  • Full Office 365 apps and services
  • Windows 10 Enterprise
  • Advanced security for devices and identity management
  • Sophisticated deployment and management controls

The advanced security and deployment features are what really sets Microsoft 365 apart. The features allow companies to centralize the management of various Windows devices, centrally manage security policies, and ensure higher levels of data retention and compliance that are largely irrelevant to smaller organizations.

What are the Advanced Features of Microsoft 365 vs Office 365?

The term “Advanced Features” can be somewhat ambiguous, so we wanted to add some context around it. The following is a breakdown of some of the features that you get access to with Microsoft 365 subscriptions that are not available with Office 365.

Intune Device Management

Microsoft 365 includes Intune, a cloud-based device management tool that lets you manage PCs, laptops, mobile devices, and tablets from a unified dashboard. Intune enables organizations to:

  • Enroll devices to apply standard configurations across the companys fleet
  • Push apps and policies to maintain compliance on all managed devices
  • Apply security measures like encryption, passwords, and wiping to protect corporate data.

For example, when onboarding new employees, you can setup their company laptop, pre-install apps, and apply security policies from the Intune portal.

Windows Update Management

Managing update cycles with Windows used to be a nuisance at best, and a full-time job for IT departments at worst. With recent advancements in cloud computing and better device management with products like Intune, a majority of these tasks can be centrally controlled and reported on.

IT teams can quickly deploy and track patch and update progress as well as detect issues with an update roll-out in near real-time.

The advanced capabilities for managing Windows updates, security policies, and monitoring inventory are what sets Microsoft 365 apart.

Office 365 vs Microsoft 365 Price Comparison

You can access the most recent pricing for the different tiers of Microsoft Office and Microsoft 365 through their pricing website. It’s the best resource for up-to-date pricing. For convenience, we have included screenshots of their current pricing to get a feel for which products are included in each tier and the pricing difference between Office 365 and Microsoft 365.

Pricing for Office 365

Screenshot from Microsoft.com explaining the different products that come with Office 365 subscription SKUs

The lowest tiers offer the core level of functionality that you are used to with Microsoft Office, while the higher tiers add access to products that are extremely powerful, but may not be as widely recognized or used.

Pricing for Microsoft 365

The product offerings for Microsoft 365 may look very similar to Office 365 on the surface, but the addition of Windows 10 licenses along with some advanced enterprise features that support IT teams make up a majority of the difference in licensing costs above Office 365.

The following screenshot is from the Microsoft 365 pricing website.

Screenshot from Microsoft.com highlighting the different subscription tiers and pricing of the Microsoft 365 SKUs

If there are specific features that you are curious about, or want to learn more about the benefits of IT teams deploying Microsoft 365 over Office 365, Microsoft publishes a comprehensive guide highlighting each feature difference of each SKU of Office and Microsoft 365

We always recommend people reference the Microsoft website directly for the most up to date pricing information, or contact your Microsoft reseller if you’re looking to do a large deployment or rational licenses.

Conclusion

The decision between purchasing Office 365 and Micrsoft 365 will largely depend on which feature set you need. For straight forward deployments of Office 365 at smaller to mid-sized organizations most will be happy with Office 365 licenses. For larger organizations where IT teams are in charge of deploying, managing, and upgrading numerous computers, Microsoft 365’s advanced device management and security features could be a must have.

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