It’s a real challenge to pick a proper Microsoft 365 license for a small business. And it’s a problem for many reasons:

  1. There’s so many M365 licenses 🤯
  2. When you start your business you don’t need licenses which include Intune or Azure AD
  3. Sometime reseller wants to sell more expensive product which is not needed
  4. You don’t need enterprise licenses when you just started your business.

But I would like to make the decision simple for you. I think that you have three choices that I will discuss and show you all pros and cons. There’s one important thing to mention. There’s Microsoft 365 Family, but this product shouldn’t be used in a business. It’s a great product, my family uses it daily, but you need commercial licenses. So which Microsoft 365 license is suitable for a small business?

Why Microsoft 365 for small business?

Before we go into details, let me explain why we should go with Microsoft. Some people will say there are other products on the market like Google. There’s a lot of them; some are fancy, some are cool. But I believe that only the Microsft stack has the best value for a startup. My kids sometimes laugh at me that their solutions are old fashion 🤔. Maybe, but products like Word or Excel are market standard which exits for years, and it’s still being improved. And they can be used and extended in so many ways, with just the same single license—for example, all automatic processes with power automation or simple customization with Power Apps, etc.

And another important point here. It’s much easier to find one person who will cover your M365 needs than a few people for different products. If you find the right person, he can take care of your entire IT. Check my Upwork profile and projects. You can see that I made so many of them! And it will be much easier to replace such a person, just in case.

Which Microsoft 365 license is suitable for small business
Which Microsoft 365 license is suitable for small business

I just launched a new business which Microsoft 365 for small business then?

So you start, and usually, every cent is significant to you. You don’t speed your money on something that’s is no need at this stage. Would you please take a look?

Microsoft 365 for small business

You can find all those details on the Microsoft site. So what should we know about those?

  1. Why you shouldn’t use Business Basic?
    • The main reason is there’s no Desktop version of Office apps. Belive me, sooner or later you will find out that you need Word or Outlook installed on your computer
    • Outlook for mobile is a king for me. I love my iPhone and Mac, but Outlook on my mobile is must have.
    • Of course if you need just mailbox this license could be fine. For example for a guest user or something like that
  2. Microsoft 365 Business Standard is right choice. Why?
    • The main reason that you have desktop version of the software, which can be installed.
    • This is the cheapest of option with the software on your dekstop
  3. Who you shouldn’t start with Business Premium?
    • For me it’s the best option for a company, but not at the starting point
    • At the beging you don’t Azure AD or Intune. That’s the amazing solutions but not at the begging

We grow, so what is next?

When you grow and get an IT person on board, you should consider switching from business standard to premium. Why? I assume that now you have about 20 employees or more. Managing IT and user support has become a full-time job. So now it’s time to bring the power of Microsoft 365 for a small business to your company. When you switch to the business premium, you get two essential products:

  • Azure Active Directory Premium P1
  • Intune

The first solution can be used to secure your company in additional ways like conditional policies or Identity protection. The second solution creates full automation with users’ devices onboarding and simplifies devices management. I already wrote about it in my post “Modern IT Department.” The process is simple. A user gets a new device and log in with the company user name and password. After that, a device is fully configured for him: apps are installed, policies are deployed, and data is secure. That’s it, nothing more. With those two additional options, one person can lead the IT department without any problem for a long time. Of course, when you get more than one hundred employees, you should start looking for an additional IT person.

When you should shwitch to enterprise?

The first condition is simple. When you have more than 300 users, you don’t have a choice. You have to switch to an enterprise license as is required by Microsoft. That’s it. Below you can see current pricing. Well, there’s the difference.

There’s one thing which I would like to mention. Microsoft E5 is expensive, really is… But. If you have a solid IT budget, it could be an excellent investment for your company for many reasons:

  • included security features (Endpoint defender, Microsoft 365 Defeder, Azure AD P2)
  • Power Bi
  • Azure information Protection P2
  • Clould App security

And more! This license can take your company productivity to the next level, of course, if your team knows how to use it.

And this is the last thing which I would like to highlight here. Microsoft 365 for small business provide us a lot of possibilities, unique solutions, etc. But they will be useless if your users are not aware of them or don’t know how to use them—simple example. With Power BI and Excel, you can build appealing dashboards, provide excellent business information, and make a difference. But users need to know how to use it. So please remember about training and skills improvement. Even the best software will not solve any company problems if your employees do not know how to use it. Knowledge is the king!