A tour of Microsoft 365 to see about the hype

  • Catherine Wendt

    Catherine Wendt

By Catherine Wendt
Syscon, Inc.
Updated 12/11/2020 11:16 AM

So many people talk about Office 365 or Microsoft 365 but are fuzzy when it comes down to understanding what these are.

Microsoft is focusing on the 365 offering and is not giving much focus to legacy products, giving a clear signal of what's to come. Further, we are at a unique point in history where sheer need has accelerated demand for on-demand software; how do we work when we can't go to our office or meet with our teams?


What is Microsoft 365? There are three groupings, categories that make up the suite of offerings:

• Business apps: Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint

• Cloud services: Exchange, OneDrive, Teams, SharePoint

• Business security: MFA (multi-factor authentication), Defender, Azure Information Protection, Intune, Conditional Access, Windows Virtual Desktop.

Business Apps and Cloud Services are part of Office 365. This product combination has been around for many years -- think of it as the foundation for the updated 365 offering. Microsoft 365 is the more mature product, incorporating Office 365 with the business security we need to safely use these software programs, and protect our mobile devices.

You will need the security additions as employees share documents and work from their home computers and/or their home networks. Microsoft 365 provides the necessary security. As an IT group, we're extremely excited about these additional security products:

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• Multi-factor authentication -- you probably have this with your bank; you log in with your username and password, then you receive a code that you enter to "authenticate" that it's you.

• Microsoft Defender has some basic tools to 'defend' the local device, including a firewall and basic anti-virus.

• Intune provides security for businesses to protect remote equipment, as well as handy tools for IT professionals to maintain the remote devices.

With so many features and options, Microsoft continues to adjust its packaging names and prices. At a high level these tools can be grouped into three buckets:

By the Service -- license for the specific service you want to use; not all services are available "a la carte"; this is the least cost-efficient way to purchase the core services


M365 Business packages -- a wide array of apps and cloud services are included; great security features; designed for small to medium businesses; biggest bang for the buck; max of 300 licenses. This is our favorite.

M/O365 Enterprise -- higher service limits (read "more money"); no limit on licenses.

When should you consider moving to the M365 suite? What's a good 'trigger' to take a look and get started? If any of these apply to you, it may be time to make some changes.

• Do your team members have more than one computer? The 365 licenses cover up to fie devices per named user. Your laptop, the workstation at the office, and your tablet would all be covered under one license.

• Do you have an on-premise Exchange server? This is a good time to look at what version you're running, what software and license costs you would incur to do an upgrade, how much space the data is taking up on your network and backups, and time to maintain and keep it running. It's not a slam dunk, but it's very possible that a move to M365 is in your future.

• Are you using Teams? Are you paying for Dropbox, Zoom or other remote meeting and shared data platforms? The M365 licenses include Teams and OneDrive at a minimum; there might be some savings here.

• Catherine Wendt is president of Syscon Inc.

When choosing the right level of licensing, we recommend you reach out to your IT company so you can get the right licenses. They can help with the implementation planning to ensure you have a great experience. Remember, communication and planning are the most important ingredients to success.

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