Office 365 provides a wide range of plans to choose from. It is important to understand some key differences before you proceed with a selection.
The first thing to appreciate is that you can purchase Office 365 products individually or as a suite. This means that you can purchase just Exchange Online if you want only email or Lync Online if you only want conferencing. Each stand alone plan is generally available in two options, Plan 1 and Plan 2. Plan 2 has more features than Plan 1. This means you can purchase Exchange Online Plan 1 or Exchange Online Plan 2 for example. The main difference here is that Exchange Online Plan 2 includes advanced features such as legal hold, unlimited mailbox size and eDiscovery.
If you select a stand alone plan then you can easily upgrade and downgrade between plans. This means if you start with Exchange Online Plan 1 you can easily upgrade to Exchange Online Plan 2. If you have a number of users on Exchange Online Plan 1 you can elect to upgrade some or all of them to Exchange Online 2.Likewise you could also downgrade all or some of users on Exchange Online Plan 2 to Exchange Online Plan 1. You have that flexibility with stand alone plans.
The story is a little different when it comes to the Office 365 suites. There are number of different suits including:
– Small Business (P1, P2)
– Mid-size (M)
– Enterprise (E1, E3, E4)
Each suite is composed of a combination of the stand alone products. For example the Small Business (P1) plan includes Exchange Online Plan 1, SharePoint Online Plan 1 and Lync Online Plan 1 whereas the Enterprise E3 plan includes Exchange Online Plan 2, SharePoint Online Plan 2, Lync Online Plan 2 and Office Professional Plus.
It is also important to understand that there is currently no upgrade or downgrade path between the different suite types. Thus, you can’t upgrade a Small Business Plan to Mid-size and a Mid-size to an Enterprise plan. You can upgrade and downgrade within suites. Thus you can upgrade from a Small Business P1 plan to a Small Business P2 plan or from an Enterprise E1 plan to an Enterprise E3 plan.
So if you elect to go with a Small Business plan in Office 365 you need to be very certain that you will not need any of the features that are unavailable to that plan now and into the foreseeable future.
The final point to consider is that stand alone plans are considered Enterprise plans. This means stand alone plans can be combined with Enterprise Suite plans. Thus you can combine SharePoint Online Plan 2 stand alone with Enterprise E1 suite. However, you cannot combine stand alone plans with either the Small Business or Mid size suites.
The recommendation if you want to have the greatest flexibility and availability of features going forward is to consider the Enterprise suites first. They may be a little bit more expensive but in the long run you know that you can always upgrade or add to them without issue.