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What is Office 365? Updated for 2021

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Microsoft Office Goes to the Cloud

If you’ve used a computer in the past 30 years, you have probably come in contact with the Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft Office includes software programs such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, the email program Outlook, and instant messaging program Skype. 

Office 365 is a cloud-based, subscription model version of Microsoft’s popular productivity suite Microsoft Office, containing the same applications as traditional versions of Office, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote. Depending on the plan purchased, other apps and services such as Publisher, Planner, OneDrive, Exchange, SharePoint, Access, Skype, Yammer, and Microsoft Teams may be included. 

How is Office 365 different from previous versions of Office? 

Office 365 is different from previous versions of Office because it is a cloud-based, subscription service. Rather than buying a copy of the Office suite outright, users instead pay a monthly subscription fee to access the service. Being cloud-based, Office 365 is also designed to be used online, though there are desktop versions of certain apps. 

How is Office 365 different from Microsoft 365? 

Office 365 is a cloud-based suite of productivity apps, while Microsoft 365 is a package of services which includes Office 365, alongside other business tools. A user can subscribe to Office 365 without also subscribing to Microsoft 365—but all Microsoft 365 users will also have access to Office 365. 

What apps and services does Office 365 for Business include? 

The core apps and services available through Office 365 include: 

  • Word 
  • Excel 
  • PowerPoint 
  • Outlook 
  • OneNote 
  • Publisher 
  • Exchange 
  • SharePoint 
  • Skype for Business 
  • Microsoft Teams 
  • OneDrive for Business 

What is Microsoft SharePoint? 

SharePoint is a web-based collaborative platform that integrates with Microsoft Office and is primarily sold as a secure document management and storage system where users can create, edit, manage, and share document libraries, task lists, and calendars with colleagues through business-, department-, or team-specific subsites. 

What is OneDrive? 

OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud-based file storage service. Documents, images, music, and video can be stored on OneDrive, and these files can be accessed, managed, and shared securely from almost any device with internet access. OneDrive is where all files are stored for Office 365 users, and allows files to be synced across desktops, browsers, and mobile devices. 

What is Skype for Business? 

Skype for Business is a version of the popular chat and conferencing service designed specifically for commercial use. 

What is Microsoft Teams? 

Microsoft Teams is a chat-based collaboration product, that brings together the chat capabilities of Skype for Business, along with collaboration tools like document sharing, useful AI-powered features such as chatbots, and online project management tools. 

What is Microsoft Exchange? 

Microsoft Exchange is Microsoft’s email server solution and the foundation on which email clients like Outlook run. Everything that happens in Outlook—incoming and outgoing mail, tasks, contacts, calendars—is stored and processed on the Exchange server. Exchange allows organizations to create their own, independent mail system. 

What plans are available for Office 365 for Business? 

There are currently two licensing models for business users wanting to implement Office 365. Companies with less than 300 users can opt for one of three Office 365 for Business plans: Office 365 Business Essentials, Office 365 Business, and Office 365 Business Premium. For larger companies, there are four Office 365 for Enterprise plans, all of which support unlimited users: Office 365: ProPlus; Office 365: Enterprise E1; Office 365: Enterprise E3; and Office 365: Enterprise E5. 

How much does Office 365 for Business cost? 

Prices can start as low as $5 per user, per month, for the lowest tier of the Business Plan and can go up to $35 per user, per month for the highest tier of the Enterprise Plan. 

How is Office 365 for Business deployed? 

As Office 365 is primarily cloud-based, internet access is needed to implement and launch all Office 365 plans, and customers will need to go online to manage their account. Internet connectivity is necessary to access Office 365’s cloud services, like email, conferencing, and system management. 

Can Office 365 be used with previous versions of Office? 

In short, yes. Many existing Office customers who currently run an on-premises version of Office can use Office 365 and enjoy all the features that cloud connectivity brings with it.