March 14, 2016
Office 365 (O365) has been structured for some time on a tiered system of plans. Companies can purchase, on a per-user basis, packages of applications and features. From least to most robust, the packages were Office 365 Enterprise E1, Office 365 ProPlus, Enterprise E3, and Enterprise E4. Now, Microsoft has made moves to transition away from the Enterprise E4 plan and introduce the Enterprise E5 plan.
Naming conventions aside, after June 2016, enterprises across Chicago and beyond will no longer be able to take advantage of the E4 plan. It has already been removed from their pricing page.
This is not bad news. Though the highest plan is now $35 per month per user (a $13 dollar increase over E4), it comes with a few advanced Skype for Business features and other new capabilities not seen in previous plans.
Advanced Skype for Business and Office 365 Features
The following features are now standard in the Enterprise E5 package.
- Power Business Intelligence (BI) for Office 365: This application provides advanced business analytics for the entire organization. Power BI consolidates onto a single screen report generation software, which can be used to visualize, analyze, and share data with key team members.
- Skype Meeting Broadcast: This powerful feature could be the most impressive of O365’s new capabilities. It allows users to create and broadcast online conferences, webinars, or meetings to up to 10,000 attendees. Within these webinars, hosts can also assign one of four roles to attendees permitting different capabilities within the meeting.
Enterprise E5 also includes advanced Skype for Business features that transform into the enterprise’s primary phone system.
- Public Switched Telephone Network (PTSN) Conferencing: Working much like other conference call software, PSTN Conferencing enables employees to create and join conference calls using Skype for Business.
- PSTN Calling Capability: Otherwise known as cloud-based calling, PSTN Calling will allow the IT department to assign phone numbers compatible with Skype calls across VoIP phones, computers, and even mobile devices.
- Cloud Private Branch Exchange (PBX): This feature turns Skype for Business into your private VoIP network hosted in the cloud.
The Right Plan for the Right User: Office 365 and Skype for Business
This is just a side note, but it’s important to keep in mind when seeing these expanded features and increased prices, that not every employee will need access to the full capabilities of Office 365. Remember, there is no rule that says you must purchase the same plan for every employee in the enterprise.
Skype for Business can also be purchased by itself without the need to acquire the rest of the Office 365 suite. Starting at $2 a month, this could be an attractive option for select environments.
Assess which departments will find the most value in which applications, and pick the plan that works for them. With this strategy, you can drastically reduce the price of your Office 365 deployment and maximize its effectiveness.
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