Office 365 & Microsoft 365: What’s the difference?

Renaming an iconic software package

When it comes to renaming their products Microsoft are sometimes guilty of causing a degree of confusion among users. For example, they recently changed the names of several of their business subscriptions to incorporate the Microsoft 365 theme. Office 365 Business Premium is now called Microsoft 365 Business Standard, and Office 365 Business is now Microsoft 365 Apps for Business. So far, so confusing.

On the face of it they have also renamed Office 365 and now call it Microsoft 365. But I’m afraid it’s not that simple. What appears to have happened is that Office 365 has been incorporated with other Microsoft products into a new package called Microsoft 365.

Given the iconic nature of Office 365, this is a brave decision.

So how did we get here?

To begin with, to use Microsoft Office you paid an up-front fee, downloaded the software onto your computer and away you went. However, when Microsoft came out with more apps and a better version of Office, you had to pay again to get the improved versions.

Enter Office 365 in 2011. Here was a cloud-based offering which you could pay for by subscription. You received updates, improvements, and new apps as soon as they were available, so you were always up to date.

Then, in 2017 Microsoft launched Microsoft 365, a software-as-a-service product which included all the familiar features of Office, such as Excel, Word and Outlook, but with the addition of online collaborative apps such as PowerPoint, SharePoint and Teams. Plus, they included Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS) as part of the package.

Here was a big shift from network infrastructure to cloud-based services.

So, what are these extras that you get with Microsoft 365 – besides Office 365.

Enterprise Mobility and Security

To quote Microsoft:

“Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) is an intelligent mobility management and security platform. It helps protect and secure your organization and empowers your employees to work in new and flexible ways.”

EMS comprises several features designed to protect your data.

  • Azure Active Directory enables administrator control of user permissions and identity to access network resources using Microsoft SSO (single sign on).
  • Microsoft InTune controls and manages mobile devices and applications and how employees save and access company data. It’s perfect for data protection (GDPR) compliance on business-owned and personal devices.
  • Azure Information Protection protects sensitive documents and email by automatically applying labels and modifying access permissions.
  • Microsoft Cloud App Security allows visibility of third-party apps, classifies and protects sensitive information and ensures GDPR compliance. It also enables secure remote working using session policies to limit access and control protections.
  • Azure Advanced Threat Protection and Microsoft Defender for Identity provide Enterprise-level protection from targeted cyber-attacks and insider threats.

To sum up, saying that Office 365 has changed its name to Microsoft 365 isn’t strictly true. Better to say that Office 365 has now been upgraded to Microsoft 365. How long the Office name will survive under its Microsoft 365 umbrella is anyone’s guess, but it may be some time before Microsoft 365 achieves the same iconic status.

For now, all Microsoft Partners, including ourselves, will know exactly what you mean when you refer to your “Office 365” subscriptions, so don’t worry too much if you forget and use the classic names.

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