Demystifying Exchange Online plans

Exchange Online is a great business productivity service, just like the entire Office 365 suite. However, offering each company only the services that the company really needs is not an easy task since companies of all sizes would like to use these services. This is the reason why Office 365 comes with different subscriptions, where each subscription includes different service plans. Further, we also have the so called standalone plans that companies may use. All of this could become very confusing for customers and that’s why I often receive questions like what Exchange Online plan is included in Office 365 Business Premium and how is this plan different from other Exchange Online plans? Other customers prefer an Office 365 Business subscription, but would like to have only all the Exchange Online features that are present in Office 365 E3 subscriptions. So that’s why I thought of trying to demystify Exchange Online plans. I can’t promise I will succeed, but I’ll give it a try.

So, first of all, please note that all Office 365 Business subscriptions and the Office 365 E1 subscription include Exchange Online Plan 1! All other Office 365 Enterprise plans include Exchange Online Plan 2. Having this in mind, the next question would be: “what are the differences between Exchange Online Plan 1 and Exchange Online Plan 2?”

Well let’s tell that all the basic features are there for both plans. So no matter the Exchange Online plan, users will get 50 GB mailboxes, Outlook support, Outlook Web Access, shared calendars and contacts, full anti-spam and anti-malware protection through Exchange Online Protection (EOP) and so on. The differences come into place when we think about complex compliance and data loss prevention needs. So, features like In-Place Hold and DLP policies are there only in Exchange Online Plan 2. Furthermore, Exchange Online Plan 2 includes an unlimited archive, which is called In-Place archive. In Exchange Online Plan 1, the In-Place Archive is limited to 50 GB.

That’s pretty much it about differences between Exchange Online Plan 1 and 2. However, some customers that have, let’s say, an Office 365 Business Premium subscriptions would like to benefit from all features in Exchange Online Plan 2. So what would be the best way to proceed?

A very straightforward answer is that companies may purchase an additional Exchange Online Plan 2 license and assign this license to end users. So you would still have Office 365 Business Premium, but also Exchange Online plan 2. We should however also talk about prices. Office 365 Business Premium costs around $15. Exchange Online Plan 2 costs arount  $8. So it would be a total of $23. However, Office 365 E3 costs only around $20. So in this case it would be wiser to opt for an Office 365 E3 subscription and also take advantage of features that are not there in Office 365 Business Premium, like unlimited users in your organization, Skype Meeting Broadcast, enterprise management of apps,

Similar, also if you have an Office 365 Business plan and would like to additionally purchase Exchange Online Plan 2, it would be wise to take an E3 subscription into consideration. On a monthly basis, Office 365 Business costs around $10. With the 8 bucks for Exchange Online Plan 2 we arrive at $18. So with 2 more dollars we could get all the E3 features.

I hope that these few words could be a map for you in this Office 365 subscriptions and standalone plans jungle. If you want to add something, please feel free to comment on this article.

Dan Patrascu-Baba

Partner Technical Consultant at Microsoft
Azure PaaS and dev consultant, working for Microsoft. Mostly dealing with Microsoft Azure services, ASP.Net Core, AngularJS, Javascript. Helping partners and customers to write good code and to architect their cloud and hybrid solutions.

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