Microsoft 365: Key Features and Costs

A lot has changed since the days of purchasing copies of Microsoft Office that came in a cardboard box. Monthly subscriptions to a cloud-based Office suite are now all the rage. Perhaps you are wondering whether this change is for the better and whether the subscription is worth the spend? Let us give you the low down.

For individuals who are on a limited budget and only require Office for quick tasks in Word and Excel, a one-time purchase of Office 2019 will probably suffice. However, for businesses with multiple users, a variety of needs, and a desire to encourage collaboration, the one-time purchase falls drastically short.

Office 365 (recently re-branded as Microsoft 365) was released in 2011 and introduced a whole new way of collaborating with Microsoft Office applications. A one-time purchase of Office might give you access to business critical apps such as Word and Excel, but it requires a brand-new purchase to acquire the latest features – and it doesn’t even come with an email account!

Alternatively, a Microsoft 365 for Business subscription gives you access to the entire Office suite with all of the latest features, security updates, bug fixes, and email. It also comes with very generous cloud storage with OneDrive (which is fully integrated into all Office applications), and access to round-the-clock technical support at no extra cost.

To provide a simpler view of what you’re getting, here are the important inclusions in a Microsoft 365 Premium subscription:

Microsoft 365 Business Premium Plan Inclusions


How is Microsoft 365 different from Office 2019?

  • All in One Package

    One of the most significant differences between having a one-time purchased Office 2019 license and a Microsoft 365 For Business subscription is how Microsoft 365 gives users the ability to collaborate between different applications anytime, anywhere, and from any device. This is possible because of the seamless integration between Office apps that Microsoft has continuously developed and updated through the years.

    Microsoft 365 provides a one-stop hub not only for the usual Microsoft Office apps we use such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook but it packages these together with additional Microsoft services, such as Teams and Sharepoint, that can provide incredible benefits to your business. If you wish to see a complete list of apps and tools included in a Microsoft 365 subscription, Microsoft has a products page where you can find information about each type of subscription.

  • Remote Collaboration

    As an organization with team members across multiple locations, Microsoft 365 has played a big part in our team collaboration. We use it to chat, have video meetings, store and share files, manage workloads, monitor productivity, update on projects and so much more, making it an integral part of our daily business. So much more than just a suite of software, Microsoft 365 has bundled up essential business tools into one integrated ecosystem and provided a platform for effective remote collaboration.

  • Apps Integration

    In this ever-changing working environment, the need for tools and services that support teamwork and remote collaboration are more important than ever. One key point in enabling how our team collaborates within Microsoft 365 is the integration between apps.

    Just to give you one example, within Microsoft 365 we can save Excel files in a shared file library in Sharepoint, and multiple team members can access, edit and save the document at the same time. They can even leave comments for each other within the document. These updates can then be announced to the rest of the team via a chat on Teams or a post on Yammer, which acts as our corporate social media channel. We can schedule a Teams video call meeting via Outlook to make sure everyone’s on board with the current updates.


    There are so many ways to easily keep your whole organisation in the loop with current activities. Importantly, we can rest assured knowing that all Microsoft 365 tools we’re using are in sync with one another in real time. This makes it easier for team members to communicate progress seamlessly, knowing that you’re up to date with updates and always looking at latest version.

    See the rainbow graph below which shows which Microsoft 365 services can be working together for certain tasks.Microsoft 365 | What App to Use When Rainbow Chart



Now, let’s touch on the actual cost of a subscription. If you search for prices on the Internet, the results may be provided in charts that can be a bit confusing to look at especially with the recent name changes. So, here’s a simplified price list (current as at May 2020) in summary to save you the trouble:

  • Microsoft 365 Business Basic (formerly Office 365 Business Essentials)
    Price: AU$6.90 per month per licensed user (annual commitment)
    Note: Only web and mobile versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint are included; Advanced Threat Protection feature not included.
  • Microsoft 365 Business Standard (formerly Office 365 Business Premium)
    Price: AU$17.20 per month per licensed user (annual commitment)
    Note: Advanced Threat Protection feature not included.
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium (formerly Microsoft 365 Business)
    Price: AU$27.50 per month per licensed user (annual commitment)

Important to note is that there would be additional costs involved in moving your organisation to Microsoft 365, such as implementation costs, system administration, training and potential downtime while your organisation gets up to speed with the new platform. The total cost would obviously vary depending on the size of your business, your requirements and level of Microsoft 365 training required. 

A study (conducted by Forrester for Microsoft) of three organisations who implemented Microsoft 365 demonstrated that the benefits of implementing Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) surpassed the initial costs of acquisition. The study was undertaken to examine the potential Return-on-Investment (ROI) of businesses that deploy Microsoft 365.

“With Office 365, customers were able to accelerate the deployment of the latest versions of Microsoft solutions, decrease technology costs, increase business and IT user productivity, and stay up-to-date with the latest features and solutions.”

– one IT manager involved in the study, Total Economic Benefit of the Microsoft 365 E5 Solutions

A three year summary of the study showed a remarkable result reflecting a 162% ROI and total benefits of $8.8 million compared to the initial cost of $3.2 million. The companies under the study reported reduced costs in multiple areas by avoiding accumulating costs of infrastructure hardware, maintenance and hosting. It wasn’t just finances that was positively affected but productivity as well. Employees in the companies interviewed for the study reported to be saving 30 minutes to one hour per day because of better collaboration tools and less time hunting for information.

Below shows a three-year graph representing the financial growth of the companies using Microsoft 365:

Forrester Research, Inc. - Financial Summary


Microsoft 365 is undoubtedly a great tool but there are some features that really stand out for us at Grassroots IT. Here are some of the most noteworthy features of Microsoft 365: 

  1. Being able to install and access Microsoft 365 from any device.
    You can install and use the whole Office suite and the other Office 365 apps from any Windows PC, Mac, android or iPhone device. You can also use the web-based versions of your Microsoft 365 apps from your browser, which is not a feature in a one-time purchase version of Office.
  1. Data is being carefully stored and backed up in the cloud via OneDrive.
    With Microsoft 365, you get access to OneDrive which allows you to securely sync your files on your PC, Mac or mobile devices making it easier for you to access, update and share files from your OneDrive or Sharepoint anytime, anywhere, and on any synced device.
  1. Extra layer of security with Advanced threat protection
    With Microsoft’s advanced data protection tools, you can have administrative control over your organisation’s security policies. An administrator can limit access to corporate data and create security policies to prevent breach attacks. Having Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Protection means that you can find out about a threat ahead of time so you can anticipate and plan countermeasures before these threats can cause actual damage. 
  2. One stop collaboration hub with Teams
    In our humble opinion, Microsoft Teams is one of the best Microsoft 365 apps there is. It’s a one-stop hub for collaboration that integrates almost all of the Microsoft 365 services into one seamless package. Whether you need to schedule a meeting on Outlook, instantly start a virtual meeting, share files from Sharepoint, share announcements on Yammer, or just simply want to say ‘Hi!’ to one of your teammates, you can do all that on Teams. Our team loves it and having Teams has positively impacted our remote collaboration


At Grassroots IT, we consider Microsoft 365 not just another expense but as an integral part of the business and its growth. Having said that, every organisation has unique needs, and understanding your business needs and goals should be the first step in looking for the right tools and services for your business.

If you’re considering the move to Microsoft 365, we recommend that you seek out a trusted advisor to help you determine whether a move to Microsoft 365 is the best option for you before you proceed. The move to Microsoft 365 for your business will impact your entire organisation and, in order to do it well and ensure your whole team is on board with the change, we would highly recommend you engage a trusted IT partner to walk you through both the planning and implementation, adoption and change management.

If purchasing a one-off Office 2019 suite license works well for you and your business goals, we wouldn’t recommend that you purchase a subscription to Microsoft 365. But we would suggest you carefully consider the cost-benefit ratio and discover whether there are better business tools and services to maximise the growth of your business. We believe that investing in Microsoft 365 for Business is definitely worth it for our business, and we see the benefits of the app integrations, the advanced security and the remote collaboration platform at Grassroots IT on a daily basis.  



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