Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based office suite, is moving the turf war against Google Docs to the business world with today’s announcement of business-ready subscriptions. But you’ll need a spreadsheet to figure out which of six different options you’ll need – not to mention what it’ll cost.

It’s easier to first explain what the different subscription options have in common. All but two – Office 365 Small Business and Enterprise E1 – include desktop versions of Access, Excel, InfoPath, Lync, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, SkyDrivePro and Word. Similarly, each user has the capability to use the service on a total of five PCs or Macs, except for – again – Office 365 Small Business and Enterprise E1.

The differentiator, it seems, lies in the number of users you’d like to authorize. According to Microsoft’s pricing page, here are the maximum number of users you can sign up for various Office 365 for Business options:

  • Office 365 Small Business and Small Business Premium: 25 users
  • Office 365 MidSize Business: 300 users
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 and E3: Unlimited users

The Small Business option offers no desktop applications to install and no mobile app options. Nor does the Enterprise E1 option, though it serves an unlimited number of users, while the Small Business plan is limited to just 25.

I told you it was confusing.

Pricing shakes down to users per month (or sometimes per year, just to keep it nice and complicated).

  • Office 365 Small Business: $6/user/month (or $60/user/year)
  • Office 365 Small Business Premium: $15/user/month (or $150/user/year)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1: $8/user/month
  • Office 365 MidSize Business: $15/user/month
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3: $20/user/month

If you’re at all interested in an Office 365 option for your workplace, I’d recommend you get out a spreadsheet and start figuring out what plan works best for you. (Though the desktop version of Excel won’t be available to you if you’re using Office 365 Small Business or Enterprise E1!) Microsoft seems to have crafted a sweet spot for mid-sized businesses, but your mileage will of course vary.

Image courtesy of Microsoft

brian proffitt