Microsoft to Launch New Office 365 Plans for Small Business Users

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Microsoft is expanding its portfolio of offerings targeted at SMBs with three new Office 365 plans scheduled for launch on Oct. 1, 2014, according to a blog posted on Wednesday.

All three plans include Office Online applications, 1 TB of storage on OneDrive for Business, and the same service and uptime guarantees. As SMB services, they are each capped at 300 seats.

The “Business” plan also includes the locally installed Office suite, and mobile access to documents and core Office apps, and costs $8.25 per seat per month. The “Business Essentials” plan trades those features for the Office 365 cloud tool set of Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, and Yammer for $5 per seat per month, and “Business Premium” combines both for $12.50.

Yammer has been proliferating among Office 365 plans after being added to all Enterprise plans in November.

The existing Office 365 SMB plans, “Small Business,” “Small Business Premium,” and “Midsize Business” will be phased out as the new plans are launched.

In the blog post Microsoft advises that customers with Office 365 accounts continue with their current plan until their first renewal after Oct. 1, 2015, when the old plans will no longer be offered. This advice is based on “only a small number of customers with very specific needs” benefitting from such a move.

This recommendation implies that Microsoft is rearranging plans not to specifically improve price or quality of service, but for some other reason. The complexity of Office 365 options was criticized at last year’s Microsoft partner’s show according to ZDNet, so this move may seek to make the choices more clear.

The small business cloud market is expected to reach $125 billion by 2016, and represents a frontier of cloud adoption. As Microsoft battles heavy competition for these new customers, it will need to present clear choices to businesses without sophisticated IT procurement expertise.

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