DIY Microsoft 365 licensing

Sadly, licensing is complicated, confusing, and full of pitfalls. While it’s tempting to take the path of least resistance and simply replicate what you already have, you could easily be signing up for more than you need.

Without the intimate and in-depth knowledge that comes from living and breathing Microsoft licensing (and reading masses of documentation) on a daily basis, it’s difficult to fully optimise your licensing investment.

What's the difference between Office 365 and Microsoft 365?

Before we discuss licensing, let’s address one area of common confusion. If you’ve noted that Office 365 has been renamed Microsoft 365, you’re probably wondering why.

Well, in their words, Microsoft felt the new name more accurately reflects the range of features and benefits in the subscription to meet the unique needs of individual users and businesses. Microsoft 365 includes everything you know and love in Office 365 . The same Office apps, intelligent cloud services and world-class security. But it’s not quite as simple as that – in fact, even the Microsoft technical community is divided on the ‘what’s what’ of Microsoft 365. So, if you’re struggling to understand the differences between Microsoft 365 Business Basic, Business Standard and Business Premium – what each includes and which one you need, don’t take it personally. (Just call us.)

Where does it get sticky?

Some of the areas of greatest confusion we see are around the differences in licensing between Microsoft 365 Business and Microsoft 365 Enterprise.

Nearly every customer we talk to is challenged when deciding which edition is the right one for them. Which offers the level of security they need, and the services and tools required for the number of users they have.

A common mistake is to purchase a basic version, then take a cherry-picking approach to the extra functionality needed. While this might deliver a precise package, buying standalone licenses invariably costs more than stepping up to a more inclusive version.

Another easy-to-make error is not understanding the products you already have, and what they do. Without a full software asset register, it’s easy to purchase solutions which replicate the same functions. And hey presto, you’ve just paid for two sets of licensing from two sets of vendors, for products which do the same job.

Business or Enterprise? Spot the difference

In a nutshell, the difference between Microsoft 365 Business and Microsoft 365 Enterprise is the number of users. Over 300 users - think Enterprise, under 300 users – think Business.

Seems cut and dried, right?

But what’s the best strategy though if you have less than 300 users, yet need some of the functionality that appear to only come with the Enterprise version? How do you know if you’ve just paid extra for products that can be activated as part of your existing license? And do you know what Microsoft Intune and Windows Autopilot are – and if you need them? (Hint: Intune provides cloud-based mobile device and application management, and Windows Autopilot is a collection of technologies used to set up and pre-configure new devices, getting them ready for productive use with minimal or no support from IT).

Prefer to manage your own licenses?

Yes, you most certainly can manage your own licensing. But it has to be said, DIY licensing is not an easier or less expensive option, and it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted.

No-one (that we know) wants the burden of responsibility for making decisions that can have a significant cost impact on your operations budget, leaves you exposed to security risk, delivers an environment that falls short of your requirements, requires topping up with ad hoc (and more expensive) standalone licenses, and results in duplicated product functionality.

What are your options?

We help our customers buy or renew their Microsoft licensing on a daily basis.

Yes, we like to help you save money, but our primary focus is adding value by making sure you have a fully optimised technology environment which solves your business problems. For example, how can you activate rights management? Or overcome issues like lost mobile devices by removing and cleaning the business data they hold – remotely. Or ensure that your employees who work from other countries have rock solid security and access.

So, where and how do we start?

We carry out a gap analysis or health check on your existing Microsoft 365 applications, so we know exactly what you need, what you have, and what it does. We establish where you can reduce current licensing levels, and where they can be extended to replace other standalone products that do the same thing. And what you need to get you from where you are now, to where you want to be in six months or a year.

Critically, we also look for ways to improve your technology environment, for example, make recommendations to address weaknesses in your security. And if you have 100 users, but only 20% of them are using Microsoft Teams, then we’ll highlight that as well and discuss how to improve user adoption rates, so you get more value from your collaboration tools. We can also advise where individual licenses can be bundled into a package, to keep costs down.

Do we really add value?

That’s a fair question. Probably the best way to answer that is with some examples.

  • Client A had purchased a range of applications they needed on standalone licenses. The solutions they chose all did the job, so that was great, but the cost of buying them separately was a lot higher. We removed the individual licenses, bundled them into more cost-effective packages which included access to a range of other tools and services they had thought were beyond their reach.

  • Client B was struggling with secure and remote device management and were aware that they had an unacceptable level of exposure to risk. We assessed their current security position under current licensing, identified where they were vulnerable, and moved them on to a full enterprise and mobility and security suite.

  • Client C requested a licensing health check to identify high risk areas and room for improvement. We reported that multifactor identification (MFA), which is an important security control to help reduce incidences of fraud, was only turned on by less than 0.1% of users. And that our assessment of their SharePoint setup and usage showed a high possibility of data duplication and vulnerability to data loss and cyber threats.

We take licensing seriously.

As you’ve probably gathered, as well as rationalising and optimising licensing, we make recommendations to help improve your security posture. As part of our health check, we review your security controls and measures, identify where you need application patching, and advise how to address substantial business risk through managing IT assets and security compliance, and more.

I like to point people to a page on our website on why you need to talk to Fusion5 about your Microsoft licensing. While you’ll get the full details there, here’s a quick summary:

We’re committed to helping you conquer your Microsoft 365 Licensing. And so confident that we can make a positive difference to your business, your stress levels, and your licensing effectiveness, that we’re offering a free extensive health check (valued at $5,000) if you make Fusion5 your Microsoft licensing partner and provider. But that’s third date material. How about we start with an obligation free chat, to see if you think we could help?



Great outcomes start with great conversations


Great outcomes start with great conversations

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