Microsoft 365 E3 vs. E5: which licensing should you choose?

By Lucy Wright - October 07, 2020

Microsoft 365 is a Microsoft's cloud platform which includes Office 365 Enterprise, Windows 10 Enterprise and Enterprise Mobility + Security in one subscription. It's designed to give organisations all the productivity, security and collaboration tools they need in one place. 

M365 is designed as a one-stop shop for businesses, providing productivity, collaboration, security, analytics and voice capabilities, each with a range of features. Access to the features depends on the level of licensing you have. Every organisation has different requirements, and this will come into play when choosing licensing. Microsoft usually encourage customers to choose E5 licensing because it offers all the features of E3 plus additional extras, particularly around security. But not every organisation will need this level of licensing; what you choose will depend on your unique business requirements and budget. As standard, both Office 365 E3 and E5 licensing plans provide the following:

Cloud productivity and mobility

  • Office Pro Plus: Office apps on up to five PCs or Macs
  • Mobile Office Apps: Office apps for tablets and smartphones

Rich communication and collaboration

  • Exchange: business-class email and calendar
  • OneDrive: cloud storage and file sharing
  • SharePoint: team sites and internal portals
  • Teams: Online meetings, IM and video chat
  • Yammer: private social network for your organisation

Office 365 E3 licensing gives you access to productivity tools and secure storage, but E5 licensing does go a step further and provides access  to additional features which your organisation might benefit from, particularly if security is a concern. E5 licensing gives you Advanced Threat Protection (zero-day threat and malware protection) and Advanced Security Management which gives you enhanced visibility and control of your security settings. It also offers Advanced Compliance, so relevant data is identified quickly (this was formerly Adv eDiscovery).

If analytics are important to you, E5 licensing provides Power BI Pro live business analytics and visualisation, and access to My Analytics which gives you data on individual and team effectiveness.

There are some additional communication tools available with E5 licensing, too. These are PSTN Conferencing, which gives you worldwide dial-on for online meetings, Cloud PBX (a business phone system in the cloud) and PSTN Calling - a cost-effective cloud-based dial tone which can be bought as an add-on.

As you can see, E5 licensing for Office 365 is much more comprehensive and gives access to better features for organisations needing enhanced security, communication tools and analytics.

Enterprise Mobility + Security centres around identity and access management, identity driven security, managed mobile productivity and information protection.  Both E3 and E5 licensing plans offer the following features: 

  • Azure Active Directory Premium P1 - Single sign-on to cloud and on-premises applications. Basic conditional access security.
  • Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics - Identify suspicious activities and advanced attacks on premises.
  • Microsoft Intune - Mobile device and app management to protect corporate apps and data on any device.
  • Azure Information Protection Premium P1 - Encryption for all files and storage locations. Cloud-based file tracking. 

For organisations that need enhanced security features, E5 licensing for Enterprise Mobility + Security offers this. Additional extras include advanced risk-based identity protection with alerts, analysis and remediation; enterprise-grade visibility, control and protection of cloud applications; and intelligent classification and encryption of files shared both inside and outside of your organisation.

When it comes to choosing which is the best plan, you should look at each extra item and determine if your organisation needs it. A lot of the security features can be purchased as add-ons to your current plan if cost is a consideration, as can Voice and Analytics features.

For organisations that need extra functionality in two of the three categories, it's worth investing in E5 licensing. Enlisting the help of a Microsoft partner is the best way of establishing your needs and matching your requirements to licensing. Core sell licences for Microsoft cloud products that give you access to the apps and platforms you need, but also give great value for money and ROI.

Buying licences through us is cost-effective and predictable. You'll be charged on a per user per month basis, billed monthly in advance and the cost of your licences is locked in for 12 months, so you'll always know how much you will be paying, even if the cost of a licence goes up. Alternatively, you can choose to pay your entire 12-month subscription upfront. You can still change the number or type of licences you use if do this.

If you already have your Microsoft licences, it's easy to move them across to us and take advantage of our customer success hub and support. There's no charge for moving, and we can cancel your old licences and remove the relationship for you, with no user downtime or service disruption.

Find more information on our licensing services here.

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