A more feature rich Office 365 experience coming soon

There’s no doubt that Office 365 presents significant value for money. Historically naysayers have struggled with the concept as they have merely compared Office 365 against their on-premises license equivalent, and in many cases feel that because of their existing investment in infrastructure the operation of their services is “free” (don’t get me started on that one).

At present in the Enterprise end of Office 365 we have 3 licenses: E1, E3 and E4. In a nutshell:

E1 – gives you access to the core services such as Exchange, SharePoint, Skype for Business, Yammer, OneDrive for Business, etc.

E3 – the same as E1 but with unlimited mail archive, voicemail capabilities, Office 365 ProPlus desktop/mobile software, enterprise features of SharePoint, and more

E4 – the same as E3 but with the Enterprise Voice license component. While this doesn’t do anything in the cloud it is a handy way of licensing on-premises users of Lync Server 2013 / Skype for Business Server 2015 to use their service like a normal phone extension/line.

So what is E5? Well E5 is effectively Office 365 on steroids. It gives you everything from the lower-level licensed services, PLUS:

  • Cloud PBX and PSTN conferencing (goodbye on-premises or separate phone systems and conference services, Skype for Business Online will now do it all)
  • Power BI Pro (normal Power BI is a separate and not-exactly-cheap license)
  • Delve Organisational Analytics (a new feature bringing the best of Delve to the surface)
  • eDiscovery with Equivo Zoom (a higher level than the out of the box eDiscovery service already part of Office 365)
  • Customer Lockbox (which gives you the customer the ability to control what Microsoft sees when they have to access your environment for support)
  • Data Loss Prevention (I can only assume this is a higher level than what is currently available)
  • Advanced Threat Protection (a higher level of service than currently available in Exchange Online Protection)

What all of this is heading towards is the Office 365 service being a complete end to end solution for both desktop as well as mobile workers, regardless of position or function in their organisation. By enabling features like PBX (phone system) it truly means that people are free from their desks. Paradyne currently uses a hosted Skype for Business Enterprise Voice service which allows us to work truly from anywhere. While the concept of a hosted PBX is not new – a fully functional Skype solution that is both your corporate instant messaging and conference solution that also acts as your phone system is a much richer experience for end users.

Like any service there will be those among us who don’t need it all, and the benefit is that you can pick and choose. However as always Microsoft will most likely make it more attractive for users to have the full suite.

I look forward to seeing this E5 license level become active in the later half of 2015. As always countries like Australia won’t see the Cloud PBX and PSTN conferencing components until sometime in 2016 if we’re lucky as always after the US goes Europe, however the light is at the end of the tunnel.

Also published on Medium.

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