No upgrade to enterprise plan.
Microsoft has set a non-negotiable 50-user limit for the entry-level version of its cloud productivity suite, Microsoft Office 365.
Businesses wanting to add a 51st user must upgrade from the “P1” plan (Office 365 for Professionals and Small Businesses) to the “E” plan family for mid-size businesses and enterprises which costs more than twice as much, according to a support document on Microsoft’s website.
There were extra costs in the upgrade process because there was no upgrade path from the small business to the enterprise version. Instead a business would need to pay an IT services company to carry out the transition, said Microsoft.
The 50-user limit for the small business version of Office 365 was 25 users lower than its on-premise server software, Small Business Server (SBS). SBS was limited to 75 users or workstations after which businesses had to move to the enterprise version of Exchange and SharePoint.
A Microsoft spokesman said that the definition for small businesses had not been cut from 75 to 50 users. “Comparing Small Business Server (with Office 365) is chalk and cheese. There’s no Lync (communications tool), there’s no websites, there’s none of that coming out of the box,” said Oscar Trimboli, director of the information worker business group at Microsoft Australia.
The P1 plan for Office 365 was designed for one to 25 users, “but you may purchase up to 50 users for your organisation”, the Microsoft Office 365 for professionals and small businesses Service Description document said.
“You can add or remove users at any time, but you cannot add more than 50 users.”
The price for Office 365 (P1) is $7.90 per user per month or $395 per month for 50 users (or US$6 and US$300 respectively for US businesses).
The equivalent plan in the enterprise licence family, which lets users edit documents online with Office Web Apps, is E2. It costs US$25.10 per user per month or $1280.10 per month for 51 users, a 316 percent increase (US$16, US$826 and 260 percent respectively for US businesses).
Office 365 (E2) included extra features such as advanced administration capabilities, Active Directory integration and 24/7 support, and licence rights to access on-premise deployment of Exchange Server, SharePoint Server and Lync Server.
Small businesses should evaluate their rate of growth before deciding which version of Office 365 to buy, Microsoft said. A fast-growing small business with less than 50 users should still pay for the enterprise plan if it was likely they would pass the 50-mark within several years, said Jaron Cohen, a Microsoft business development executive in the Australian communications and media sector.
Businesses needed to make “an active decision at the point of purchase which SKUs fit their business model and their growth over the next few years”, said Cohen.
A company couldn’t upgrade by clicking a series of buttons, “Next, Next, Next – ‘you’ve just moved up’”, Cohen said. “You need to get a professional services organisation in there to help manage that process.”
“From the P-SKU (the small business version) to the E-SKU (the enterprise version) there’s not a simple upgrade path,” said Cohen.