Whenever we complete one of our IT security and upgrade audits, to help businesses determine potential vulnerabilities and plan future capital expenditure, we tend to find either exclusively Microsoft 365 Business Licenses, OR that 70% or more of a business’s users have Microsoft 365 Home/Family Licenses installed. When asked, it’s commonly because the two products provide the ‘same’ service, and Home licenses are ‘considerably cheaper’. The question is, is this really true, and what’s the difference between them? Is it just a case of Microsoft charging businesses more than they do for people using the same product at home?

On the surface, if you log on to Microsoft website and look at the different subscriptions plans available, the answer is yes, the most popular business plan is £9.40 per user per month, while the most popular home license is £7.99 per month for up to six users. That’s roughly £675 versus £95 a year for what seems to be the same product. It’s easy to see why small businesses opt for the home licenses in a bid to save a bit of money, but what’s the real difference? Here we explore one versus the other:

  • You’ll be breaking the Microsoft User Agreement: the Home plan is specifically not licensed for business, commercial or any revenue generating activities. While you may not agree with it, ultimately, you’ll be violating your user agreement with Microsoft, and in theory that could have consequences.
  • They differ in security: the home subscription assumes that you are using Microsoft for relatively simple tasks, and rarely storing sensitive information, so although the security is robust, it is relatively basic. The Business subscription on the other hand includes multi-factor authentication, self-service password reset, and alerts for security issues such as possible breaches. Not only does this give you reassurance that your business files are more robustly protected, but it may also help you don’t invalidate your cyber security insurance policy either.
  • You can’t access the Microsoft Exchange Server with a home license: for the most professional image, an email address that comes from your business domain is preferably to one attached to a public server i.e. name@company.com is better than company@hotmail.com. If you’re not using another email provider such as Gmail business, Microsoft Exchange will be your email provider, giving you a much more professional image. Other advantages include an email administration suite, helping you set up new users, and your users will have a work calendar, and use of the system across multiple devices including desktop PC, laptop and mobile. Don’t forget, if you’re already using Microsoft for your users, you won’t need to pay for another email provider, so you’ll be offsetting some of the cost.
  • You’re missing out on the benefits of collaborative working:  the home and family plans, don’t have the option for multiple users to open the same document and work on it collaboratively. Businesses that embrace collaborative working, where users work simultaneously on the output, rather than passing documents back and forth, cite additional productivity, with one of our clients highlighting up to 6 hours per user per week saved by working in this manner. That’s a heck of a lot more output and / or cost-saving when considering salary and overheads, compared with the uplift in monthly Microsoft subscription.
  • What about integrated video chat? The Home and Family option of Microsoft do not come with Microsoft Teams for video chat. From a cost perspective, Teams has a similar role and functionality to many other video chat platforms, the difference is you’ll get it included as part of your Microsoft fee, without an additional monthly subscription.
  • One versus many devices: while the Home licenses enable many users, it is expected that each user has a single primary device on which they use Microsoft. While some of the Office product functionality can be accessed through the cloud version, to get the full experience, you’ll need to use the desktop version. Microsoft Business on the other hand enables multiple devices per user, supporting work on a business PC, laptop or even mobile. It means they can work from anywhere, easily pick up where they left off, and you’ll be sure of the same security settings and features regardless of where and how your employee is working at that moment in time.
  • Sharing and storing documents on the cloud: while there are many cloud-based platforms, Microsoft Home comes with OneDrive, whereas the Business user gets SharePoint. Both offer cloud based storage, security and the ability to share files, but while OneDrive is just a storage system, SharePoint includes the OneDrive storage, and a bunch of other features. SharePoint offers more space, better security, and the ability to set up user by user access rights, and set up temporary or permanent file sharing within and outside of your organisation. It is basically a much more flexible and robust platform, and is a more professional way of managing your storage, without compromising your security.
  • Extra apps: while not everyone uses or needs them (which is why they are rarely mentioned), Business Licenses get more apps than home ones, and many of them save you money compared with buying the functionality elsewhere. Microsoft Bookings can be used to enable users to book appointments direct into your diary; Microsoft Lists can be used for anything from to-do-list management, to inventory or support ticket tracking; and Microsoft Forms can be used for quizzes, surveys and the like. All are included free with a Business license, ready for you to embrace.

So there you have it. You can use a home or family subscription and it will have a lower monthly subscription cost, but you’ll be compromising security, usability, and features, not to mention violating user rights and potentially invalidating your insurance. Business on the other hand comes with far more and far superior features, and will beef up your professionalism and business functionality, not to mention security. Even better, you can buy Microsoft Business through Eurolink for exactly the same monthly subscription, and we’ll add on our own additional services for the same price, including user management, security setup and our fabulous customer service and support too!

Want to get your own IT audit to identify any potential opportunities or pitfalls in your systems, speak to our team on 01453 700 800.

*Please note this article refers to Microsoft 365 which was until recently branded Office 365. They are one and the same.*