Microsoft's full-fat E5 Office 365 plan with phone extras goes live

More features, more security, more expensive

New features in Microsoft's latest Office 365 plans
New features in Microsoft's latest Office 365 plan

Microsoft's new high-end Office 365 plan, E5, has gone live with pricing around 50 per cent higher than the existing E3 plan, which remains available. E3 costs $20 (£14.70) per user per month, whereas E5 is $35.00 (£21.80), a bigger price differential for US users.

What's the difference? E5 is a superset of E3, so both plans include the following:

  • Hosted email
  • Desktop Office applications for PC and Mac
  • Mobile Office for iOS, Android, and Windows
  • Hosted email
  • Skype for business web conferencing
  • OneDrive for Business online storage and document collaboration
  • Compliance tools such as archiving and legal hold

The E5 plan adds these features:

  • PSTN, the public telephone network, is included with Skype for business conferencing
  • A cloud PBX (switchboard) that includes PSTN calling with features such as call hold and transfer

You will also need a calling plan, which Microsoft currently offers only to US customers, though international availability is promised.

There are additional security features. E5 "Advanced Security" includes Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for Exchange Online, with behavioral malware analysis and blocking and tracing of malicious links in emails. ATP is also available as an add-on for other plans.

Another feature, called Customer Lockbox, prevents Microsoft engineers from viewing customer content when troubleshooting an issue, unless given explicit approval. There is also per-file encryption for documents and emails.

Advanced eDiscovery, for document analytics in the context of compliance search, is also included. This is based on technology that came with Microsoft's acquisition of Equivio in January 2015.

The E5 plan also includes Power BI analytics for gaining insight from corporate data, and Delve analytics, which looks at content in Exchange and OneDrive for Business.

Office 365 Enterprise Plans, now including E5

Office 365 Enterprise Plans, now including E5

Figuring out exactly which features are in which plans is not especially easy, based on Microsoft's plan summaries, since you have to follow multiple links. Microsoft is no doubt counting on its partner network to understand the differences and guide their customers.

Another issue here is the balance between incremental improvement, which is part of the deal customers expect when subscribing to a software service, and new features only available as part of a more expensive plan, or as an add-on. It would be incorrect to call the introduction of E5 a price increase, since it is a new plan, but there may nevertheless be disappointment that it now costs more to get Microsoft's best service.

Today is a bad day to discuss advanced features of Office 365, after an outage of several hours (affecting all plans), which caused some wags on Twitter to dub the service Office 364. ®

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