Which Microsoft Subscription Options are Best for Your WFH Requirements?

By Dan Brewster

Director of Client Services – Microsoft, NPI

April 16, 2020

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Most technology workers are now working from home, and to their credit, most technology providers have risen to the challenge to support this unprecedented event. Zoom, LogMeIn, Slack, Google, Microsoft and others are offering their services for free for these displaced workers. Understandably, these vendors are hoping you will continue to use their tools when things return to normal.

Microsoft has offered a free 6-month Office 365 E1 Trial to organizations that have been adversely impacted by the sudden demand for WFH employees. This trial includes Microsoft Teams, and the Web-based Office apps and business services like Exchange Online and SharePoint Online. This is a pretty smart approach as Teams is becoming more and more the hub for all sorts of Microsoft technologies that will create licensing dependencies. While many will take Microsoft up on this great offer, larger enterprises will likely already have O365 E3, M365 E3 or E5 subscriptions.

Given a lot of customers will already have a robust setup with rich clients like Outlook and Teams, the question isn’t just about having the tools to work remotely – it’s also about security. How complicated will it be to securely work from home? What types of security issues arise when much of your workforce is remote? Consider identity and access management, multi-factor authentication, device management, Windows virtual desktops and more. Or, if you’re a Microsoft customer, consider Azure Active Directory, Azure MFA, Microsoft Intune, Configuration Manager, VDA licenses, and more – also known as Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility + Security suite. We recently provided an in-depth review of the Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite here.

While all the Enterprise Mobility components are available on an a la carte basis, Microsoft does offer the EMS E3 or E5 bundle. The bundles typically provide savings of at least 5% over a la carte pricing. Many clients, however, have not previously been able to commit to the entire EMS bundle due to cost or the fact that competitive products were already in use. In 2019 Microsoft released two new bundles – the M365 Security and the M365 Compliance suites. These two products contain bundles of the more popular EMS components. The bundle discount for these offerings is at least 25% of the price you would pay buying on an a la carte basis, so it’s well worth your time to consider whether these bundles make sense for your organization.

New WFH requirements will continue to cause enterprises to make new IT investments. In some cases, these will be net new purchases. In other cases, it will require companies to reexamine their licensing and subscription options and make new choices that are in line with current user and security needs as well as afford more flexibility moving forward.