Microsoft 365 Business, an integrated productivity, security, and management solution for businesses with up to 300 employees, has entered general availability.
The new solution, which combines the Business Premium edition of Microsoft’s Office 365 productivity suite with endpoint protection, mobile device management, and system administration tools, had been in preview since August, shortly after it debuted at Microsoft’s 2017 Inspire partner conference in Washington D.C.
It works only on PCs running the Windows 10 Pro operating system, but does not include a license to that product. Microsoft expects most users to acquire the OS when refreshing or adding client hardware.
According to Caroline Goles, director of Office SMB at Microsoft, Microsoft 365 Business is designed to provide SMBs and channel partners long forced to link siloed collaboration and management systems manually a single, simple means of running a business in the cloud,
“They’re trying to patch the stuff together on their own,” she says. “Bringing that solution where it’s easy to manage in one place was really the value proposition we saw, and we believe that that’s the best thing for our SMB partners.”
At the heart of the new system is a centralized management interface called the Admin Center. Developed specifically for use with Microsoft 365 Business, the console provides on-off toggle switches for a variety of security settings, including remotely enabling Windows Defender anti-virus protection on client endpoints and automatically applying patches and updates to those endpoints without user intervention.
The system also includes remote wipe support for lost or stolen devices and functionality for compelling users to provide a PIN or fingerprint when attempting to open Office applications. That last feature lets businesses more thoroughly shield sensitive data from unauthorized viewers—including their own children.
“I don’t want my kids to access my company data and accidentally e-mail Satya [Nadella], for example,” says Gabe Long, a senior product manager in Microsoft’s Office product group.
Like the stand-alone edition of Office 365 Business Premium, Microsoft 365 Business include licenses for online and locally-installed copies of Microsoft Office. While companies with Office 365 Business Premium must generally install that software on client devices one at a time, however, Microsoft 365 Business lets administrators deploy Office on multiple endpoints simultaneously and automatically.
“Historically, this has been reserved for enterprise offerings,” Long says.
Available through the same Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider program sources that SMBs and channel pros turn to for Office 365 seats, Microsoft 365 Business costs $20 per user per month. On its own, Office 365 Business Premium sells for $12.50 a user per month. Microsoft encourages its partners to make the higher priced SKU their default initial offer to customers going forward.
“If you lead with Office 365, you’re going to make that sell, and it’s a productivity sell, but then you have to go back into the customer and you have to then sell them on security and then you have to then sell them on device management,” Long says. “What we’re trying to do is simplify that sales cycle for our reseller community by bringing those three conversations together.”
A second version of Microsoft 365 for larger businesses, called Microsoft 365 Enterprise, brings Microsoft’s Office 365 Enterprise, Enterprise Mobility + Security, and Windows 10 Enterprise offerings together in a single SKU. Those components remain discrete products though.
“This is a holistic product,” says Goles of Microsoft 365 Business. “It’s not a licensing construct.”
Microsoft also officially rolled out three new business applications today and made StaffHub, the solution first unveiled in January that gives “frontline” staff who work in call centers, on production lines, and behind counters rather than at desks a place to manage their schedule, share information, and access work-related apps, an included feature of both Microsoft 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium.