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If you’re looking to understand how Microsoft 365 licencing works for SMBs and maximise your investment, this blog will provide you with the insights you need. From productivity and collaboration to security and innovation, we offer a comprehensive perspective on how Microsoft 365 works as a strategic partner to your business. We’ll delve into the intricacies of the core SMB licence stack to ensure you’re armed with everything you need to make the right choices for your business.

Read time: 6 minutes


Imagine the scene: Mark, an IT manager at a growing engineering firm, juggles endless emails, scattered project files, and frustrated team calls. Remote work promised flexibility, but individuals feel siloed, deadlines loom, and client calls end in confusion. The pressure falls on Mark as remote workers yearn for seamless collaboration, shared screens, and real-time brainstorming – bringing people together no matter where they are.  

Microsoft Office LogoNow consider this: what if there was a way to not only bridge the digital divide, but transform it into a springboard for growth? Enter Microsoft 365, a comprehensive suite of tools designed to empower SMBs, just like Mark’s, to navigate the modern digital landscape, and not just survive, but thrive.  

It’s not just about fancy software and buzzwords, it’s about reimagining how your team operates, shattering communication challenges, and forging seamless synergies across departments. Imagine a platform where files flow effortlessly, projects progress in real-time, and brainstorming sessions feel as if your entire team is in the same room, regardless of their physical location. Microsoft 365 delivers on all this, and more.   

Microsoft 365 isn’t just a solution; it’s more like a strategic partner, designed to equip your IT team with the tools they need to become the architects of your business’ digital future. In this blog, we’ll delve into the heart of this powerful platform, showcasing how it tackles the specific challenges faced by UK SMB IT leaders. We’ll explore its security features that safeguard your business, its collaboration tools that break down barriers, and its adaptability that empowers you to embrace the future of work, with confidence.  

Understanding the SMB Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities  

Navigating the digital landscape as an SMB can feel like a high-wire act – juggling collaboration challenges, security tightropes, and the ever-present question of how to stretch limited resources across ever-evolving technologies. Here are just a few of the struggles SMBs are currently tackling with the help of Microsoft 365:   

  • Remote Work Crossroads: For many UK SMBs, the remote work revolution hasn’t quite met the hype. While flexibility was the biggest drawcard, reality often paints a picture of disconnected teams struggling with scattered files, asynchronous communication, and a gnawing sense of separation. Collaboration feels clunky, deadlines loom like storm clouds, and client calls morph into confusing whirlwinds.  
  • Security Jitters: In an age of cyber threats, data isn’t just an asset; it’s a ticking time bomb. SMBs, often without dedicated IT resources, face vulnerability and potential exposure to the sinister challenges posed by malicious actors. Every email and every shared file feels like a potential breach waiting to happen.  
  • Resource Bottlenecks: Limited budgets and stretched staff make navigating the ever-evolving digital landscape a daunting task. Finding the right tools, keeping them updated, and ensuring seamless integration often falls to overworked IT heroes, juggling priorities while wrestling with limited expertise.  
  • Agility vs. Inertia: Much like technology, the market marches to its own beat. Adapting to changing demands, embracing new trends, and innovating with limited resources feels like running a marathon in quicksand. Staying ahead of the curve seems like a distant dream, a luxury reserved for larger players.  

  Young man working at desk

Enter Microsoft 365: Your Digital Transformation Partner  

Microsoft 365 Business licences aren’t just a collection of apps; they’re an empowerment tool built for SMBs like yours to overcome these challenges and bring your people closer together. Imagine a world where teams collaborate seamlessly, information flows effortlessly, and you’re always protected and compliant. A world where agility isn’t an aspiration but the very heartbeat of your business.  

With specific features like file co-authoring, real-time communication, and video conferencing at your fingertips, collaboration will be at the heart of everything you do. Brainstorming sessions come alive with Teams, where live chat, video calls, and shared screens bridge the physical gap. Click through presentations together, fine-tune proposals in real time, and smash those deadlines together. This isn’t about technology for technology’s sake; it’s about real-world business transformation powered by technology.  

Employee attending online meeting callFor SMBs eagerly anticipating Microsoft’s golden egg, Copilot, to become generally available, it’s never been more important to lay the right foundations to enable your business for the future of work. A date is yet to be publicised on the release of Copilot for customers who don’t currently consume their licences through an Enterprise Agreement. However, to maximise the capabilities of Copilot within your Microsoft tenant in the future will rely on a well-structured, secure environment.  

This is another example as to why choosing the right Microsoft 365 licence for each user is important. Still, with everything else on your plate and the constant feature updates, it can be difficult to feel truly comfortable that you’ve made the right and most impactful choice, relative to your investment. So, let’s take a look at each licence and once you’ve read this segment, you should have a foundational understanding of each of the core licences available to you and why they may or may not be the right choice. Each licence noted below is available for up to 300 users. 

Microsoft 365 Business Basic: Everyday Essentials  

Microsoft 365 Business Basic, as the name suggests, offers a basic, entry-level toolbox for communication, document creation, and storage, ideal for small teams starting their digital journey.

The first key point to remember is that this licence only includes web and mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook. This is a very different experience to the desktop applications and equally, this means you’ll always need to be connected to the internet to access emails, documents, notes and work on presentations. However, users do gain full access to Microsoft’s market-leading collaboration and communication platform, Teams.

They will also have full access to OneDrive and Sharepoint for storage and file sharing, plus a sizable 50GB mailbox. This licence is suitable for office-based users who are always connected but their use of the productivity applications is limited. There are also limited security and compliance features. Consider upgrading to Business Standard for full desktop and offline access to your favourite apps, or Business Premium for advanced security and compliance features.  

Microsoft 365 Business Standard: Collaboration & Productivity Suite for Agile Workers  

The primary difference you’ll see by upgrading to Microsoft 365 Business Standard is that your users will have full access to your favourite productivity and communication applications’ desktop, web, and mobile versions.

This licence, therefore, acts as a starting point for simple communication, document creation, and storage for users who work on the move. Microsoft Teams offers full chat and video conferencing, while familiar desktop apps like Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint handle everyday tasks. Each user will receive a 50GB mailbox, 1TB of personal cloud storage with OneDrive and full access to SharePoint, which offers a scalable, customisable intranet and file repository. With each of these licences, you’ll receive 1TB of SharePoint storage space as standard plus and additional 10GB per user.

However, Business Standard has limited security and compliance capabilities, meaning you will be responsible for protecting your people and devices separately. Consider upgrading to Business Premium for a full, consolidated suite of productivity, communication, security and compliance for the modern worker.  

Microsoft 365 Business Premium: Advanced security & control for the modern business  

As your business and your people adapt to new ways of working, new threats emerge every day and data has become the lifeblood of your operations. Microsoft 365 Business Premium is the complete licence built for the modern worker.

As well as every feature included in the Basic and Standard licences, this licence includes enterprise-grade security features that shield your data like a steel vault, comprehensive device management that protects every endpoint, and compliance tools that keep you ahead of ever-evolving regulations. Defender for Business offers market-leading endpoint protection, Advanced Threat Protection scans for lurking malware, Data Loss Prevention safeguards sensitive information, and Intune streamlines the management, deployment and protection of every device in your estate.

Microsoft 365 Business Premium is the go-to solution for businesses looking to empower and protect their people while consolidating disparate costs across multiple vendors. 

Microsoft 365 Decision-Making Matrix: Finding Your Perfect Fit  

While both Business Standard and Business Premium offer powerful tools, the path to becoming Copilot-ready demands a robust foundation. And that’s where Business Premium truly shines. As you can see in the above table, Business Premium offers several advanced features that allow you to consolidate all of your user’s needs into one, single solution.  

Furthermore, it comprises Purview Information Protection, which is critical for managing and protecting sensitive information wherever it lives or travels. This will enable the classification of business-critical and sensitive information across all areas of your tenant, allowing only authorised individuals to access certain documents – a fundamental building block for Copilot for Microsoft 365.   

For streamlined communication and cost-effectiveness, Business Standard is a capable companion. However, if your ambitions stretch beyond everyday tasks, Business Premium is the essential springboard for the future.  

Embracing Transformation: Unleashing the Digital Powerhouse Within  

With Microsoft 365 as your digital weapon of choice, you’re no longer confined to the middleweight class. You’re a heavyweight in the making, ready to throw a knockout punch that resonates through the digital landscape.   

For a seamless implementation and ongoing support, consider Tech Essentials from Babble. This all-in-one solution, powered by Microsoft 365, consolidates your tech needs with expert guidance and 24/7 backing, letting you focus on what matters most: your business’s success. The digital age is knocking – are you ready to answer the door with Babble by your side?  

How Can Babble Help You?  

As a Microsoft Solutions Partner, we have years of experience working with the above mentioned technologies. We can work with you to ensure you always have the right license types and volumes to match your needs. As your partner, we’re here to ensure you get the maximum value from each solution today and to help prepare you for tomorrow.  

Get in touch with your Account Manager. We’d love to hear from you! 

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