Looking towards a Microsoft future….

Office 365 – Which SKU is right for you…

…. and the fail of the Small Business P1 SKU

Before I start, I want to point out that I love the Office 365 service. I’ve deployed BPOS installations on BPOS-S and BPOS-D, and I look forward to taking customers through their migrations to the Office 365 Enterprise service or taking new customers on the Cloud experience.

What I’m not impressed with is the way the Small Business (P1) SKU has been thought through.

I have two personal tenancies on the Office 365 Beta – one P1 and one E3. The E3 is overkill as I don’t require Office Pro Plus or Office Web Apps, but until the E1 SKU is available at GA, this is what can be played with.

P1 is designed for small businesses, averaging 25 users but will have a seat limit of 50 at GA, and will be priced at $6/user/month which makes it sound like an absolute bargain of a set up, and on face value it is.

The P1 SKU gives you Exchange Online with Active Sync and 25GB mailboxes, gives you SharePoint Online with a public website, gives you Lync Online and Office Web Apps.

Now lets take a look at a couple of things that you don’t get:

1. Lync Federation or PIC – Lync Online in P1 offers “External Communications”, but doesn’t offer Federation or PIC. External Communications appears to be limited federation with other Lync Online customers but not anyone using Lync Server on-premise. It also allows communications with Live users (e.g., but doesn’t support federation to Yahoo, AOL etc

2. Any useful support. P1 tenants are apparently only supported by the community. There is definitely a mixed message here as I’ve personally logged a number of SRs and some get actioned and some get rejected. The Service Request feature is available on the P1 admin portal, but if you follow the pages through (and even though it has drop downs for each component selection) apparently it’s only to be used for billing enquiries. I’ve been told by different engineers that you do and don’t get email support, the only consistent message is that there is no telephone support. I can live with that, however no email support is ridiculous, considering the nature of some of the faults I’ve encountered so far…. which brings me to my next point

Why pay for P1 SKU when an Enterprise SKU brings you more features, functionality and support?

As it stands now on the Beta, Microsoft are only advertising the P1 and E3 SKUs, but as I listed in a previous blog post, there will be E1 and E2 SKUs (and E4) available at GA.

You would assume that there would have to be a seat limit for Enterprise, but nothing has been announced so far. As all existing BPOS-S customers who have the full suite currently will transition to the E1 SKU ($10/user/month) logic dictates that IF there is a seat limit, it will be 5 users.

Working on the assumption (and the assumption could be wrong, there may be no minimum), why would a small business use the P1 SKU?

In my opinion, Office Web Apps is a nice feature, but not a key selling point. The main thing a business needs is a reliable, supported service, and P1 doesn’t offer a reasonable level of the latter.

E1 will give you the public SharePoint Online website (albeit a little more complicated to set up), it gives you full Lync Federation and PIC… but more importantly signing up to an Enterprise SKU gives you scope for change and a fully supported platform.

You cannot interchange between Small Business and Enterprise at this time, so the decision needs to be made as part of the planning what SKU package you start with. Enterprise gives you the scope to add individual components as business grow (Plan 1 and Plan 2 for each component), move up to E2-E4, and have Kiosk workers. P1 is a static SKU offering a level set of features, but no real support.

P1 sounded like a great idea in the literature pre-Beta… and if you’re one of the lucky ones to have no issues with the back end service it saves you $4/user/month against E1 (and $10/user/month against E2 which would provide Office Web Apps)… but in the event of an issue the community has limited ability, in my experience so far, to actually resolve anything…..


Since the confirmation that there will be no seat limit for any of the Enterprise SKUs, it makes the decision to purchase the P1 SKU even less sensical. Complete functionality, greater flexibility and complete support available for literally £2.50 per user extra (comparing P1 to E1) makes it a no brainer for me at this time….roll on June 28th

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May 20, 2011 - Posted by | Office 365


  1. Justin,

    Definitely interesting thoughts and observations regarding the P1 level. I agree that it’s unfortunate that you’re constrained to a single site collection – though for a 25 person organization it may be worth while to investigate making that work the best that you can.

    I’m curious as well as to why the E1 isn’t available but E3 is at this point… also wondering what the different components will be that will map to those packages.

    Thanks for your insightful thoughts and sharing!


    Comment by Dan Usher | May 27, 2011 | Reply

  2. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the comment.

    Just to let you know that I detailed the differences in SKUs in an earlier blog post

    All BPOS customers will transition to E1 at their time of migration (where the SKU is currently the full suite)

    MS are using E3 as their flagship SKU, which I guess is why this is the only enterprise SKU available in beta. It gives you access to all the features and functionality, including Office Pro Plus and Office Web Apps

    Comment by Justin | May 31, 2011 | Reply

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