What is Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 (formally Office 365) can be thought of as the cloud version of the successful Office suite of productivity applications – including Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and so much more. It is Microsoft’s “user” offering (in contrast to the back-office offerings like SQL Server, Exchange, and so on).

For some users this is a totally cloud experience – for example, a factory worker using browser-based tools on a shared (kiosk) workstation. Others will have the installed Office “desktop” experience on PCs, Macs, and other devices – paid for with a monthly or annual subscription via cloud-hosted services, and accessing email handled in the cloud (Exchange Online), accessing files published in SharePoint Online (business) or OneDrive (personal), but also accessing files on their device (laptop, hard disk, or whatever). The desktop version allows you to work offline and the next time you connect to the Internet, all work will automatically sync to the cloud, and you can get automatic upgrades.

All of this – and more – is “Microsoft 365”, and it is as much about how it is paid for (subscription versus traditional license) as it is about a strict definition of cloud versus on-premises. So, Microsoft 365 can reside completely on Microsoft’s cloud or be integrated with on-premises environments – creating a hybrid environment, in which user accounts, as well as data, can be synchronized for both environments, with password synchronization and single sign-on (SSO) between them.

Microsoft 365 includes subscriptions for home (‘Microsoft 365 Personal’ or ‘Microsoft 365 Family’) and business (‘Microsoft 365 Business’) use and services such as ‘Skype for Business’, ‘Exchange Online hosted email’, and additional online storage with OneDrive or SharePoint Online. Internet access is a requirement for installing and activating all Microsoft 365 plans and managing your subscription, as well as access to Microsoft 365 cloud services such as email and Skype conferencing.

Microsoft offers ‘FastTrack for Microsoft 365’, providing resources, tools, and experts to make rolling out Microsoft 365 a success.  Review the Microsoft 365 Adoption Guide to learn more about creating a successful plan.

Further reading