Office 365 Business vs. Business Premium vs. Business Essentials: Which should you buy?

Office desktop apps
Office desktop apps (Image credit: Windows Central)

Word and Excel

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Office 365 for Business brings together several Microsoft productivity apps and services into a single subscription. There are three different plans, Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Premium, and Office 365 Business Essentials. The three plans aren't just tiers where paying more gets you everything a cheaper plan gets plus more. Instead, you pick a plan based on where you want to use Office, how you want to communicate, and of course, how much you want to spend. Office 365 Business Essentials focuses on the web and online communication through Teams, whereas Office 365 Business gets you the desktop Office apps but doesn't get you access to Teams. Office 365 Business Premium gets you access to everything but comes at a higher cost.

Head-to-head features

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Office 365 BusinessOffice 365 Business PremiumOffice 365 Business Essentials
Cloud storageOneDrive 1TBOneDrive 1TBOneDrive 1TB
Web appsWordExcelPowerPointWordExcelPowerPointOutlookWordExcelPowerPointOutlook
Desktop appsYesYesNo
Microsoft TeamsNoYesYes
Real-time collaboration in documentsYesYesYes
Business email supportNoYesYes
Management ToolsNonePlan schedules and tasks with Microsoft TeamsSchedule and manage appointments with Microsoft BookingsMileage tracking through MileIQNone

Office 365 Business

Office 365 Business is in the middle of the pack when it comes to pricing. At $8.25 per user per month, you get access to all of the Office desktop apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. You also get 1TB of OneDrive storage and access to the web versions of the Office apps.

The main draw of this plan is its access to Microsoft's powerful desktop applications. These have been a staple of many workflows for decades, and Microsoft has done an excellent job building up their capabilities. In addition to their powerful features, their file formats will be the standard for some organizations and people.

The downside to this plan is that it doesn't get you access to Microsoft Teams. Teams is a relatively new communication tool that allows you to communicate through chat, calls, video calls, and file sharing. It integrates with the rest of Office well and is available across platforms. But if you don't need to use Teams or your organization already pays for Slack or another service, then it might not be worth the cost to bump up to Business Premium.

Office 365 Business Premium

Office desktop

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Office 365 Business Premium is the fully stocked version of Office 365. With it, you get Microsoft's desktop apps, the web versions of Office, Microsoft Teams, business email support, 1 TB of OneDrive storage, SharePoint support, Exchange, and more. It's a complete productivity suite that covers everything from instant communication to file creation to file sharing.

The downside of the plan is its cost. At $12.50 per user per month, it can add up at a large business that has a lot of employees or have a high monthly cost at a small business that has a low overhead.

Whether you go with Business or Business Premium largely comes down to your budget, if you need Teams, if you need business email support, and if you use SharePoint.

Office 365 Business Essentials

Microsoft Teams iOS

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Office 365 Business Essentials is an affordable option that still gets you access to quite a bit. While you don't get the desktop Office apps, you do get the web versions of Office, Microsoft Teams, Exchange, 1TB of OneDrive storage, SharePoint, and business email support. All of that comes at $5 per user per month. While Business Essentials isn't identical to Business Premium aside from the desktop apps, the desktop apps do make up the bulk of the difference. Another difference is that Business Premium gets you several management tools tasks within Teams.

If the desktop apps aren't important to you and your business, Office 365 Business Essentials is an excellent choice. Aside from the desktop apps, you don't give up much to get a complete productivity suite on the web.

Office 365 Business Essentials doesn't directly compare to Office 365 Business since one has the desktop apps while the other has Teams.

Which should you buy?

All three plans have their strengths and weaknesses. If you want an affordable plan that gets your employees web-based productivity apps and Microsoft Teams for communication, you should go with Office 365 Business Essentials. You get access to a lot of services for just $5 per user per month.

If you need the fully-powered desktop applications and don't need Teams for communication or business email support, you should get Office 365 Business. It's much more affordable than Office 365 Business Premium and still gets all of your employees the desktop Office applications, OneDrive cloud storage, and the ability to work on the web with the Office web apps.

If you need everything Microsoft's Ofice 365 for Business has to offer, then you should get Office 365 Business Premium. It costs $12.50 per user but gets you Microsoft's entire offering. Just make sure that you need everything it has before subscribing to it. For a lot of businesses, the Premium plan could be overkill.

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Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at