Understanding Microsoft 365 – Part 1: What is Microsoft 365?

31 May, 2024
Ritchie Farr

Ritchie Farr

It’s fair to say that Microsoft 365 is often underutilised or misunderstood; we see this on a frequent basis when taking on new clients. In this series of posts, we will look to debunk common misconceptions, provide useful tips, and help you get more out of your Microsoft 365 subscriptions.

A Brief History of Microsoft 365

To start our journey, we first need to understand what Microsoft 365 is. I believe it helps to understand the history of the service as many answers can be found in the progression of the service over time.

In 2011 Microsoft launched Office 365, at the time it was effectively a way to allow companies to shift CAPEX to OPEX by offering commonly used business applications as a subscription service. The initial offering included Microsoft Office 2010, Exchange, and SharePoint.

With the launch of Microsoft Office 2013 there was a push to promote Office 365 as the primary home for Office, this resulted in a shift to providing constantly updated versions of office with ever closer integration into services like OneDrive. This approach laid the foundation for what the service is today.

In 2017 Microsoft started to evolve the solution for the enterprise market, incorporating Windows 10 Enterprise and new cloud-based security and device management products to create a new offering known as Microsoft 365. 

By 2020 the growth of enterprise features included in business subscriptions of Office 365 lead to a rebrand of all subscriptions to Microsoft 365.

Services currently available in Microsoft 365

Access to many services will be dependent on the level of subscription you opt for, however given the value of services on offer we find that the top tier subscription ‘Microsoft 365 Business Premium’ to be the most popular. Let’s quickly delve into the included features of this package.

Desktop Microsoft 365 Apps

Previously known as Office applications, these make the productivity suite we are all familiar with: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, and Publisher.

Cloud Storage

OneDrive and SharePoint make up this offering, the two services are closely linked. Featuring 1 TB of storage on OneDrive per user and 2 TB of organisational storage on SharePoint, these services help us keep our files safe, secure, and readily available. 


Exchange is the email service most commonly used by medium, large and enterprise businesses. It's advanced features are great for business, traditionally these features come with a high cost to run an Exchange server, Microsoft 365 has made this system highly cost effective.


Designed to boost communication and collaboration, teams ties all the productivity features of Microsoft 365 together with conferencing and communication. The platform has rapidly become a market leader in the remote conferencing market, adoption was dramatically increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has proven to remain popular ever since.


Planner is a web, mobile and teams app which enables the tracking of projects and milestones using Kanban boards. Giving project managers the ability to assign tasks within a team and check on progress with visual charts and reports. Planner is similar to tools provided by Trello, Asana, Monday.com and Todoist.

Device Management, Security and Compliance

Services such as InTune and Defender for Business help keep your business secure whilst providing advanced features such as zero-touch configuration of new Windows devices, Remote wiping of stolen and lost devices, protection from users copying company data outside of the organisation, and policy management allowing businesses to achieve certifications and meet industry standards such as Cyber Essentials.


In summary, Microsoft 365 is a platform for modern working that empowers teams to work effectively together and from anywhere; when combined with its powerful device management and security capabilities, to keep your data secure, it is a formidable and well-rounded solution. Microsoft 365 can act as the technological heart of your business, boosting productivity and keeping your data safe and secure in the process. 

It’s no longer just a way to license Microsoft Office applications (although that option still exists), it’s likely that there are features included in your subscription that you aren’t aware of or are yet to make the most of those systems.

Check back next week for part 2 of our series where we will start to delve into individual features of Microsoft 365 starting with cloud storage.

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