Microsoft’s fourth quarter kicked off April 1, and with it comes several product changes. Microsoft’s marketing has shifted to a heavy focus on supporting remote workers and businesses through the challenging circumstances brought on by COVID-19; there are some great resources and communications being shared by Microsoft to be aware of. Microsoft has been quieter than usual on the other announcements, but that should not take away from the value these updates provide. Below is a quick summary of the top announcements from Microsoft in recent weeks:

    1. Microsoft 365 Business Voice

    At Microsoft Ignite in November, Microsoft 365 Business Voice was launched in the UK and Canada with global availability expected in 2020. Business Voice is a cloud-based phone system bringing together calling, meetings, and messaging into a single application, Microsoft Teams. As of April 1, Microsoft 365 Business Voice is now available in the United States. This is great news for small and medium businesses with less than 300 users. Prior to this announcement, small and medium businesses wanting to leverage Teams for calling were forced into paying for Enterprise plans like Office 365 E3 with an add on for Voice. Microsoft 365 Business Voice can be added on to Office 365 Business Essentials, Office 365 Business Premium, or Microsoft 365 Business for $20/user/month MSRP with a calling plan or $12/user/month MSRP without a calling plan.

    2. New Microsoft 365 SKU for Firstline Workers

    In our February 25 blog, Apex highlighted benefits of the Firstline Worker license plans from Microsoft.  On April 1, Microsoft launched a new Firstline Worker plan while also renaming and enhancing the existing plans. The new Microsoft 365 F1 plan is now available and includes products like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Yammer, Stream, and Enterprise Security + Management. This plan is perfect for a Firstline worker that does not require email but needs secure access to other collaboration and communication tools from the web or mobile device.  This plan is available for $4/user/month MSRP. The previous Microsoft 365 F1 plan is now Microsoft 365 F3 and the previous Office 365 F1 plan is now Office 365 F3. All Firstline plans now have expanded Microsoft Teams value including audio/video capabilities, meeting rights, and Walkie Talkie.

    3. Microsoft 365 E5 Compliance Plan Updates

    Microsoft launched the Microsoft 365 E5 Compliance add on in February 2019. On April 1, Microsoft repackaged the plan with new value including advanced auditing, insider risk management, communication compliance, and Microsoft Cloud App Security (MCAS). The pricing ($10/user/month MSRP) did not change and is available as an add on to Microsoft 365 E3 or Office 365 E3 plans.

    In addition, Microsoft launched three new Microsoft 365 E5 Compliance “mini-suite” add-ons on April 1:

    • Information Protection and Governance ($7/user/month MSRP)
    • Insider Risk Management ($6/user/month MSRP)
    • eDiscovery and Audit ($6/user/month MSRP)

    Customers licensed for Microsoft 365, Office 365, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business plan can add on any of these mini-suites. The Information Protection and Governance plan also requires licensing for Azure Info Protection P1.

    Microsoft also announced the sunsetting of Office 365 Advanced Compliance and Azure Information Protection (AIP) Plan 2 SKUs effective April 1. Existing customers will see no changes for the remainder of their current enrollment term and may continue to add seats of Office 365 Advanced Compliance and/or Azure Information Protection Plan 2 through the duration of their enrollment term. While a future cutoff date for renewals may be implemented, until such time, customers may renew their licenses.

    4. Azure Active Directory Premium Plan 1 (AADP P1) coming to Microsoft 365 Business

    Microsoft 365 Business will soon include the full version of AADP P1. Microsoft shared the news April 2nd and indicated the change will be available to new customers within the next few weeks and existing customers in the coming months. While the current AADP P1 version of Microsoft 365 Business supported multi-factor authentication, conditional access, and self-service password reset it was missing key security features critical to help employees maintain secure access to work apps remotely. With this update, Microsoft 365 Business customers will be able to take advantage of Cloud App Discovery, Application Proxy, Dynamic Groups, and Passwordless Authentication.

    5. New Microsoft 365 offerings for small and medium-sized businesses

    Effective April 21, Microsoft is re-branding Office 365 subscriptions for small and medium-sized businesses as well as Office 365 ProPlus. These products will use the Microsoft 365 brand that began in 2017 and are intended to represent the innovation provided that extends well beyond the traditional Office product, including new apps and services that continue to be enhanced and added to the subscriptions.  No pricing or feature changes were announced. The name changes are:


    • Office 365 Business Essentials will become Microsoft 365 Business Basic.
    • Office 365 Business Premium will become Microsoft 365 Business Standard.
    • Microsoft 365 Business will become Microsoft 365 Business Premium.
    • Office 365 Business and Office 365 ProPlus will both become Microsoft 365 Apps. Microsoft will use the “for business” and “for enterprise” labels to distinguish between the two where necessary.

    The updates highlighted above provide enhanced productivity and security for small businesses, Firstline workers, and enterprise organizations alike which is extremely critical in today’s climate with the dramatic increase in remote work and the dependency on our Firstline workforce. While not a product update, it is important to acknowledge the Microsoft COVID-19 communications and resources. Microsoft responded swiftly to the needs of their employees, customers, and community as a result of COVID-19. There has been a significant amount of information shared through LinkedIn, Twitter, and other digital media sources related to Microsoft’s internal response, remote work recommendations, free product access, technical support, and community services. This information has now been consolidated in a single resource page.

    Apex Digital Solutions is a Microsoft Gold Partner focused on technology for people’s sake. One of our brand promises is to “Solve, Not Sell.”  During these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever to be there for our customers, listen to your needs, understand your challenges, and support you in keeping your employees secure, productive, and engaged. If we can be of any assistance, contact us at  Thank you and stay healthy and safe!

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