The Ultimate Guide To Microsoft 365 for SMEs

Microsoft 365 provides robust capabilities to both small and large to increase productivity and ultimately profits.

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Microsoft has for decades been a significant player in the modern workplace. Millions of businesses today continue to rely on its wide range of software to manage and ultimately grow their businesses.

Their latest offering is Microsoft 365 which is the brand’s family of productivity software, collaboration and cloud-based services. The suite is offered as a subscription service, and provides users with the latest version of well-known Microsoft apps, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Also included in the software are cloud storage and a wide range of collaboration tools.

For businesses of all sizes, the benefits of Microsoft 365 are extensive. The applications not only improve employee productivity and satisfaction within the business, but they also enable seamless communication, which enables greater collaboration than ever before. Cloud security means that important data is protected against a wide spectrum of current and emerging cybersecurity threats.

For SMEs looking to take advantage of Office in the cloud, below is a guide to Microsoft 365 and its set of digital tools.

What’s included in Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 is a combination of services that blends together Office 365, Windows 10 OS, and Enterprise Mobility + Security. Most users will be more familiar with Office 365, the productivity suite which features desktop apps such as Microsoft Teams, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneDrive.

With the Microsoft 365 subscription businesses also have access to additional services such as 1 TB cloud storage and cloud-connected features that let users collaborate on files in real time. The subscription also comes with security updates, ongoing tech support, and robust security measures like two-factor authentication. This ensures that unauthorised people can’t access your files if they happen to get on your device.

Windows 10 Enterprise is an evaluation software that is offered as part of Microsoft 365. The software has corporate-focused features and advanced security functionality, and is designed to work across a network of many business computers.

Using the software businesses can save time, improve productivity, and increase data protection.

Windows 10 Enterprise is designed to address the needs of large and midsize organisations by providing IT professionals with:

  • Advanced protection against modern security threats.
  • Flexible deployment, update, and support options.
  • Comprehensive device and app management and control.
Office 365

Office 365 is a suite of cloud-based productivity applications such as Microsoft Office, SharePoint, Teams, OneDrive, Yammer, OneNote.

As it’s cloud-based, all applications can be accessed from any location or device, provided that an internet connection is available. Office 365 also offers a secure environment with security measures in place to protect files and data.

The range of collaborative tools also available in Office 365 allow teams to work together on a shared project or goal. In practical terms, users can share mailboxes, calendars, contacts and edit documents in real time.

There is much more to Office 365 than just Office, below is a list of all the productivity and collaboration applications that businesses can take advantage of.

Microsoft Outlook includes an email client, calendar, address/contact book and task manager. Office integration lets users share attachments right from OneDrive, access contacts, and view LinkedIn profiles.

Microsoft OneNote is a note taking app that allows for notes, drawings and audio commentaries. The note taking program makes it possible to easily share the notes with other OneNotes users.

Microsoft Publisher is a desktop publishing application with a focus on page layout and design tool that is useful for business to create marketing materials.

Microsoft Access is a database management system. It enables users to store data and access data stored in other applications.

Microsoft Sway can be used to create presentations. Content for presentations can be accessed locally or from the Internet, including Youtube or Facebook.

Microsoft SharePoint is a content management platform in which teams can collaborate, access, manage, and share data from any location. It includes Workflows on SharePoint, which creates an automated process for tasks such as document approval. SharePoint Project Site is a useful project management tool which can enhance project management. This feature allows users to assign certain tasks and responsibilities, and track team events on a shared calendar. Lastly, SharePoint PerformancePoint delivers insights on a company’s performance, the Business Intelligence dashboards include functionalties such as scorecards, filters and custom reports to measure performance.

Yammer is an enterprise social networking service and another major collaboration tool within Office 365. Employees who have access to it can join a private chat within the organisation. The service enables users to safely collaborate, share pictures and documents and create groups related to work and interests.

Skype for Business is an enterprise software that enables features like instant messaging, Voice over IP (VoIP) or video conferencing.

Microsoft Teams features workplace chats, meetings, notes and attachments for teams. It can also integrate extensions of non-Microsoft products.

OneDrive is a file hosting service and allows to store files as well as personal data in a cloud. The files can be synchronised to the computer, downloaded or shared with other people. Users have 1 TB of additional OneDrive cloud storage so they can save documents, photos and videos online and access them from nearly anywhere.

Office Delve is like a search machine for Office 365. Users can search and manage their emails, meetings, contacts, social networks and documents stored in OneDrive. Artificial Intelligence helps filter the most relevant people and content.

MyAnalytics’s private dashboard analyses and facilitates work habits. It can, for example, document meeting hours, email hours, focus hours and after hours.

Power Business Intelligence (BI) is a cloud-based suite of business analytics. It enables users to connect, visualise and analyse data with higher speed and efficiency. A broad range of live data is connected through easy-to-use dashboards. Users can provide and access interactive reports and compelling visualisations of the data. Data can be turned into insights and actions.

Microsoft Forms is a tool that allows users to quickly create quizzes, surveys, questionnaires, and registrations.

Skype for Business lets you hold conference calls and meetings with staff and extenal agencies anywhere in the world, so you can always collaborate and communicate regardless of distance or time difference.

Microsoft Exchange Server is Microsoft’s email, calendaring, contact, scheduling and collaboration platform.

Enterprise Mobility + Security

Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) is a mobility management and security platform that helps protect and secure organisations and empower employees.

EMS provides some of the following solutions:

Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is used to manage user identities and control access to your apps, data, and resources.

Microsoft Defender is a security solution that protects company devices from ransomware, malware, phishing, and other threats, across all your cloud services.

Microsoft Defender for Identity cloud service helps protect your enterprise hybrid environments from multiple types of advanced targeted cyber attacks and insider threats.

Microsoft Secure Score report on the current state of the organisation’s security posture. Businesses can compare with benchmarks and establish key performance indicators (KPIs).

The benefits of using Microsoft 365 for small and medium businesses

Office 365 provides robust capabilities to both small and large to increase productivity and ultimately profits.

The biggest game changer is that all Office 365 applications are cloud-based. This shift offers multiple advantages for businesses, such as enhanced storage, remote accessibility to files, simplified collaboration, and automatic updates. Consequently, organisations can anticipate a boost in their efficiency and productivity, as well as reduced costs.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into these benefits and explore others.

Boost in productivity

Office 365 takes pride in its ability to enhance the performance of diverse business functions, ranging from marketing and sales to human resources (HR). This includes their project management tools, customer relationship management software, and marketing automation software.

Using these tools, businesses can easily automate previously manual business operations, improve the accuracy and availability of data, and facilitate greater collaboration among teams. All this can translate into more efficient processes and increased employee productivity.

An example of how Office 365 can help businesses have more productive processes is with its marketing efforts. Cloud-based applications provide businesses access real-time and actionable data. This type of valuable data can empower marketing departments to make better decisions on how best to serve their customers’ needs at every stage of their journey.

“The cloud makes it easier to track leads, test new channels, and determine which elements of the marketing strategy worked well (or didn’t). It is also easier to keep track of prospects and customers through widely available and extremely affordable Customer Relationship Management applications.”

Cloud technology has also brought significant benefits in the area of human resources. By embracing cloud-based HR solutions, companies enable their employees to access leave information and other records with ease. Furthermore, this technology has eliminated much of the administrative paperwork involved in fundamental HR processes.

Increased cost-effectiveness

Businesses have been quick to adopt cloud technology largely because of its cost savings.

Online services like Office 365 are often more cost-effective because they do not require any hardware investments like on-premises data servers. Furthermore, business owners are not responsible for any operational, maintenance and upgrade costs and expenses, or cybersecurity and data recovery.

Office 365 is offered on a subscription basis which makes it more affordable than traditional office software. The subscription model means businesses pay per user and can budget their IT spend for the year ahead. Businesses also only pay for the exact amount of cloud storage it needs for its data with the pay-as-you-go model.

The different plan options available means business owners can choose a plan depending on their business needs. Different enterprise levels include different applications and products, which dictates the cost of each licence.

Scalability is an often overlooked major perk of using cloud-based services. Businesses can easily adjust their IT spend depending on the circumstances. This provides them the flexibility to swiftly respond to any changes and quickly accommodate any business growth without having to make any costly investments to current IT infrastructure.

Greater collaboration

Cloud-based applications make it possible for employees to collaborate seamlessly, regardless of their physical location. This can result in improved teamwork and heightened productivity.

Microsoft 365 allows employees to transition smoothly between working in the office and remotely, as long as they have the necessary credentials and have an internet connection. Employees can easily access and share documents and files using their smartphones, laptops and notebooks.

This feature has become increasingly important as remote and hybrid work setups have become more common in the current business landscape.

Case in point, Office 365’s Microsoft SharePoint content management platform allows teams to collaborate, access, manage, and share data from any location. It is supported by SharePoint Project Site, a useful project management tool which assigns tasks and responsibilities, and tracks team events on a shared calendar.

Microsoft 365 plans and pricing options for small and medium businesses

Microsoft 365 is paid for on a per user, per month basis, like a subscription. The cost of your licence depends on the level of functionality you choose for your business.

Prices do not include VAT

Microsoft 365 Business Basic – R106,70 user/month


  • Web and mobile versions of Microsoft 365 apps only
  • Chat, call, meet up to 300 attendees
  • 1 TB of cloud storage per user
  • Business-class email
  • Standard security
  • Anytime phone and web support

Web and mobile apps and services, include:

  • MicrosoftOutlook
  • MicrosoftWord
  • MicrosoftExcel
  • MicrosoftPowerPoint
  • MicrosoftOneDrive
  • MicrosoftTeams
  • MicrosoftBookings
  • MicrosoftForms
  • MicrosoftLists
  • MicrosoftPlanner
  • MicrosoftExchange

Microsoft 365 Business Standard – R222,30 user/month


  • Everything in Business Basic, plus:
  • Desktop versions of Microsoft 365 apps with premium features
  • Easily host webinars
  • Attendee registration and reporting tools
  • Manage customer appointments

Web and mobile apps and services, include:

  • MicrosoftOutlook
  • MicrosoftWord
  • MicrosoftExcel
  • MicrosoftPowerPoint
  • MicrosoftOneDrive
  • MicrosoftTeams
  • MicrosoftBookings
  • MicrosoftForms
  • MicrosoftLists
  • MicrosoftPlanner
  • MicrosoftExchange

Microsoft 365 Business Premium – R391,20 user/month


  • Everything in Business Standard, plus:
  • Advanced security
  • Access and data control
  • Cyberthreat protection

Microsoft 365 Apps for Business – R146,70 user/month


  • Desktop versions of Microsoft 365 apps with premium features – Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote (plus Access and Publisher for PC only)
  • One licence to cover fully installed Office apps on five mobile devices, five tablets, and five PCs or Macs per user.
  • 1 TB of cloud storage per user
  • Standard security
  • Anytime phone and web support