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Grow Your Business Technology

Guide to Microsoft Small Business Applications and Services

Microsoft Small Business Applications and Services 

Credit: Rvlsoft/Shutterstock

Microsoft offers a full breadth of services for small to midsize businesses. So much so it might make your head spin. But it makes sense. As a major technology company, Microsoft wants to be the answer for all your business needs. This has resulted in a ton of apps and services for small businesses, some of which seem to overlap, because they do. It can be so confusing that distinguishing each app, service or program from one another can be a challenge, to say the least.

Each business services plan Microsoft offers comes with varying levels of access to some of these apps. But without knowing what those are, how are you to choose which plan is right for you? And you may already have access through your existing plan to apps that you didn't know could be so helpful.

If you're curious about all the SMB apps Microsoft offers, what their features are and what plan they're included in, we've provided a list so you can easily determine what is included in your plan and if you want to upgrade.

[RELATED: Microsoft 365 Business: Surprising Features Baked In]

Microsoft 365 Business Apps
Microsoft 365 Business
  • Price
    $20 per user per month
  • Organization
    Delve, Planner, Admin Dashboard, Flow
  • Cloud storage
    OneDrive, SharePoint
  • Office tools
    Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access
  • Business Center
    Bookings, Listings, Connections, MileIQ, Invoicing, StaffHub
  • Communication
    Teams, Yammer, Exchange, Outlook Customer Manager, Skype for Business
Office 365 Business Premium Apps
Office 365 Business Premium
  • Price
    $12.50 per user per month
  • Organization
    Delve, Planner, Flow
  • Cloud Storage
    OneDrive, SharePoint
  • Office tools
    Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access
  • Business Center
    Bookings, Listings, Connections, MileIQ, Invoicing, StaffHub
  • Communication
    Teams, Yammer, Exchange, Outlook Customer Manager, Skype for Business
Office 365 Business Apps
Office 365 Business
  • Price
    $8.25 per user per month
  • Organization apps
    None
  • Cloud storage
    OneDrive
  • Office tools (desktop)
    Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access
  • Business Center
    None
  • Communication
    None
Office 365 Business Essentials Apps
Office 365 Business Essentials
  • Price
    $5 per user per month
  • Organization
    Delve, Planner, Flow
  • Cloud storage
    OneDrive, SharePoint
  • Office tools (web)
    Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher
  • Business Center
    None
  • Communication
    Teams, Yammer, Exchange, Skype for Business

365 Admin Dashboard – The 365 Admin Dashboard is a dashboard included with the Microsoft 365 Business package. From this dashboard, small business owners can manage mobile devices and overall IT security. Different features include wiping lost or stolen devices and toggling device access permissions among groups of employees. The dashboard has a sleek and intuitive design, and the security features built in to the subscription plan prevent things like employees from mixing personal and work emails.

Access – This application offers the ability to create and share apps without being a developer. It can be used for creating desktop databases, integrating data and customizing applications for your business. Access is rolled into Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Premium and Microsoft 365 Business. Office 365 Business Essentials and Mac users (regardless of which plan you subscribe to) won't have access to this program.

Bookings – Bookings is an appointment-based app that combines scheduling with appointment management. When a customer fills out the integrated Facebook form, your relevant employees' schedules are automatically updated to reflect the appointment. Bookings also makes it easy to send reminder notifications and links with other contact management apps, such as Outlook Customer Manager. This app can be downloaded by Office 365 Business Premium subscribers and comes as part of the Business Center in the Microsoft 365 Business package.

Business Center – The Business Center is one of the premier features of the Microsoft 365 Business subscription package. Here, users can manage other Microsoft apps such as Connections, Invoicing, Bookings and Listings. Business owners can also access the 365 Admin Dashboard to manage companywide security from the Business Center. It comes as part of Microsoft 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium.

Connections – Connections is an email marketing application small businesses can use to create and manage marketing campaigns. From Connections, business owners can send newsletters, manage referrals and issue incentives – like discount codes – to customers who refer their business to their friends. The template-based programs can help SMBs gain new customers through email marketing. This app is available for download from Office 365 Business Premium members and is included in the Microsoft 365 Business package.

Excel – Excel is a spreadsheet management application included in all of Microsoft's Business subscription packages. With Excel, you can crunch data and build spreadsheets for your business in a powerful data tool.

Exchange – Exchange is the business-class email client that Microsoft offers. There is an important distinction between Exchange and Outlook. Outlook is an email and scheduling application that Exchange runs through. So, for Office 365 Business Essentials, users don't have access to Outlook, but they do have access to Exchange.

In other words, while they don't have the actual desktop app, Essentials subscribers still have a Microsoft business-class email client in Exchange. In contrast, Office 365 Business subscribers have access to Outlook, but not to Exchange. This means that they have an application to run an email service, but no Microsoft business-class email.

As an alternative for very small businesses, you might sign up for a free Outlook.com email account and manage that account through the Outlook app. For slightly larger companies, you get more storage with a business-class Exchange account, and you can customize the email domain so it matches your businesses name. If you're deciding between plans, these are big distinctions. Both Outlook and Exchange are available to Office 365 Business Premium and Microsoft 365 Business subscribers.

Invoicing – Microsoft's Invoicing app allows business owners to create professional, customized invoices. It integrates with PayPal and QuickBooks, making it a good option for businesses that already use those types of software. In addition to creating invoices, Invoicing has a mobile invoicing option and can adjust sales tax and discounts. This app is a part of the Business Center, which comes with the Microsoft 365 Business package. It can also be downloaded by Office 365 Business Premium members.

Listings – Listings is a tool that allows SMB owners to monitor and update company information – like store location, hours, website, logo and contact information – across four major platforms: Google, Facebook, Bing and Yelp. When you adjust anything in Listings, it automatically updates across those four sites. You can also manage online reviews with this app. Listings can be downloaded by Office 365 Business Premium members and is officially part of the Microsoft 365 Business package.

OneDrive – OneDrive is a cloud-storage and file-sharing platform where you can store files and collaborate on work with other co-workers. OneDrive is different from SharePoint in that OneDrive only provides a cloud storage and sharing option. SharePoint has some other features that OneDrive isn't capable of, although the two platforms are very similar. OneDrive is included in all the Microsoft business subscription options.

OneNote – OneNote is a notetaking application where users can take and record notes on projects. OneNote is included in all the Microsoft business subscription options.

Outlook – Outlook is an email and calendar application where users can build schedules, set reminders, and send and receive emails. Business owners can also view and manage contacts through Outlook. Outlook is only an application and does not mean that your plan will include a business-class email service. See the Exchange entry above for more details. Outlook is available for Microsoft 365 Business, Office 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium subscribers. It's not available for Office 365 Business Essentials users.

Outlook Customer Manager – This service is rolled into Outlook. It's a separate information bar on the side of Outlook where customer information, recent transactions, tasks associated with that customer and reminders populate. You can search around Outlook with Customer Manager open, so you don't have to flip between windows to copy a customer's contact information or add a relevant task. It also syncs with Bookings. You might use this feature as a free customer relationship management (CRM) platform. This feature is available with an Office 365 Business Premium or Microsoft 365 Business Premium subscription.

PowerPoint – PowerPoint is a powerful presentation tool that is included – in desktop or web form – on all the Microsoft business packages.

Publisher – Publisher is a desktop publishing application geared toward small businesses. With Publisher, SMB owners can design and edit company documents and marketing materials such as newsletters, postcards and brochures. It is the company's powerful layout and design application. If you only need templates to fill in, Sway (see entry below) may be sufficient. Publisher is available for all the Microsoft business packages except Office 365 Business Essentials.

SharePoint – SharePoint, like OneDrive (see entry above), is a cloud-based document collaboration platform from Microsoft. Unlike OneDrive, SharePoint includes extra platform-based collaboration features like sites, workflows, lists and calendars. These tools allow employees to manage individual notifications and documents, set up automated tasks (much like Flow, but only within SharePoint), and view calendars. SharePoint is available to all the Microsoft business packages except Office 365 Business.

Skype for Business – Skype for Business is an online instant messaging and video chat software for SMBs. Skype works on any device, can support screen sharing, syncs with your other Microsoft apps and has built-in instant messaging. It differs from Teams (see entry below) in that it is not for threaded chats. Just instant communications and video conferencing. This service is available across all the Microsoft business packages except Office 365 Business, but Microsoft has said it plans to let Teams replace Skype for Business in the near future.

Teams – Teams is Microsoft's intracompany chat and collaboration network for small businesses. It doesn't have the video conferencing features of Skype (see entry above), but it will. The company has said Teams will replace Skype for Business soon, integrating its features into this app. For now, this application functions more like Slack or HipChat. Users can create separate, threaded channels with different teams, and it allows users to connect via chat, call or video chat. Teams syncs with all your other 365 Office products, so sharing documents, GIFs, videos and connecting via online Skype meetings is easy. Teams is available to Microsoft 365 Business, Office 365 Business Premium and Office 365 Business Essentials subscribers.

Word – Microsoft Word, the ubiquitous word-processing program, allows businesses to draft documents and create content. Word is available – either in desktop form or online – across all the different small business subscription options.

Yammer – Yammer is an intracompany social media network. With Yammer, SMBs can post, comment, like and communicate across a centralized platform specifically for the business. This program is available for Microsoft 365 Business, Office 365 Business Premium and Office 365 Business Essentials subscribers. It's not available for Office 365 Business subscribers.

If your business needs other apps or is missing an app that should be included in your subscription service, you can visit Microsoft's app store to download additional apps. This includes financial, communication and design applications specifically geared for business use. Below are a few apps that are available with each subscription package, but may require you to add them to your business account via Microsoft's store.

Delve – Delve is an app that helps you manage your Office 365 profile, organize information relevant to your business and get a bird's-eye view of what employees are working on in Office 365. With Delve, you can view profiles and search documents in one quick, easy area. Delve is part of the Office 365 Business Essentials, Microsoft 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium subscriptions. It is not available for Office 365 Business subscribers.

Flow – Flow is an application where you can create automated workflows between your favorite apps and services. If you're familiar with IFTTT, Flow is Microsoft's version of that service. By automating certain tasks, like automatically following anyone who hashtags your business on Twitter, you can eliminate mundane, repetitive tasks from your day-to-day workflow. Flow is included in Office 365 Business Essentials, Office 365 Business Premium and Microsoft 365 Business packages.

MileIQ – This app is a mileage tracking system that logs the miles your employees and workers travel when they are on the road for business. It drafts records of your drives, the distance covered by different drivers and accurately logs the dollar amounts. MileIQ is available to Microsoft 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium Members.

Planner – This new app is a way for small business owners to organize teamwork throughout their business. Users can create new plans, organize tasks, chat, share files and get progress updates. With each new plan that gets created, a new Office 365 group is created. Basecamp is a competitor for Microsoft Planner. Planner is available with Office 365 Business Essentials, Office 365 Business Premium and Microsoft 365 Business subscriptions.

StaffHub – StaffHub is an application where employees can view work schedules, swap shifts, request time off and connect with team members. Managers can create schedules, communicate with employees and approve requests. This app also features the ability to toggle permissions based on employee, so a manager or employee's access can easily be adjusted. StaffHub is available only for Microsoft 365 Business subscribers.

Sway – Sway is a template-based application that allows business owners to create newsletters, presentations and documentation. It doesn't have the power and editing features available through Publisher (see entry above). Users can edit content and draft their own individual documents. Documents created on Sway can adapt to any screen size, ensuring that your design looks professional on mobile as well as web. Sway is available in all Microsoft business packages.

Microsoft offers a lot of services for small businesses. While this was a look at each individual application, Business News Daily has also broken down Microsoft's small business services and applications by plan.

Matt D'Angelo

Matt D'Angelo is a B2B Tech Staff Writer based in New York City. After graduating from James Madison University with a degree in Journalism, Matt gained experience as a copy editor and writer for newspapers and various online publications. Matt joined the Purch team in 2017 and covers technology for Business.com and Business News Daily. Follow him on Twitter or email him.