Taking advantage of Office 365 in education

Child writing on paper sat at desk

We wanted to have a closer look at Office 365 specifically in Education following the news that Microsoft has partnered with Thailand to provide Office 365 for Education for its 400,000 staff and 8 million students.

This is the largest education initiative into the cloud we have seen yet and hopefully a sign of many more to come, to help schools and educational institutions get online and behind technology.

Even more recently, Microsoft has announced that Yammer is now available for Education Office 365 plans! While little has been announced, this is an exciting and very advantageous time to consider an Educational Office 365 plan as Yammer allows social collaboration, which would be ideal for higher education institutions.

Office 365 can offer a lot to educational institutions but it can often be confusing to find the information needed, so we want to make it as easy as possible by showing what’s included in the various plans and how much they cost.

Office 365 for Education:

The most important thing about Office 365, is that it is not simply ‘Office’ that everyone knows (i.e. Word, Excel etc.) - it is actually a collection of services, software and licensing. This includes (but is not limited to) email, intranet, conferencing software & file sharing – giving schools and universities access to enterprise-level software. This means that you do not purchase an Office ‘licence’ as with the other aspects of your IT as capital costs, but you pay a monthly subscription to have access to this packaged group of software solutions.

The advantages for education:

Subscription model

Instead of having to spend large lump sums to get your IT up and running or updated after every few years, Office 365 allows a monthly subscription model, ensuring very visible and controlled costs throughout the year as well as always being up-to-date.

Highly scalable

As Office 365 embraces cloud computing, it means you have less need for servers and other hardware. The issue with relying on hardware is that as soon as there is any expansion these servers need to be upgraded/ replaced or additional units purchased and then set up, which is costly. With cloud computing upgrading space or storage is simple and can be increased or decreased when needed so you can always adapt to change without logistical hassle.

Access from anywhere

A further benefit of cloud computing is that all files can be accessed from anywhere with internet. This gives students great flexibility to work when they want and where they want and makes it easier to give students access to their work to encourage further learning.

Less IT admin

Any updates for Office 365 are made automatically and with a reduction in hardware on-site this frees up IT staff so they can spend less time on maintenance/ housekeeping and more time on the important IT projects that will directly benefit the academic institution.

Added functionality

Finally, one of the key benefits of these plans are the rich feature sets which make up Office 365: web conferencing and instant messaging software (Lync), business-class file sharing and document storage (OneDrive for Business), access to Office without the need to purchase individual licenses (and install on up to 5 devices), email with calendar sharing (Outlook) and SharePoint Online to create your own intranet sites to help students collaborate and work together.

Different Plans and Pricing

Educational institutions can benefit from greatly discounted pricing (including one free monthly plan). A list of the functionality and prices included in each plan is below:


A2 Plan

Free to students & staff/month

A3 Plan

£1.90 per student per month / £3.40 per staff per month

Email: 50GB per user, shared calendar & own domain name
Lync (web conferencing)
OneDrive (personal file storage of 1TB per user)
SharePoint (intranet sites)
Spam/ Malware protection
Office Online
Mobile Apps  
99.9% SLA *
Office Desktop (for up to 5 devices per user)  
Advanced email (unlimited storage, archiving & legal hold)  
Advanced voice (hosted voicemail)  

* The A2 plan keeps with the Office365 99.9% SLA but has no financial backing (as it is free).

Which to choose?

The A2 option is of course most attractive as it comes at no monthly cost, however being a free service it obviously has some limitations. It includes basic email (with 50GB storage per user), file storage, simple file sharing, Lync for web conferencing and collaboration, malware protection and Office online. This version of Office can only be accessed through a browser however, so it is not the same as the normal desktop version. A2 users will also benefit from Microsoft’s 99.9% Service Level Agreement (SLA), which is included as standard for Office 365 however as it is a free service, if this SLA is not upheld there is no financial backing or compensation. This plan will give a nice solution for a primary or secondary school that is looking for something more basic, as a trial or if cost is the main concern.

The A3 option does come at a cost but suddenly adds a lot of rich features and functionality:

  • Office: this version includes the desktop office meaning it can be installed on everyone’s PC to be accessed both online and offline, as well as being able to be installed on up to 5 devices per user. As all files are saved to the cloud, students and teachers can access their work wherever they are.
  • Financially-backed SLA of 99.9%: Perhaps one of the most important features by upgrading is the financially-backed Service Level Agreement (SLA) provided by Microsoft to promise 99.9% uptime. If there is applicable downtime on the A3 plan you will be financially compensated, giving larger institutions peace of mind and legal insurance, which may be required.
  • Advanced email: This includes archiving, data loss prevention and legal hold capabilities with the bonus of unlimited storage. This is very relevant to larger institutions or universities as every single email is held in archive and can be recovered when needed: especially important for larger institutions where compliancy is important, e.g. legal cases, HR issues.
  • eDiscovery: This allows advanced searching across all sites for legal discovery requirements (again related to organisational compliancy).

This option is much more suitable for universities or secondary schools/college where having a guaranteed uptime is vital – if students cannot access their work at exam time this could cause great problems but the SLA will guarantee uptime or if not, return compensation. For certain institutions there may also be stricter compliancy laws that require SLA’s or more importantly, legal hold and eDiscovery capabilities.

Student Advantage Offer: Free Office for students

Finally, another option is the Student Advantage offer. This is where your entire institutions’ staff (not students) gets the A3 plan then all the students will get Office ProPlus for free. This means all the staff will have the benefits of the plans listed above, and students will have Office ProPlus – the latest Office suite for their devices completely free. This solution is much more suited towards primary or secondary schools where the students do not need individual email accounts and conferencing software but would simply benefit from the Office suite while staff can take advantage of having the rich capabilities of the A3 plan.

All of these plans will benefit institutions and students, but it is worth thinking about exactly what you want to have access to and what is required from your institution. To qualify, you must be an accredited educational institution, which Microsoft will verify, see more here.

We are a Microsoft Authorised Education Reseller (AER), meaning we are authorised by Microsoft to provide Educational Institutions with these outlined Office 365 for Education plans. It is important to note institutions can only purchase these plans through an AER to ensure they have the dedicated support and knowledge behind them. If you wish to discuss any of plans further or would like any more information please contact us on 01275 398 900 or email us.

microsoft authorised education reseller logo

Join our Mailing List

Receive our latest technology news and updates straight to your inbox once a month. We will not share your data and you may unsubscribe at any time.