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MS Office 365: Why Microsoft's Productivity Suite is the Best Solution for Home, School, and Business

MS Office 365: Why Microsoft's Productivity Suite is the Best Solution for Home, School, and Business

MS Office 365 remains one of the most versatile office and productivity suites, even as other services come on the market. With a familiar interface and robust support for a variety of work styles, it’s loaded with legacy features and useful additions you may not know about.

Early in 2020, Office 365 Personal and its counterparts received a comprehensive update and became known as Microsoft 365. With this shift, it’s a great time to take a closer look at key features and options. We’ll start by going over Microsoft’s various account types. From there, we’ll focus primarily on consumer editions and how you can use them to increase your productivity in the year ahead.

Four different account types

There are four Microsoft 365 account types; they cover the needs of individuals, educators, and businesses of all sizes. Core plans and subscription levels:

  1. Home Edition: Personal, Family, and Home & Student
  2. Education: A1, A3, and A5
  3. Business: Basic, Standard, and Premium
  4. Enterprise: E3, E5, and F3

You can purchase an ongoing subscription or pay a one-time fee. Your choice impacts some of the available features and the price, but the one-time fee covers most legacy applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Read on for all the details.

For home, small business, and family

Microsoft 365 Home is the foundation for most household computing, providing a full range of useful apps for work, home, and school. Apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint remain at the core of the Microsoft experience, and they’re featured across all editions. The latest editions of Microsoft 365 also offer expanded functionality through premium apps and improved support for multiple users and devices.

If you prefer a simple, familiar setup, you can still enjoy a traditional Microsoft Office experience with Office Home & Student 2019. Simply pay a one-time purchase price to get many of the same features you could expect from Office 365 Personal. However, Personal and Family subscription users have a lot of new features to look forward to.

Personal Edition

Designed for individual users, the Microsoft 365 Home Personal Edition supports multiple devices and offers the lowest upfront cost. It provides both classic and premium apps, 1TB of cloud storage through OneDrive, Skype, and advanced security features.

Professionals and creatives will love the addition of premium apps like Microsoft Outlook, OneNote, Access, and Publisher. This expanded slate of services is a big part of what makes Microsoft 365 such a good long-term value. As an ongoing service, Personal Edition subscribers also enjoy no-cost technical support via chat or phone.


You can find several products with the Microsoft 365 Personal Edition preloaded. The 13-inch HP Spectre x360 convertible laptop is a popular choice, and it includes the cost of a 1-year subscription to 365 Personal. Buying a preloaded device is the smart choice for anyone using older versions of Microsoft Office, because it provides a simultaneous hardware and workflow upgrade.

Key features:

  • Includes premium apps
  • Supports multiple devices
  • Most affordable option: $79/year or $8/month

Family Edition

Intended for multiple home users, Family Edition provides the same expanded functionality for a small price increase. You’ll get the same list of classic and premium apps like Word and Publisher, plus support for up to 6 users and 6TB of total cloud storage. That’s 1TB allocated for each user, which is the same as a dedicated Personal Edition subscription.

Among other upgrades, Family Edition includes its own boosted security features to keep you and your loved one’s data safe at all times. Known as Microsoft Family Safety, the system is designed for more than just digital security because you can receive automatic arrival and departure notifications as well as safe-driving reports. That’s all in addition to Microsoft’s standard family features like parental controls.

Key features:

  • Includes premium apps
  • Supports 6 users and multiple devices
  • Includes Microsoft Family Safety service
  • $109/year or $11/month

Office Home & Student 2019 Edition

For many, the Office Home & Student 2019 edition is a streamlined office and productivity solution. You get Microsoft’s classic apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and the simplicity of a one-time payment for purchase. It’s an easy choice, especially if you’re looking to get the most out of an older PC before you upgrade.

It may not provide as many specialized apps and functions, but Office Home & Student 2019 is great for students who need a basic solution for their home computer. For more information about Microsoft 365 for educators, keep reading.

Key features:

  • Includes classic apps
  • Supports one PC or Mac
  • One-time purchase of $169

For Education

Primarily designed for educators and students, Microsoft 365 Education shifts its focus to collaboration and teamwork. This makes it easier for educators to connect with classes, and for students to connect with each other. It features all of the same sophisticated functionality, but in a secure learning space for teachers and students.

It’s important to remember that Microsoft 365 Education is free for eligible users, so head to Microsoft and enter your school email address to get started. You’ll also find more comprehensive plan information and support pages for both educators and students, including resources for remote learning.

Want to read more about Microsoft’s approach to software for education? The Microsoft K-12 Education Transformation Framework can fill you in with its comprehensive, scientific approach to helping students and educators. You can also find more resources about policy, learning practices and environments, as well as information on promoting positive individual and institutional outcomes.

Education: Microsoft 365 A1

The introductory Education plan may not have all the bells and whistles of more expensive subscriptions, but it doesn’t sacrifice much. It also comes packaged as a one-time purchase for a single device. Known as the A1 plan, it provides strong teamwork features to facilitate teachers and student-to-student interactions.

You’ll find familiar Microsoft Office applications and everything you need to stay in touch and manage classwork. Microsoft Teams makes communication easy, while OneNote Class Notebook and Sway help students do their work and express themselves. It also includes Intune for Education to support easy management features, and protection against security threats and data loss.

Key features:

  • Strong collaboration features
  • Includes Microsoft Teams & OneNote
  • Robust security & management
  • Windows 10 Education Edition

Education: Microsoft 365 A3

A3 is Microsoft 365’s intermediate Education plan, and it offers a step up with much of the same expanded functionality that comes with higher subscription plans. In particular, A3 provides superior security and management in the form of Windows Defender Antivirus and Device Guard.

It also adds MS Office client applications for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, and even includes Minecraft: Education Edition with Code Builder. This version of Minecraft is designed to help students and teachers collaborate and explore together.

Key features:

  • Expanded collaboration features
  • Includes Microsoft Teams & OneNote
  • Advanced security & management
  • Web & cloud optimization

Education: Microsoft 365 A5

The A5 plan is Microsoft 365’s most comprehensive education solution, combining key office functionality with an even deeper suite of tools for collaboration and security. A5 adds support for PSTN (public switched telephone network) conferencing and Cloud PBX (private branch exchange), and useful tools like Power BI Pro and MyAnalytics for data management.

With more features and functionality comes a need for greater security and the A5 plan delivers by including both Advanced Threat Prevention and Threat Intelligence. It also features Windows Defender and the complete Enterprise Mobility Suite including Azure Active Directory, Azure Information Protection, and Cloud App Security.

Key features:

  • Premium collaboration features
  • Includes Microsoft Teams & OneNote
  • Premium security & management
  • Web & cloud optimization

For Business

Microsoft 365 Business is designed for small and midsize businesses. Functionality scales with the needs of your business, while extensive teamwork features and security allow for seamless remote work. You can compare the different Office 365 Business options, and you can even test the Standard and Premium Editions if you’re thinking about upgrading or expanding your small business.

So, what’s the difference between the Office 365 Home and Business versions? Business versions include enhanced collaboration and organizational support, but the price per user is actually pretty similar. When it comes down to it, weighing Office 365 Home vs Business depends on the scale of your company. For example, sole proprietors may be fine with Office 365 Home, while larger businesses may want to consider the Business Edition.

For Enterprise

Microsoft 365 Enterprise is designed to support the many layers of larger businesses and organizations. You’ll find more advanced analytics and security, plus a range of efficient applications for managing different projects and personnel.

The plans are customized according to your company’s needs, with flexible options for various roles and departments. There’s more affordable pricing for teams with employees requiring basic features, which still provides team leaders with access to management support. You can compare your options at Microsoft.


Microsoft 365 is a thorough solution for an expanding set of needs, with a wealth of resources for all levels of users. With the growth of remote work and telecommuting for students, educators, and professionals alike, it’s a key consideration for individuals and organizations.

While we covered the four primary account types, MS Office 365 offers even more specialty options. There are special offers and support for non-profits, and tailored options for first line workers (from point-of-sale to emergency services) and government organizations. Whatever it is you do, there’s a Microsoft 365 edition to support you.

About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.


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