Microsoft 365 Family vs Microsoft 365 Business: which is better for work?

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Most of us have been using apps like Word and Excel for decades, so it’s no surprise that productivity suites like Microsoft 365 are popular – they combine top tools and security features into easy, accessible packages.

If you’re not familiar with the range of Microsoft 365 options on the market, though, the range of options can be extremely confusing. It’s even trickier if you’re weighing up Microsoft’s various family and business plans.

And while it might seem odd to compare home and work products, the rise in freelancing and hybrid working means more people and companies are trying to figure out if they can use Microsoft 365 home products instead of a pricier business package.

Whether you’re a freelancer, an IT manager or a business owner, it’s worth weighing up Microsoft 365 Family and Microsoft 365 Business to find the best option for you – and that’s exactly what we’ve done.   

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Microsoft 365 Family: what do you get?

There’s no denying that Microsoft 365 Family offers great value. Pay $99.99 per year in the US or £79.99 in the UK and you get Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook and OneDrive. Users can run those apps on PCs, Macs, Android and iOS devices and on the web. Access and Publisher are available for PC users, too.

It’s huge versatility, and the impressive set of features doesn’t stop there. Each user gets 1TB of cloud storage so you can sync files across devices. Each user gets 50GB of space with their Outlook email address, and Family users can enjoy Microsoft Teams and Skype for easy communication.

Elsewhere, conventional data protection comes from Microsoft Defender, and OneDrive incorporates ransomware detection and recovery services. There’s even a basic free video editing software and royalty-free templates, stock photos and stock videos.

If you need reliable, synchronized access to productivity tools, then the Home product makes loads of sense – especially if you want productivity software that your family can use. And with support for six users, the Family package is ideal for small businesses with relatively basic productivity needs.

There’s a great option if you’re self-employed, too: the Microsoft 365 Personal product only supports one user, but it only costs $69.99 or £59.99 per year.

Microsoft 365 Business: a better option?

There’s no doubt that Microsoft 365 Family is well-suited to anyone who needs relatively straightforward productivity and email tools, but if you run a business or handle corporate IT systems then you’ll find its limits very quickly.

If that’s the case, then you should consider Microsoft 365 Business instead. These products are more expensive, but they’re far more powerful.

Let’s start with Microsoft 365 Business Basic, which costs $6 or £4.50 per user per month. You get web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook. You get Exchange, too, so you can use your domain name rather than Outlook. Each user gets 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage space alongside 50GB of email capacity.

The Basic product has more collaboration options, in-depth calendaring capabilities and a solid range of admin settings, and its tools also work on Android and iOS – just like in Microsoft 365 Family.

If you’d like to switch your business to downloadable apps rather than online versions, you can pay $8.25 or £7.90 for Microsoft 365 Apps for Business.

Upgrade to Microsoft 365 Business Standard and you get everything in Business Basic alongside downloadable apps and the ability to host webinars. You’ll also get more detailed options about how Microsoft controls and processes your data, which is perfect if you want to retain your existing domain.

Microsoft’s top option, 365 Business Premium, costs $22 or £16.60 per user per month. That’s pricey, but you get class-leading security and management features that you simply won’t find on any other Microsoft 365 product. It’s the best product here if you have a wider network that you need to manage and sensitive data that you have to protect.

The various Microsoft 365 Business products offer more than the Family and Personal tools. Even at the Basic level you get Exchange, and as you upgrade through the tiers then Microsoft adds enterprise-grade management and security abilities.

And, no matter which Microsoft 365 Business tool you purchase, you’ll be able to add 300 users to your system and allow each user to use Microsoft’s products across five different devices.

We can’t deny the increase in cost, though. When all the Business products charge per user and per month, those products will quickly become pricier than Microsoft 365 Family or Personal.

Which should you use?

The relatively high costs means that there are plenty of situations where Microsoft 365 Family will be your best option – even if you’re buying software for business use.

If you’re a small company that only has relatively basic productivity needs, for instance, then you can easily buy Microsoft 365 Family, grant access to five other employees, and enjoy web, mobile and PC-based access to crucial apps.

It’s also ideal for freelancers, people who need a product for their family, and many people who work from home.

Pretty soon, though, you’re going to hit the limits of Microsoft 365 Family, especially if you’re part of a growing business or if you operate in a larger team. If that’s the case, then you or your business should stump up for a Microsoft 365 Business product.

Exchange compatibility means you can use corporate email addresses, those tools support a broader number of users, and as you progress through the tiers you get better security and management options. In terms of protection, deployment and administration, there’s really no competition.

Ultimately, freelancers, sole traders and people who need basic productivity tools can certainly save money with Microsoft 365 Family, and that’s a great option if you want one package to cover home and work use. But if you have a larger business then you’ll almost certainly need the more robust security and management tools available from Microsoft’s proper corporate software. 

Looking for a new laptop to WFH? Check out our best laptop for working from home

Mike has worked as a technology journalist for more than a decade and has written for most of the UK’s big technology titles alongside numerous global outlets. He loves PCs, laptops and any new hardware, and covers everything from the latest business trends to high-end gaming gear.