Owen Pridden

Owen Pridden

Senior Technical Specialist

Microsoft 365 includes a vast selection of licences that allow you to unlock as much, or as little, of the platform’s potential as you need. This can be a good thing, although, with so many services available and so many licences to choose from, it can quickly get confusing deciding which licences are best for you, and it isn’t always easy to see the value you can get from the licences you have. In this article, we’ll be exploring 2 of the most popular licence bundles – Microsoft 365 E3 and Microsoft 365 E5 – to help you select the best licences for you and get the most out of them.


The Microsoft 365 range of licences combine the 3 core areas of Microsoft’s cloud platform – Office 365 for productivity, Windows for device management, and Enterprise Mobility & Security for... well... security. If you’re interested in all 3 of these areas, then the Microsoft 365 licences are the best option.

Under Office 365 falls all of the productivity and collaboration-focused tools that organisations need, ranging from email, SharePoint for file management, a huge variety of supporting tools such as Stream, Forms and Lists, as well as the Office apps themselves that we’re all familiar with. In addition, Power Apps and Power Automate come with both E3 and E5 as standard, allowing you to build custom workflows and apps for your business, and it's no surprise that Teams, being the flagship tool in Microsoft’s toolbox for collaboration, is also included in both bundles.

For devices, Microsoft 365 licences include Windows licensing in both packages, including Intune and Autopilot to allow you to enrol and manage your company devices. Intune allows you to easily inventory devices in your organisation, enforce security policies for them, deploy apps, and more. Autopilot allows you to automatically enrol new devices into your Microsoft 365 environment - meaning you can have new devices delivered directly to users rather than having to manually configure them at your desk before shipping them out.

Enterprise Mobility & Security, a.k.a. EMS, comes with a wide range of security features to help you keep your organisation secure. At the foundation is Secure Score, which evaluates your environment and provides recommendations for what actions you can take to bolster your security. EMS includes security capabilities that target all areas of Microsoft 365, including identities, devices, apps, shadow IT, encryption, and more. These features also include real-time monitoring and powerful analytics tools via the Defender Security Centre to best understand where threats are coming from.


The high-level differences between E3 and E5 focus on automation and analytics regarding security. A good example is Azure Information Protection (AIP)– this is a tool that allows people to tag documents, which then applies security settings depending on the tag chosen, ensuring only those authorised can view the document even when it’s shared externally. With E3, the document has to be tagged manually, however with E5 you can configure AIP to automatically apply tags when conditions are met, such as if the document contains sensitive information.

A key set of features we at Perspicuity use heavily are Audio Conferencing and Phone Systems. When combined, these features take Teams to a whole new level. Audio Conferencing enables dialling in for your Teams meetings, allowing anyone to join via their phone. Phone System allows for PBX and routing calls through Teams, meaning you no longer need to have a phone on every desk in your office. We stopped using physical phones to take calls many years ago, a welcome change!

With Microsoft 365 there is a lot of data you can store and access within your environment, and it can get confusing as to what can be analysed and how. Power BI is the tool best suited for this, allowing you to surface data about your environment, mix and match data, and generate reports in a variety of styles and formats to make the data more accessible and readable.

So... Which one is right for you?

These are just a hand-picked set of examples of what is included in E5 but not E3. Whilst E5 includes a lot that E3 doesn’t, you may not need all of the features that come with it, and as there is quite a price jump when upgrading, it may not make sense to fully upgrade. Luckily, many of the services included with E5 can be purchased as standalone licences and combined with E3. So if you like the idea of automatically tagging documents with sensitive data but don’t want to go with E5 licences purely to unlock this feature, you can get both E3 licences and Azure Information Protection Plan 2 for cheaper and with the same outcome.

Originally published September 15 2022, Updated October 4, 2022

Microsoft 365 Licensing - Demystified

Download our free factsheet to understand the difference between Microsoft 365 and Office 365, and the services you receive with the F1, E1, E3, E5 suites respectively.”
Download our Factsheet

Licensing can be daunting, but we're here to help!

Take 30 minutes out of your day with your colleagues to gain an understanding how the Microsoft Cloud would fit within your organisation or if there's a better suited licence set.

Let's chat!