Last updated on March 27th, 2020 by Vinita Menon

Over the years, Outlook has enjoyed enviable loyalty amongst its long-time users. Now, more than two decades since the product was first launched, Outlook is almost synonymous with business email. So much so that people have come to expect a laptop loaded with Outlook when they start a new job. But what if you are a new business owner looking to get professional email for yourself and your staff? 

In evaluating Outlook, you’ll notice there are a plethora of options. You can access a free version of the service via Outlook.live.com or choose from one of the several plans available for its suite of productivity services, known as Office 365.

All of this can get a little confusing, especially if you’re just in the market for email for your small business. Let’s take a closer look.

Outlook vs. Office 365

Outlook.live.com is Microsoft’s free personal email service, which includes webmail, contacts, tasks, and Outlook calendar. In 1997 Microsoft acquired Hotmail, one of the world’s first webmail services, for $400 million. In 2013, Microsoft migrated hundreds of thousands of Hotmail users over to its Outlook.com service, giving the platform over 400 million users. It continues to be a popular choice for free email because of the features it offers, and especially because Outlook does not scan users’ emails to serve ads.

For a long time, Outlook has also remained the preferred choice for business email. But if you want to use Outlook with your business’s domain, you’ll need to buy an Office 365 license. 

In addition to a custom domain, an Office 365 license will give you access to the Outlook desktop client, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other productivity tools, depending on the level of license you purchase. The Outlook client features a host of tools for document creation and collaboration, task assignments, calendaring, journaling, managing contacts, and note-taking. It also uses Microsoft Exchange Server and SharePoint Server to connect team members and sync shared calendars, public folders, meeting schedules, and mailboxes. Furthermore, Office 365 includes access to the mobile app, so you can use Outlook on the go.

What’s This Means for Small Businesses

The cheapest Office 365 plan will set you back $60 a year for a single user. If you’re just looking to use your business domain and the Outlook desktop client, that means you’ll be paying for apps and tools that you probably don’t want. And the price tag will only go up as you add people to your team.

The fact that you can only access a business-class version of Outlook by paying for Office 365 speaks to a bigger problem for small businesses in the market for email. It’s a broken market, forcing small business owners to consider professional email as a luxury, instead of the necessity it really is.

Using email with an outlook.com address to communicate with your customers can crush your credibility. According to GoDaddy, customers are nine times more likely to do business with a company that uses a business email address than one that doesn’t. 75% also believe that having a professional email address that matches a business’s website is a key trust indicator.

So, what exactly do you get with Outlook and Office 365, and how do you choose the right one for your small business?

Outlook vs. Gmail for Small Business Email

What You Get With Outlook.live

Just as Gmail has become synonymous with personal email, Outlook has become synonymous with business. But Microsoft offers a free version of Outlook via outlook.live.com. By creating an account, you’ll get an email address at outlook.com and access to your inbox through webmail.

Here’s what you can do with Outlook:

  1. Send, receive and manage emails.
  2. You can group emails into Folders and Categories so that mails from specific recipients are conveniently available in one place.
  3. Manage appointments, meetings, and schedules in the Outlook calendar. You can also send other Outlook users your availability by selecting specific days and times from your calendar and adding them straight into your email draft.
  4. Hover over the names of people in your contacts list to see details like their email address, phone number, and a link to their LinkedIn profiles.
  5. Use Microsoft To-Do, an agenda took baked into your email.
  6. Use the search feature to you quickly find people, documents, and messages in your mailbox.
  7. Take advantage of the same tools Microsoft uses for Office 365 customers, including data encryption.
  8. Access the Office Online apps for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
  9. Chat with other Outlook users via Skype right from your inbox.
  10. Take advantage of accessibility features like intuitive voice-controlled navigation and support for assistive devices.

There are, however, some limitations to consider when using a free outlook.com account:

  • You cannot use a custom domain
  • You can only access webmail (and not the desktop client)
  • You only get 5 GB of free storage on OneDrive
Looking for an alternative to Outlook? Try Titan for free!

What You Get With Office 365

If you want to use Outlook at your business domain, you’ll need to purchase an Office 365 plan. Ranging from $5 to $20 a month, the plans vary widely in terms of cost and features. Microsoft offers ‘Personal’ and ‘Home’ Office 365 plans for a single user or for a family, based on monthly or yearly payments. For the Office 365 ‘Business’ plans, Microsoft charges per user.

Here’s a breakdown of what you get with each Office 365 Business plan:

Office 365 Business Essentials

$5/month or $60/year

  1. Business email with a custom domain name.
  2. Web and mobile versions of Office apps – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, and a web version of Outlook (the desktop versions of these are not included in this plan).
  3. A 50 GB mailbox accessible across desktops, phones, tablets, and the web.
  4. A shareable calendar.
  5. Microsoft Teams to host online meetings and video calls with up to 250 people.
  6. SharePoint to create team sites where you can share files, content, and information.
  7. 1 TB of OneDrive storage. You can access and sync files across your PC, Mac, and mobile devices.
  8. Exchange Online Protection to safeguard from spam and malware.
  9. Administrative control over who has access to your business information. You can also enforce password policies that makes it mandatory for the people on your team to reset their passwords after a set number of days.
  10. 24/7 online and phone support.

Office 365 Business Apps

$8.25/month or $99/year

Although this plan is more expensive than the lowest-tier offered by Microsoft, it lacks some key features. Most notably, you do not get business email, and therefore it does not come with the 50 GB mailbox and shareable calendar features. You also do not get the capabilities to host online meetings and video calls. Here are the main features of the Business Apps plan:

  1. Web and mobile versions of Office apps – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote.
  2. Desktop versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote for Windows and Mac. Each licensed user can install these apps on up to five PCs or Mac devices.
  3. 1 TB of OneDrive storage. You can access and sync files across PC and Mac, and across mobile devices.
  4. Administrative control over who has access to your business information. You can also enforce password policies that makes it mandatory for the people on your team to reset their passwords after a set number of days.
  5. 24/7 online and phone support and 99.9% uptime.

Office 365 Business Premium

$12.50/month or $150/year

  1. Everything that you get with the ‘Business Essentials’ and ‘Business Apps’ plans, plus…
  2. Collaborative tools –– plan daily tasks and schedules using Microsoft Teams, let customers schedule and manage appointments with Microsoft Bookings, and reporting with MileIQ.

Microsoft 365 Business

$20/month or $240/year

  1. Everything that you get with the ‘Business Essentials,’ ‘Business Apps,’ and ‘Business Premium’ plans, plus…
  2. Protection against threats hidden in email attachments and links, and advanced malware.
  3. The ability to wipe company data remotely from lost or stolen devices.
  4. Unlimited cloud archive that preserves all your email.
  5. Configure security features on Windows 10 PCs and mobile devices running on iOS and Android.
  6. Configure your PC to automatically install Office and Windows 10 updates.
  7. Enable security policies to protect your business data on all your devices, including iOS, Android and Windows PCs.

Try Titan for Free

Between the pitfalls of getting stuck with an @outlookcom address and having to pay a hefty price for Office 365, Microsoft isn’t really giving users a straight business email option.

If you think it’s unfair that you can’t just buy a business email account from Microsoft without having to pay for a whole suite of tools, you’re not alone. That’s why we built Titan –– the world’s first email designed specifically to address the communication and productivity needs of small businesses. Not only is it economical, but it’s packed with the features business users really need.

Here’s what you get with Titan:

  1. A free 30-day trial, followed by a $1.49/month fee post-trial
  2. An ad-free email service that lets you use your own website domain as the address
  3. 10 GB storage, with the option to upgrade to 30 GB
  4. Read receipts that notify you when someone has opened your email
  5. Conversation threads that give you the full picture of messages
  6. Integrated video calling that generates a video meeting link right in your email compose window
  7. Shared calendars with easy, one-click event creation
  8. 24/7 personalized support via email and live chat
  9. The ability to access multiple clients, including Gmail, from your Titan inbox
  10. Native apps for Android and iOS
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Originally published 14th February 2020 08:00:00am, last updated on March 27th, 2020

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