Microsoft 365 vs Exchange Online: Make the Right Choice

Microsoft 365 and Exchange Online are both products from Microsoft. Often people ask how those products differ from each other. Those questions arise especially when it comes to choosing email services. This post discusses what those products have in common and how to choose the right email solution for your business.

What to Consider When Migrating from On-Premises to Microsoft 365 or Exchange Online

  • Accessing Domain Name System (DNS)
  • Checking Your Network devices
  • Implementing Security Measures
  • Reinstating Your Files After Migration
  • Configuring Anti-Virus Protection

Before we start

Microsoft 365 and Exchange Online are cloud-based email solutions, but they are still vulnerable to data loss due to possible ransomware attacks, insider threats, disasters or system failures. Backups are the last line of defense for any type of data loss event.

NAKIVO Backup & Replication is an all-in-one data protection with advanced capabilities and advanced point-in-time recovery options. NAKIVO Backup & Replication can keep your Exchange Online and Microsoft 365 data safe and offer instant recovery of your emails, contacts and calendars.

Confusion about the Names

Exchange Online vs Exchange Server

Exchange Online is a Microsoft cloud service that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. You are not required to have a physical server to use Microsoft 365. Microsoft Exchange Online doesn’t require you to have a license. Instead, you are only charged monthly on a per-user basis.

Exchange Online is scalable. It allows you to add and remove users with little effort. With Exchange Online, Microsoft handles your data for the most part. On the other hand, Exchange Server is harder to scale. Scaling Exchange Server involves adding extra servers or resources. With Exchange Server, you are entirely responsible for the security of your data and outage issues. Having an Exchange Server is beneficial when you want to customize your environment and have full control over it. In addition, Exchange Server can show better performance than Exchange Online.

Microsoft 365 vs Office 365

  • Office 365 Personal to Microsoft 365 Personal
  • Office 365 Home to Microsoft 365 Family
  • Office 365 for Business Essentials to Microsoft 365 Business Basic
  • Office 365 Business to Microsoft 365 Apps for Business
  • Office 365 Business Premium to Microsoft 365 Business Standard

Despite the rebranding of Office 365, the solution didn’t cease to exist. Even now Office 365 is available as Office 365 Education, Office 365 Enterprise and Office 365 Government.

Now that we’ve clarified the terms, let’s compare Microsoft 365 and Exchange Online.

Microsoft 365 vs Standalone Exchange Online

Microsoft 365 is a cloud-based platform that provides real-time collaboration and management services to its clients around the world. Microsoft 365 includes a variety of applications such as Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online, Teams, Exchange Online, etc.

On the other hand, Exchange Online is a cloud email service hosted by Microsoft. You can use Exchange Online without getting a full Microsoft 365 subscription. Yet, a Microsoft 365 subscription doesn’t always include the Exchange Online app. For example, a Microsoft 365 Apps for Business subscription includes such apps as Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, but not Exchange Online.

Exchange Online offers from 50 GB to unlimited storage space to its clients depending on the type of plan. With Exchange Online, you can store your emails, calendars and contents in the cloud. Exchange Online offers 3 types of plans:

  • Plan 1. Includes 50 GB of storage and allows you to connect a supported version of your Outlook account to Exchange Online. A user-friendly mailbox along with the Focused Inbox feature allows you to track your email with high accuracy and convenience. In addition, Plan 1 enables you to schedule meetings, manage calendars, and access external tasks, conference rooms, etc.
  • Plan 2. Offers 100 GB of storage per user and 150 GB per message. By using this plan, you can also benefit from the call answering service, dial-in interface and auto attendant system.
  • Microsoft 365 Business Standard. Offers all features from Plan 1, plus Microsoft 365 desktop versions of collaboration tools such as Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Access and web versions of Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. In addition, you can benefit from 1TB of storage.

Choosing between Microsoft 365 and Exchange Online

Points to Consider

How Big Is Your Business?

Do You Collaborate Often?

What Type of Business Does Your Company Have?

  • A data management system
  • Efficient data storage
  • An effective communication solution

However, if your company is heavy on emailing and handling administrative tasks, it’s better to use Exchange Online. Exchange Online has advanced options for tracking and managing your email. And, it also enables administrators to manage employee accounts with high efficiency.

Considering the Cost Involved

The Exchange Online plans are only a couple of dollars apart. The pricier versions add apps such as Microsoft Teams, OneDrive and SharePoint Online.

Handling Migrations

  • Solution reliability
  • Data restructuring issues
  • Retention and encryption policies

When you switch from on-premises to the cloud, there is always a chance of data being lost or becoming corrupted during a transaction. That’s why you should consider backing up your data every time you make the transition.

If you plan to migrate your data to Exchange Online or Microsoft 365 plan, review the email hosting aspects:

  • Review your current email solution
  • Analyze your migration options
  • Avoid incompatibility by using Office 365 or newer


Learn more about how to back up your Microsoft 365 and Exchange Online data with a dedicated third-party solution.